Thursday, February 11, 2010


February is such a weird month, isn't it?

For instance, today it's snowing. Snow in February isn't that unusual, of course, but in Texas it certainly is. My children enjoyed about an hour's worth of outside play before deciding it was just too darned cold, a sign of their increasing journey into the teenage years. If it had snowed like this just five years ago I'd have had to bribe them with cookies and hot chocolate to get them to come in.

February is the month when homeschooling days begin to drag, when it's easy to start rethinking everything you've ever done or worrying incessantly that failing to incorporate Mandarin Chinese or Ancient Greek into the curriculum back in the first grade has already put your children so far behind, educationally, that you'll never catch up, and when your children are interviewed some day on national television they'll assure the viewing audience that they succeeded in spite of you. February's worries aren't usually rational--but they stick like wet clumps of snow to your subconscious, causing icy feelings of guilt every time your eye runs over your interior landscape.

Paradoxically February is also the month when "It's good enough!" tends to become a homeschooling mother's rallying cry. Surely, just getting through the daily grind of the core curriculum subjects is Good Enough! Surely, letting your kids play in the sink and marking "Studied Archimedes' principle" on your lesson plans is Good Enough! Surely, some "video lessons" courtesy of Netflix (tm) are Good Enough! The thing is, sometimes these short-term homeschooling coping mechanisms really are good enough, as when mom is coping with a new baby or a round of gastrointestinal illnesses sweeping through the family like a digestive wildfire or unpacking after a tense and stressful move, and so on. The problem with February is that sometimes these reasons for "good enough" were over back in December, but somehow the strategy of "good enough" remained; and the longer it sticks around, the more likely it is that the Icy Clumps of Guilt will pile up any time you encounter a mother who chirps about her children's progress in Euclidean geometry and Egyptian hieroglyphics (because, of course, it's so important to delve into the mathematics of the pyramids and incorporate primary sources in next month's unit study on Ancient Egypt).

Another paradoxical thing about February is that just when you start feeling like you really need a warm piece of pie and a cup of cocoa to get through the day, it's Lent. After all the feasting of the Christmas Season Lent is a very good thing, but the gloom and dreariness of this particular month makes the privations of Lent even more meaningful, so to speak. Anybody could handle thirty-degree weather or piles of snow or icy rain or those thick, pale-gray clouds that have managed to put forth just enough effort to drain all the cheerfulness from the few sallow wisps of sunlight that are filtering through them if there were various desserts to look forward to. But Ash Wednesday dawns and we put away earthly cheers and comforts, and remember that we're dust.

In addition to the spiritual improvements February urges us to undertake (much of the time, though Lent can start in March, too, of course) there are the ghosts of our New Year's Resolutions haunting us with increasing frequency, and reminding us of various other improvements we had promised to make: diet, health, lifestyle, schedule, routine, whatever the case might be. During January we could keep up the illusion that we were making progress, really, so long as we measured it in some way that didn't rely on quantifiable data: but in February we face the hard cold reality that we haven't really begun at all, and must take steps immediately if we don't want our goals still untouched come spring.

So in its own unique way, February manages to pack quite a punch. There is, though, one really good thing about it: it's the shortest month on the calendar.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Thank You for this article. I've been in "good enough" mode for awhile now but I've been calling it unschooling. It's that time of year again to take a good look at what I've been doing and try to change a few things so my stomach will lose that uneasy feeling.