Day 3 of Home Education Week at Principled Discovery: April Fool's Day!
And we have likely all felt the fool in one way or another. Share your greatest challenge. Or one of those terrible, horrible no good, very bad days where the only thing there is to do seems to involve moving to Australia.
In October 2006 we had a very bad day and yes, I very much felt like a fool. I blogged about it then but I'll put it up here now; it's a good reminder for me too.
Yesterday we had a very bad homeschool day. Nothing worked well and I ended up chucking all the plans for work, getting out of the house, and repairing my slightly raveled relationship with my kids. Later in the day we shared tapioca pudding and watched some baseball, and by bedtime all was well.
Until next time, of course. Bad days happen sometimes. I know of only a few homeschool moms who never, ever, say "I'm done; I can't do this, where's the closest school?" Most of the time these are idle thoughts that pass. Sometimes moms do give up, but usually not. (I'm not talking about parents who make a rational decision to put their kids in school. I'm talking irrational here.) We know that the bad days come and go, and all in all, the kids are better off at home.
As I thought about our day, I determined that the cause of all our problems had been... me. My actions, my reactions, my expectations:
#1. I got out of bed late. Caused, of course, by trying to jam too much into the day before and staying up too late. When I got into the kitchen, one kid was already up. He didn't need me, but I like to be alone in the morning for a while to read the news headlines, my email, and a few blogs, and then do some exercise...
#2. Which I didn't have enough time for since I got up so late. I squeezed in about 20 minutes instead of my usual 30...
#3. But was still late getting breakfast going, and by then was in a bad (worse) mood because I'd failed in my exercise goal. Oh, and I had dishes left over from the day before to deal with. Of course that led to not taking time to pray or prepare properly before it was time to sit down for math...
#4. Which is needed because we have some issues with math facts in our house. We've done flashcards, songs, games, drills, Bob Jones Math, Math U See... they still struggle. This bothers me way more than it should. And I tend to get impatient when I see them staring at, say, 7+5 as though they've never seen it before....
#5. So I lecture them about the importance of math, of applying themselves to the work, good work habits, etc. etc. This of course puts us further behind in time. Not that we have anything but a self-imposed schedule to keep, but we like to get our "table work" done before lunch so we can get to the interesting stuff - you know, the real education: science, history, etc. The table work is just skills - necessary but not very interesting. This lecture goes on too long and...
#6. Frustrates the kids and causes one to cry out "I'm so stupid!" So some repair work has to be done there. The boy is not stupid. The mom is.
Finally I decide that that's it, we're done for the day, what's for lunch? Oh...
#7. No lunch food in the house, except stuff for burritos, but we can't have burritos - we're having those for dinner. Hmm...
So after a quick shower (right, I hadn't done that yet), we grab our current exciting read-aloud and go. A quick lunch, grocery store stop and overdue movie drop-off at the library. Then home for some outside play on a beautiful Indian summer day. And time for me to reflect on the morning and all the things that I did to make it so bad.
So once I determined that I was the cause of the problems, what to do about it?
#1. Get enough sleep. We know our kids can't perform well without adequate sleep - why would we expect to ourselves? Don't misinterpret that line in Proverbs 31 about her light not going out at night. That has nothing to do with sleep deprivation.
#2. Determine your family's best schedule or routine, and follow it. A family of night owls doesn't have to force themselves to be at the table at 9 am. Families for whom unschooling works, or older kids who are motivated autodidacts might not need any sort of routine at all. Figure out what works best and remember, if you are the parent who is home with the kids, you are the one responsible for making it happen.
#3. But don't be rigid. Plan for days when everyone, or just someone, doesn't feel well, or interruptions come, or things just don't click right. I've found that sometimes a good long reading day is the best, most productive thing.
#4. Allow for personal time, whether it's in the morning, in the afternoon or at night. This is easier for those of us who don't have babies or toddlers, but usually there is some time to sit, pray, read, gather thoughts, or stare out the window while drinking a cup of something. Plan for it, make it happen; don't expect it to happen spontaneously. Don't say "I'll sit down when all the housework is done" or you'll be up for the next 20 years. And, take it from me, don't stand at the kitchen counter flipping through the day's junk mail while eating chocolate (or potato) chips and call it a break. You won't find that satisfying.
#5. Go to bed with a clean kitchen. Don't leave dishes overnight to deal with in the morning. Exception: a lasagne pan that needs to soak.
#6. Adjust expectations. I know math facts are hard for my kids to memorize. So why do I exasperate them with it? I don't mean to say we should just drop it. But I need to change the way I react to it. Math computation is important, sure. But it's not the most important thing. And it's not worth damaging a relationship.
#7. Plan ahead for basics like, you know, those meals. Keep food in the house. Food the kids like. It doesn't matter if we are well-stocked on cold cuts if the kids hate that. In our house, lunch needs are pretty simple - or would be if I kept the food around. I think lunch should be quick, fun and easy to eat while reading; dinner is the time to try out new foods.
Today is a new day. I set the alarm clock a little earlier, and got out of bed. Got in all my exercise and a shower, and my kids are up and about, awake and ready to start the day. It's going to be a great homeschool day. Was I really thinking of quitting? Silly me.