Monday, December 5, 2011


I've been mulling this post over all day, which amuses me because it's all about not getting wrapped up in perfection.

Not me -- generally I'm free of this particular issue. I tend more toward the "half-cocked, half-assed" end of the spectrum. Naturally I have a family that in some respects is spectacularly on the other end.

I don't always deal with their issues gracefully. Working on this essay in my head made me feel a little more sympathetic. I jotted notes -- failure, persistence, easing pressure, impermanence, and none of them sang with the clarity I was reaching for. Finally I decided that for me, posted mattered more than perfect. (See Not A Perfectionist, above.)

We've been sitting down as part of our morning and doing a page of handwriting work every day. I know there are homeschoolers who see this as a terrible betrayal of the spirit of the thing -- none of my kids is avidly interested in being able to write legibly, at least not to the extent of wanting to practice. But I'm of the "No kid of mine is going to write like that" camp, and since it's a motor skill, it will get better by practice, just like any of the sports they do. Plus, it's not like our brand of learning is taking up much time -- or it's taking up all of their time, and either way, we win.

Also? Having four kids and homeschooling for years hasn't actually given me more answers than, say, someone who only has one child. Just because something worked on one doesn't mean it would work on another, and as I found out today, I don't even remember all of the tricks I learned in order to try them on another child.

Which brings me to this morning. I've learned that with Cat, I need to be careful about giving her tasks. She tends to dig in deeply, pursuing something like a terrier after a rat. This is a terrific inclination, in that she's going to be able to follow things she's interested in through challenges, but sometimes the challenges are internal. I hoped that by limiting her handwriting to only one page, she could get through it without frustrating herself to tears (and then yelling at me that I "don't understand!").

[Just a note, here. I don't do anything to make her feel as though perfection is the only goal in handwriting. She's not even supposed to be doing it. But you try to tell that to a child who has three older siblings.]

And the letter "r" was it today. "I can't do it!!" she wailed. I tried holding her hand and doing it together. I tried talking, and nothing was working. I was seeing my carefully-calibrated calm morning crumble before the jam was wiped up off of the table.

And then, whatever good angel helps out homeschooling parents whispered to me. "Remember?"

"Wait here!" I said, and rushed into the kitchen.

"Why? What are you doing?"

"Just wait!"

When I got back to the table, I shoved the paper and pencil away from her. "Look," I said, "You can use whatever you want -- the eraser end, your nose, your finger tip, just use this."

She quirked a smile at me. "Just in this?"

"Yes, now try." She tried. I shook to erase.

Over and over and over again, until she said, "I've got it! Look at my 'r'!"


Michelle said...

"letter perfect" shall we say?

I can't believe how much you tackle, and seemingly with such patience. Great job, give yourself a pat on the back. Or better yet, open a good bottle of wine tonight!

el said...

That's a Montessori method!

Stefaneener said...

Michelle, hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh, that's a good one!

el, that's where I must have gotten it! It's such a great trick when they're stuck.

Kristin said...

Give her shaving cream for word-writing. They love that! It's working--and practice does make perfect.