Dumb homeschool mom question of the week: "What time do you get started in the morning?"
This question is almost always asked during a gathering of homeschooling moms, by someone who feels guilty for not getting up, or getting the day started, as early as she thinks she ought to. And it's a dumb question because there is always, always someone in the group ready to add to the guilt. (Though usually not intentionally.) Here's how it looks:
The kids are doing whatever they are supposed to be doing and the moms are hanging out chatting. There's a lull in the conversation and someone asks, "what time do you start school in the morning?"
There's a slight gasp from those of us who know what's coming (and knew better than to ask). Then a brief pause, because no one wants to go first. Somehow, it always seems to work out that the earliest riser with the most industrious kids speaks up (usually somewhat reluctantly):
"Well, we get up about 5 to go for our run, then we come home and get the chores done, and the kids are usually doing their schoolwork by about 7. "
Another pause. Who can top that? Who is going to say "we stumble out of bed around 8, grab some cereal, play some computer games and maybe start on the math about, say, 9:30, 10"?
But then the pause is filled in by someone who mentions body clocks, and doing their best work in the afternoon, and the admission that they don't get out of bed till 9. Another lull as everyone ponders the proper response to this. If you're in a group of Christian moms, you can almost see the Bible verses going around in their heads, and the physical restraint required not to shout out "Go to the ant, you sluggard!"
OK, that last is a bit of an exaggeration. But some people aren't very good at concealing their disdain for those of us who keep somewhat later hours than they think is proper. Most are gracious, though, and the conversation usually ends with a general agreement that each family has to find their own way. Still, there is always a little doubt remaining in the eyes of the late-rising moms. You just know they go home resolved to crack the whip and get everyone going early in the morning. Guess how I know that.
When I look at the homeschooling families I know, I can't really tell the early risers from the late risers. Some kids are obviously high achievers. Some aren't in ways that can readily be seen. Sometimes a child doesn't make a great impression, till I overhear a bit of conversation and realize the kid is brilliant in some area.
I'd like to be an early riser; I'd love to be up and productive by 6 am. (Some might say "that's way too early for me;" others might think about how lazy I am.) I tend to think my days are more productive when they start earlier. But, sometimes I'll be surprised by a day that seemed to start too late, and by the end of it I realize it's been really productive. Sometimes we really get into the swing of things about 11:00, when the chores have been done, the dog's been walked, piano has been practiced, and we have nowhere we need to be. Sometimes breakfast or dinner will last a long time because we're having a great and useful discussion. This isn't "doing school" but it's real education.
Of course a person can get up really early and still be unproductive, like the woman I knew who got up early every day - and made sure everyone knew it - yet still felt behind all the time and was always cranky and tired. Turns out she was spending the first couple of hours each day messing around on Facebook and other fun internet sites. She could have - and maybe should have - just slept those extra couple hours. Maybe getting enough sleep would have been more useful to her.
And some people just get up early and get to work. They don't brag about it and don't expect everyone to fall into their line. That's just the way they live. They are usually the ones who don't want to answer the question, because they don't believe they set the standard for anyone but themselves.
It's nice to have a group of people to talk these sorts of things over with, particularly for new homeschoolers. But we should walk away from these conversations inspired and, perhaps, challenged, not defeated and feeling guilty because we don't measure up. And we shouldn't think that someone else has a line on "doing it right" just because she's been at it longer, or can quote more scripture, or has kids who seem to shine.
I think the next most popular question is "What do you do for science?" Watch out for that one too.