Ahhh, tweens. That lovely age of not yet being a teenager, not quite still a child. My daughter is plowing through her fifth grade homeschool curriculum, and is fully in the throes of entering “tweenhood.” If that isn’t a word yet, it should be. We go from sweet happy child one day to moody contrary tween the next. When you add homeschooling into that interesting mix, it can be a bit difficult to navigate. I’ve found this year to be, in many ways, our most challenging homeschool year yet, but the challenges have absolutely nothing to do with the actual homeschooling. It’s all in the growing and changing of my fifth grade daughter.

When first considering homeschooling, and eventually deciding to do it, I never considered the many ways the passing years could affect the way we homeschool. But I’ve learned that to be the case. Back when my daughter was in first or second grade, I can remember her coming cheerfully to the table and doing her work, and the only waves we encountered were when she couldn’t master a topic. But giggles and smiles were the order of the day. It was a sweet time.

Now, things are a bit different. I wouldn’t say she’s sullen, but what I would say is that moods play more of a role in our day than they ever did. She is still a pleasant, agreeable girl; I’m fairly certain she always will be. It’s just her nature. But there are days when I find her practically in tears or scowling down at her paper. Fearing the worst, I will ask her what is wrong, and it could be anything from her pet rabbit that died three years ago to something one of her friends said just the day before. Obviously, these things are very real and important to her, so even though schoolwork must be completed, it can’t be while she’s in the storm of these emotional ups and downs.

So we stop. When she needs to, the schoolwork goes away, and we work on her. We talk, and I let her open up, and through it all I hope she’s coming to learn that she can always, always talk to me about anything. And yes, some weeks we end up falling behind where I wanted to be with the schoolwork, but I think in the end what she’s gained is more important: the knowledge that her mom will always be there when she needs a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.

After Halloween

So, it’s the day after Halloween: do you know what your child is doing? Well, I can tell you what my four children are doing. They’re tearing through their Halloween candy as though candy will be illegal tomorrow. Although I question the wisdom of letting them eat so much candy in a single sitting – and I’m anticipating stomachaches in our immediate future – our dentist actually told us it’s better for them to let them eat it all, brush their teeth, and be done with it, rather than to have a few pieces a day. Less chance of decay, I’m assuming.

My daughter has been steadily working on her fifth grade work, fueled in part by the sugar she collected last night in her trick or treat bag. I’m deluding myself, in a way, into thinking this is helping because she’s definitely extra energetic, although this too shall pass. (Disclaimer: I don’t normally feed my children junk nor do I let them subsist solely on sugar. Halloween, as they say, comes but once a year). In fact, I had to rouse her out of bed extra early today because we’ve fallen behind in a few subjects, so I thought the extra time – and yes, the sugar – might help her to pick up the pace a bit so we can catch up.

Besides, there’s more to this than simple sugar rushes. I have a plan to go with this bag of candy. After she catches up on her necessary work, I have an ulterior motive. With a bit of Googling, I’m going to print her out some pages on the history of Halloween, and the different ways it is celebrated around the world. That’s a timely lesson on a holiday that she has so thoroughly enjoyed, especially this year.

But I’m not going to stop there. I think, as a little health lesson, we’ll also spend some time homeschooling online, learning about teeth, cavities, and the effect of sugar on those precious pearly whites in her mouth. She’s had some not so wonderful experiences at the dentist already, and having a few fillings I think some lessons about what sugar will do to her teeth – not that she doesn’t already know, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded – will go a long way to her remembering to brush well after the candy explosion.

Speaking of sugar, there are more ways it affects the body than just super high dentist bills. We may have to do this tomorrow, depending on when she finishes her work today, but I think her curriculum would be greatly enhanced by learning the affect of sugar on the body in general. Fifth grade isn’t too early, I don’t think, to learn about digestion, the insulin response, blood sugar spikes, etc. That might also help her to understand why she feels so unwell after a binge on candy … and why she just handed me her candy bag and said “No more for me – I’m done!”