… redeeming the time, because the days are evil …
Things were going well, until they weren’t. I’m sure you know how this is. A child’s prank went badly and landed me in Urgent Care with orders for x-rays and a too-long-for-my-taste recovery time. (I’ve never been so thankful for Arnica in my life.)
Over the past ten days or so, we’ve stumbled around a bit. I had to drop a couple things for a couple days in order to teach well and manage my pain at the same time. The nice part about this still being early in the school year is that the temptation to sloth isn’t nearly what it is later in the year — I want to get back to our full schedule. While I dearly love my coffee and books, I’ve no desire to choose those things over lessons and consequently shortchange my children.
Not long ago (before The Injury), I said to my friend, “It’s going so well, I feel like I forgot something.” It was true. This year started off so smoothly that I kept thinking I must have left something out. I checked and rechecked, but everything seemed to be in order.
Now, granted, my students are very independent compared to … oh … the past ten years. Instead of needing to read certain books aloud to my daughters, I was able to choose what I wanted to share with them. And my Year 3 son is able to read about half of his books. It’s amazing how much this lessens the overwhelm.
But still: teaching four children in four different grades is tough. Even when they are all fully reading on their own, there will still be math lessons, grammar lessons, Latin lessons and more — not to mention that we’re still averaging 16 narrations per day.
While I was
feeling sorry for myself doing my best to recover from my injury last week, I got to thinking about homeschooling — about the tendency of the second half of the year to look pretty dingy compared to the first half. It dawned on me that in the beginning of the year, two things are in my favor:
- Things are going well
- I’m doing good
And only one of those things can I control.
What do I mean? Well, circumstances are usually good when we begin school. That’s not me — that’s just how life tends to work out for us. It’s God’s grace to us. I can’t control this part of the equation — things could just as easily go bad, because sometimes life happens that way, too.
But when I say “I’m doing good,” I don’t mean this as in, “I’m fine, thanks.” I mean this as in I’m actively doing good — I’m doing the things I’m supposed to be doing. These things are my duty, and at the beginning of the year, my duty seems shiny and new and so there is far less temptation to shirk it.
Here’s the truth: the beginning of the school year goes well because we are at the top of our games. We don’t let ourselves get distracted. We’re focused on testing and refining the schedules we’ve laid out and so we’re constantly looking at them and referring to them.
It’s easy for us to slip into bad habits during the second term, isn’t it? It all starts innocently enough. Usually, it starts with a cold. It captures one child at a time, rather than all at once, and so we’re adjusting the schedule for days, maybe even weeks. If Mom catches it, too, she usually catches it last. This means that when the children are ready to put it all back in high gear, we are capable of even less than what we did when they were sick.
The bad habits begin to compound. At this point, it’s been almost a month and we haven’t done a full school day most of the time. A lot of things that were slowly becoming hit and miss are now becoming very little hit and a whole lotta miss.
A month is a long time. Some people think that’s about how long it takes to build a habit. The decisions we make at this point are critical. We have to ask ourselves: what kind of homeschoolers do we really want to be? Because that’s what this moment is all about.
Am I going to be the kind who cuts everything back to the bare minimum?
We’re still recovering from those colds, remember? Reading some fiction at Circle Time sounds more fun right now than the picture study that was planned, and taking it easier with a cup of coffee seems more appealing than doing All The Things. The temptations, they are legion!
We have to fight the lazy mom inside. We have to resist shirking our duties.
We think this is some sort of unique circumstance, but it’s really not. The people who go to work each day have to fight the same battles we do. They are tempted to get on Facebook instead of spending their time on the clock with wisdom. The difference is that, when they use their time selfishly, they are squandering the company’s money.
When we do that, we’re squandering our children’s education.
The schedule I made for this year rocks. It’s doable, and it covers all the bases I want to cover. But I have to make it happen; it doesn’t happen on its own. And sometimes that is hard to do: it’s work. I have to make sure everything is ready on Monday morning. I have to execute Circle Time expeditiously. I have to start everyone off on the right foot and be where I need to be, when I said I’d be there. I need to pay full attention and not get distracted.
This is why I say that “the schedule doesn’t work unless I do, too.”
What I never like to admit, but what it true, is that if things start falling through those cracks in Term 3, the problem is me. The colds are gone, but I neglected to do what it takes to put my house back in order.
I know, I know. We’ve talked about this before.
But really, we can’t hear it enough, and anyhow, each year we want to make progress, right? This begins with taking responsibility: admitting when the problem is us and then making the necessary changes.
I don’t want life to be whittled down to such simplicity that the richness is gone. The key to a good life is being able to make the tough choices — to do the hard work — that allows us to be who we want to be.
I’m thinking about this more than ever because I only have three precious years left with my oldest. (A lot of people say that the senior year feels like it almost didn’t happen. So maybe only two years? Ugh.) I don’t want to look back with regret. I want to look back, confident that, whatever else I did wrong, squandering this precious time with these souls wasn’t one of them.
Twelve years of homeschooling at most, folks. That’s not as long as it seems. I remember when I was starting out. The end seemed a million years and a lifetime away, but I just signed E-Age-Fifteen up for the PSATs and he’s already started driver’s ed.
Let’s make the most of the time we’re given.
If you feel like you need extra help in this area, I highly recommend Mystie’s Art of Homeschooling course. It really gives the support we need to help us continue to cope and keep up over the long haul. 🙂
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