Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to School, January Edition

Well, we're back!

The first part of our first day back to school seemed to go fairly well. I'm sure that a big reason for that is that this time I didn't try to micromanage things ahead of time, and was realistic about the fact that the first day after a two-week vacation is unlikely to start early or proceed smoothly. I don't want to suggest that a willingness to lower one's expectations is a key to successful homeschooling, but it is helpful on days like the first day back to school following an extended break.

Alas, things got a little rough in the afternoon. Math had extended on far too long as the older two seemed to have forgotten basic calculation let alone the complicated process for solving the problems in their Saxon Math textbooks (they are doing Algebra 1/2 together this year); grammar was unbearably confusing, and my choice of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for Kitten's next reading assignment was met with near-anarchy (the girl loves Jane Austen and Elizabeth Speare, but I want her to branch out a bit, even if Journey to the Center of the Earth was the "most boring book ever," according to her).

I finally decided that they could finish their final (workbook) subjects in their rooms at rest time for homework. This was also not a popular decision; rest time (which used to be nap time long ago) is supposed to be an hour's quiet time for some reading, drawing, or craft project of one's choice, so the girls were not terribly thrilled to have to spend it finishing up some science questions and a spelling exercise. But homeschooling is nothing if not flexible, and I figured that the last two weeks have been nothing but an extended time for reading, drawing, and craft projects (as evidenced by the exciting Cherry Ames story still reposing on the floor of the living room, and the child's sewing machine on Bookgirl's desk, with half of what will soon, I am assured, be a small pillow draped across it).

Even with all of this, though, I'm able to consider this a fairly successful first day back, because the first day back is often a day full of tears--mine, not theirs.

Why? Well, I have the tendency to get a little rosy-hued over Christmas break. Maybe it's the light from the Christmas tree, or maybe it's the sweet scent of Christmas goodies, but I start to have Ideas about how Things are Going to Go from Here On Out. And these ideas, in order to be successfully implemented, would require a couple more of me, a much bigger house with a designated learning center complete with high-tech learning equipment for each child, a roughly sixteen-hour school day, and the ability to teach math and grammar in such a way that each subject would be capable of an osmosis-like absorption.

Of course, I have none of those things, but that doesn't stop me from making eager and detailed plans--which are then inevitably dashed by the hard cold thing called reality.

So today I decided to take things a little more minute-at-a time. We planned the work out together this morning, instead of having me pounce on the sleepy still-vacation-mode children (and self, let's be honest) with a detailed syllabus of unfortunate ambition. I didn't panic over the couple of science tests that I forgot to grade before Christmas--I just graded them, and remembered to put the correction books back in the right folder this time. When Hatchick couldn't quite remember what page of her history book she had read last, I quizzed her on a few names and topics until she couldn't answer any more, and we decreed that page to be the new starting page (to tell the truth, she probably read more than she was scheduled to read before break; she gets interested, and loses track). And when math dragged on too long, I co-opted rest time, as I said, and though there were minor grumbles I think they all appreciated how quickly they were able to finish the few little things they had to do when they had a quiet atmosphere to do them in.

And I don't miss the sense of disillusionment and disappointment that sometimes comes when one decides that with just a little more management one's children ought to be able to master twice the number of regular subjects and get started learning Sanskrit or Mandarin Chinese or differential calculus or the entire history of the world from day one or competition-level spelling or geography or some such thing. True, I want my girls to learn, and learn well; but the point of life and learning isn't really school--it's taking what you've learned out into the world and putting it to God's service in whatever way He has planned. It's good that some children can master the extras while excelling at the basics; it's good that there are geography bees and child prodigies. But it's also good to relax and enjoy the learning process, and to transmit that love of learning to our children, so that when their bright and curious minds are finished with their official school work they will keep learning and discovering and growing in ways that transcend even the best and most efficient course of instruction.


Erin said...

Thanks for sharing and being honest. I could relate totally to everything you said. Hard getting some children to branch out in their reading. sigh.

Anonymous said...

I can relate also. I love knowing someone else who reads Cherry Ames - I read all of my mom's when I was growing up, and have been collecting them for a few years.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that even experienced homeschool moms get irritated and even experienced homeschool children can be grouchy and lazy. I tend to harp on ours about how good they have it.