Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Moments, not days

I was reading something another blogger posted about her kids today, generally saying that they were in a pretty easy phase right now. At first I reacted with, "Lucky her!" My kids are generally not what I would consider easy, but I'm probably not an easy or mellow or calm and centered person in general either.

We have our really bad days, days where everyone is cranky, there's lots of tears (some even the kids') and I lose my temper in some spectacular way. Most days aren't that bad, but usually they're not spectacularly good either.

When I started this whole homeschooling trip, lo these many years ago, I had lots of reasons. You could have sat me down and I could have elucidated them all. I had read every book, kept up with every discussion forum (called chat boards, then), and had lots of theories. With one child, these theories worked pretty well. We played, we mixed colors, we interacted with the world around us, we practically lived at the library, and when we weren't there, we were volunteering at our food co-op.

Then I had another baby, then another, and finally one more. Somewhere along the way I left most of those theories and an awful lot of those behaviors behind. Our homeschooling wasn't working for me any more, and so I started moving towards something that looks a little more like what I thought I'd never do: the "sit down and do it" school of homeschooling.

Oh, we don't salute the flag, and I don't have the kids call me "Mrs. So and So," and sitting in rows would be just silly. But they are expected to do far more academic work than I had thought, and earlier. It's not much easier on me, but at least it's not the kind of life where I was providing wonder after wonder and also doing all the clean-up. Now I get to fuss at them to do the clean-up.

So every morning, they're supposed to do a list of behaviors and their schoolwork, leaving our afternoon free for my meltdown outside activities like hikes, museums, classes, practices, etc. But then there are days like today, where Things 2 and 3 start off playing dominoes, and teach Thing 4, and then somewhere along the way they wander outside and ride bikes, and we fix the flat tire again, and then all of them play dominoes, and then they eat something snacky, and then I do some work while listening to them talk, and mention that they might want to put the yogurt back in the refrigerator, and then I watch them doing something, and before you know it, it's time for piano lessons and off we go.

If we had a steady diet of days like this, it would, in fact, make me crazy(er). I don't deal well with lots of self-directed play, even spectacularly learning-filled play. And the only reason I can deal today is that the kitchen started out clean since last night and we'd worked hard together yesterday to clean off floors so we have open, inviting places to play today. Then I realize how well Thing 1 is doing in her high-pressure math course, and that while they're playing happily together they're also learning how to communicate positively with each other, and there is probably time enough for math and spelling, even later today. They may not be easy for days, but there are moments as golden as the light in autumn.

So when Thing 4 says, "Now can we make hot chocolate?" I think, well, yeah, we can. But I'm clever enough to list the pick-ups that lie between them and the cocoa.


Katherine said...

Ha! I remember thinking that homeschooling meant you needed a room full of little desks. And a flag. But now I picture it more as wonder after wonder (not too realistic, huh?). But isn't it wonderful that they get those moments together? It sounds like they're getting the best of both worlds to me.

katesaid said...

Oh, sure, a mention without a link, huh? I see how this works... (I'm KIDDING.)

My daughter is 8 1/2 (almost to the day, actually)... and up to recently, it had been, oh, about 8 years since I had thought of her as "easy." So I'm at least aware to be grateful for such an odd set of circumstances.

(She did her best, of course, to make it all a past-tense situation over dinner tonight, but we'll see. Maybe that was just a moment...)

suzee said...

You're pretty much the best homeschooling mama I know (Tricia gets kudos, too!) And your practically perfect prose makes the golden moment seem just about holy.

Treasure it, as you've both created it and earned it.

Tamami said...

I would really, really love to see you lose your temper in some spectacular way! Call me next time before that happens :-)

allisonmariecat said...

"Wonder after wonder" is very appealing, but the realities of homeschooling make me wonder if I could handle it...the structure/discovery balance, the demands on my patience...

Very thought-provoking post.