It’s been an interesting day in my Facebook feed. So many of the homeschoolers who were posting glorious photos yesterday are finding Day Two is not quite so glowing. I can’t say I’m experiencing this personally because Day One for us consisted of having Second Breakfast at the park with friends, and being on time to our orthodontist appointment.
Obviously, we’re slated for trouble tomorrow.
Okay, so regardless of whether a meltdown hits my home tomorrow or not, I think I can state the obvious and say that Meltdowns Happen. They just do. Every child has a day where they think they can’t take it and they begin to wail and scream or do whatever it is they can do to respond inappropriately to the situation.
And oh how often we are tempted to be annoyed by this because clearly when they are sobbing they are not doing math or grammar or checking any of the other boxes we are interested in having them check.
We might as well start the year off by getting one thing clear: education is not and never has been about getting through curriculum. It’s not (primarily) about knowing more, nor doing more. It’s not about this project and that craft.
Oh, sure, all of these things can be tools of education (though I admit the word “project” frightens me just a bit — it sounds suspiciously like me doing work while they watch — also not education, in case you were wondering). But these things are tools. They are even content. But they are not its substance.
Education, you see, is about becoming.
Ancient men like Plato and Aristotle called it virtue. Augustine (and CS Lewis after him) called it ordered affections. Charlotte Mason called it character. David Hicks called it style (among other things). Most recently, it looks like James K.A. Smith is calling it worship.
Call it what you want to call it, inner change is the name of the game. Growing up. Getting ordered inside the soul. Maturing. Becoming what we are created to be.
And all this sounds so great until someone turns on the water works and starts howling about math.
Here’s the deal: if education is about filling young minds full of facts, then a meltdown really is getting in the way. But if education is about formation — about becoming something other than we are — then meltdowns are an opportunity.
(This is really easy for me to say right now because no one is crying.)
But still, I’m serious. And therefore I repeat: meltdowns are an opportunity.
As are bad attitudes, sibling squabbles, and all the rest of the rot that sometimes dominates our daily lives as homeschool mommies, especially if you have more than one student.
These things are a chance to get out those tools and start sculpting.
Some children need to let go of their perfection. Others need to learn to work harder. Some need to be patient while they think and take time to figure it out. Others need to learn to ask for help when they’re stuck. Some need to learn to love their neighbor even when “neighbor” includes “my sister.” Others need to learn to be grateful for all the blessings God has given.
Every meltdown, every frowny face … it’s all a chance to peek into the heart and see where the child stands.
And where I stand.
Hypothetically, it is possible that there has been a time or two around here that I was standing on the other side of the room throwing an internal tantrum of mine own.
I’m just saying.
This is the part where we need to pray for wisdom. Insight into what the root issue is. A path to follow in reforming that sadly misprioritized soul.
You see, it’s all part of the curriculum. Every single time our days bump up against hard things, we find hidden in the pile the chance to help a child change his faults, to fight the inner beast we all have. To say no to being selfish, to being obstinate, to whatever it is that tempts him.
Do we want meltdowns to stop?
Of course we do.
But there are ways of stopping them which corrupt. If we pay the child, for example. If we bribe him. If we appeal to his pride.
But if we have repentance and then a plan of action for the formation of new habits well, now we’re talking. He’s practically a new man already.
About three weeks ago I had to start making a child say it over.
“Say it over. That is an inappropriate way to say it. You’re going to have to say it the right way.”
Context is everything, right? So for some children the right way would be “respectfully” while for others it’d be “audibly” and for others it’d be in a “not-so-bossy” way. My point here is that the habit path, this road less taken, it’s really working, but it’s also really work.
Do it again. Get it right. We’re not mad at you, but we are trying to help you.
So, next time we face a meltdown, might I suggest we pick the little puddle up off the ground and think in terms of habits? Childhood is the best place for do-overs because adulthood isn’t quite so forgiving.
Let’s do it over. Let’s do it right. Let me help you. We’ll build a habit.
Then you’ll be truly free.
Get the (almost) weekly digest!
Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.