Monday, January 03, 2011

Singing the back to work blues

It's back to work today after a too-long Christmas vacation.   I had planned our December homeschooling badly and our vacation started sooner than I'd wanted it to.  If I had been on top of things, I'd have had lots of good independent work for my kids to do while I did pre-Christmas work of my own.  Instead, the books were forgotten and my kids watched way too much tv, none of which could be considered educational in any meaningful way.  They did learn some new curse words, though, and we had some useful discussions on why there is so much adultery on tv crime shows, so maybe it wasn't all bad.  (I do like the way they audibly flinch when they hear even mild profanity.  They are still not used to it, as I was growing up.) 

We always have a hard time transitioning back to work after a vacation.  My usual lecture includes reminding my kids that their school friends have to get up and go to school for a full day when vacation is over, getting right back into math, grammar, and all that other work they do.  I know by now to their ears, that song sounds like the teacher in a Charlie Brown movie.   That argument means nothing to them:  they don't go to school.  We chose a different life, so why do I go on and on about the one we rejected? 

This year I tried something new.  The inspiration came in a conversation with a friend at our New Year's Day open house party.  When I asked her if she was back to work on Monday, she sighed heavily and said yes reluctantly. I haven't worked for quite a few years but I remembered those back-to-work days after a vacation.  Brutal. Even when I liked my job, it was hard to go back after a break.

So on Sunday as we discussed the upcoming week I talked about people with jobs instead of students at school. My kids are not employees yet, but I expect they will be someday, and they may as well understand that they will have their opportunity to sing the back-to-work blues as adults too.

For some reason this seemed to make more sense to them.  At least, they didn't argue. They seemed to actually hear my words, not the usual blah blah blah.  The seminarian and I reminisced about great vacations that ended and not-so-great jobs we had to go back to.   And great jobs that were still hard to go back to, because vacation is so much more fun.

Of course being back to work for the kids meant back to work for me, too.  I didn't have as much free time as they did over the past few weeks, but it was hard putting together the week's assignments, making sure all the books were in their proper places, and getting myself up and organized, ready to encourage them on their way today.  We had a pretty good start, and are on track to do what I set out to do.  No one complained; the morning work was done quickly and well.  Now it's lunchtime; I'm taking a quick break for myself while the kids do a few chores, then we have a little more work to do.  I try to finish the work they find tedious (math, grammar) in the morning and save the more fun work (science, history) for the afternoon.

Since our vacation started earlier than planned, we don't have any new books or activities starting today.  But I did add a new book to our breakfast time reading: Discipline, The Glad Surrender, which I have mentioned before

I had said it's a good book for homeschooling mothers but I think it's good for homeschool students as well.  The writing is mostly clear, the chapters short, and it leads to good discussion at the table.  That is how our best days start: with books and talking.  Whenever I tweak our daily routine, I leave a big chunk of time for breakfast whenever I can.  Somehow this helps them transition into their work better.  A morning prayer helps, too.

Back to work doesn't have to include the blues. 

I'm writing this post for the fifth anniversary of the Carnival of Homeschooling.  I  lack the discipline (heh) to write a post for every weekly Carnival, but I guess I've submitted a few each year.  Sometimes I forget to read it, or I'll go through a few weeks where I just ignore it because I'm tired of homeschool talk.  But I always go back.  Thanks very much to Henry and Janine Cate of Why Homeschool  for starting the Carnival!


wayside wanderer said...

I like the idea of reading the book to your students. I remember reading Discipline a few years ago but didn't think to read it aloud. I hope you had a productive day and have a relaxing evening!

Anonymous said...

I gave the "you're a student and this is your job" speech to the kids. Of course, the words I chose were infused with a touch more care and humor than my summary above :)..and hey! it worked! Everybody had a productive day with little complaint, including me.

Thanks for the motivator that worked this week :)

Susan Evans said...

My kids had a hard time starting up homeschooling, too, especially after having the whole month of December off! They seem to be better now that it's Thursday, but it took a few days to get adjusted.

Gillian said...

My kids are adjusting to more discipline with homeschooling... after a semester of unschooling, we hit the books 3 days this last week! Aiming for 4 next week. I love the idea of a slow breakfast with reading.

Birdie said...

I think that I am actually glad to be getting back into our regular routine here. The holidays were wonderful, but my children do better on a firmer schedule.

Kerri said...

I was so relieved to get back to school work. The boys just start going crazy if they have too much free time. I only gave them a week and they were already driving me nuts!