Ryan is very independent about doing his homework. He usually comes home from school, has a snack, and begins working on it promptly at 4 p.m. without being asked.
Only if he gets stuck on something will be even show us what he is working on. More often, he completes his assignments and puts everything back in its proper place before we even get a look. Of course we review what comes home, but as long as he continues to perform at a high level we don’t often intrude on his work. It’s one area where his fixation on routine is of major benefit.
Every so often I get an accidental glimpse at his work. I was emptying the recycle bin next to the family computer the other day when I found the following, one of several discarded drafts from a descriptive writing assignment:
The best part of my summer is when our family goes to the glorious beaches in North Carolina. My favorite place is the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks is a long narrow stretch of barrior islnads off the coast of North Carolina. It is a major tourist destination because of the weather and attractive beaches. First of all, I like this place is because of what I hear. A delightful sound of speedy waves crash onto the burning sand. Also, I hear a noisy hawk out of the seagals while they’re searching for prey. Also, I enjoy this place because of what I can feel. I stand by the ocean as the waves crash onto the beach and recycle the sand out of my feet. I also like the arms around me from mom as we have a family hug. Finally, I respect this place because of what I can see. I look with my two eyeballs at the oceans slamming onto the sand. Also, it’s enjoyable watching the sweating sun set as it floats up into the sky. I wish that I could travel to the Outer Banks more often.
I read it several times. There were similarities to his typical writing. The paragraph structure follows the strict rules of topic sentence, supporting details, and concluding thought. But there were also noticeable differences. The writing was much more colorful and descriptive. I wondered how much Veronica or our sitter helped him with it.
Later I showed it to Veronica. She said she prompted him to remember certain details of our vacation, but the descriptions were his own. The assignment was to describe an experience using your senses, which is why he refers specifically to seeing, hearing and feeling various things at the beach.
The more I read it, the more I loved it. I loved that Ryan was able to describe why he likes to stand at the edge of the waves for long periods of time. He called the feeling of the retreating waves pulling sand between his toes “feeling the yum” on our first trip two summers ago.
I’m not sure how much he has actually paid attention to the various birds at the beach — that part may have been simply an effort to complete the assignment. But his descriptions of the waves, the sand, the setting sun, and a family embrace mesh perfectly with what we have observed of him on our Outer Banks trips.
They also validate our choice of vacation spot. Ryan may not experience a week a the beach like a “typical” kid. Riley quickly makes a half-dozen friends and tries to pack as many different experiences into each day as possible. Ryan is more introspective. He spends hours wandering back and forth in the surf without ever going fully into the ocean. He settles on a game or two and insists we play them over and over … and over. He brings plenty of familiar items from home and carves out time from each day to play with them.
Veronica and I quickly fell in love with the Outer Banks after our first visit because we finally found a vacation spot that worked for our family. But we still wished Ryan would be a more active participant.
As Jess over at DOAM points out today, we have to be careful not to mistake a different type of participation for a lack of participation. In his own way, Ryan experiences — and enjoys — our time at the beach every bit as much as his sister.
Just ask him. Or his language arts teacher.
We’ll be heading back to the Outer Banks this summer, and every summer after as long as we are able and the kids are willing. In their own way, each of them has told us how much they love it there. And I have to admit, I can’t wait to get back on the sand and “feel the yum” again myself.