We finally have almost a full week of school under our belt this semester, after a false start last week. We started last Monday, with much grumbling and whining, and then Tuesday afternoon discovered Grace had the flu. Thanks to a Cannonball Run to the pediatrician and a script for Tamiflu, all was well by Friday, but by then we had given up for the week.
Restarted this past Monday with less grumbling, but certainly less joy than the start of our homeschool journey. We picked up where we left off, but only with the “core” subjects: math, spelling, Latin, Religion, handwriting, geography. I consider them “core” only because they are relatively easy for me to teach, and they elicit the least amount of whining. And if we did nothing else, I would be pretty satisfied. I even included an art project in the plan for the day, which usually diffuses – or at least distracts from – the complaining. But there was still whining and arguing. Lots of it.
By Tuesday, I was already at the end of my rope. I could feel it. I had already had enough of the flack and pushback.
“Do I have to?”
“I don’t want to!”
“I’m sick of this.”
“Why are you making me do this?”
Whining was like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. Not a good sign for me at all. For either of us. Nothing was working … promises of rewards (stickers), threats (loss of iPad time), urging and pleading (OK, begging). In short, I was playing her game. At her level. And I was losing. And I did. Lose it. Big time.
Wednesday, I woke up determined to do differently. We skipped our usual morning routine. It was cold, cold, cold, so we started a fire and sat in front of it for a while. Then I handed her a book – our new Literature unit – and asked her to read the first chapter. She snuggled into a blanket and read. (Woohoo!) Then I grabbed the teacher guide from our Literature unit, and we did the questions and vocabulary orally. No whining about writing. (Double woohoo!) This was not my plan, but I went with it. Grabbed two sets of flashcards, Latin and Geography, and went through them. We both realized how much she retained from before the break, and it was a good shot in the arm for us both. We kept going … instead of breaking out the math worksheets, I grabbed a jar of change and we worked on our money unit, making a game out of it, still in front of the fire. Suddenly is was time for a snack and we had covered four subjects. Progress! At this point we were both feeling warm enough to move around, so she had snack, handwriting and Religion at her desk. Then I called it. Last night she worked on a bit of science with her dad, making it a pretty well rounded day. Finished up the evening with plenty of hugs and kisses and praise for good behavior and pride in what we accomplished. What we both accomplished.
Not every day will be snuggles in front of the fire. Nor should it be. We need structure; we both do. Not everyone does … there are plenty of people for whom un-schooling really does work. But I know myself and I know my daughter well enough to know that is not us. But there are times when we are weary, when we are cold and tired, when we are not quite ready to start full-force. And I need to remember that at those times, it’s OK to take a step back, make a cup of cocoa and just breathe in the warmth of the home fire.