Our recent break from school made me think about the year and lessons I’m learning.
The success and failure of the school day depends on me, as the teacher.
That’s not a particularly popular thought in homeschooling circles, nor is it a particularly comfortable thought for me, but I believe it to be true. When we are having a bad day, almost without exception it is because I am having a bad day. I may be grumpy or overtired or thinking about something else or trying to do too much or whatever. But the truth is that if I have a bad attitude, the boys see that and they start to reflect my attitude in their behavior and their own attitudes.
Obviously, I’m going to have bad days. I’m not perfect. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. But I need to do what I can to minimize the grumpy.
Get enough sleep. Exercise. Eat well. Read.
The last one might seem odd, but I find that I need to do something each day that uses my mind. Reading. Writing. Work. An engaging conversation. Learning something new. Watching a good movie. I’ve discovered this fall that it’s way too easy to use up extra time I have on the computer. I enjoy reading blogs and visiting message boards. I’ve discovered some TV shows I enjoy on places like hulu.com. All that is fine but it doesn’t fulfill the same need and I end up feeling grumpier and more stressed instead of refreshed. I’ve been limiting my time on the computer and have found that it’s been a good thing.
It’s better to have a plan and not use it than to need a plan and not have it.
BUT you need to know when the plan needs to be changed. Or thrown out altogether.
As I’ve mentioned here once or twice, I’m a list maker. I like making lists. Even more I like checking off lists. I’m a tad bit of a control freak and this satisfies that part of me.
The toughest part of this school year has been figuring out how to get school “done” with Ruth around. She’s in the trash-can emptying, child-lock defying, bookshelf destroying phase. She also is a baby who likes to be entertained. She isn’t very content to sit and play quietly. She wants in on the action. Balancing her needs with trying to do second grade with John is difficult. Add in David who has his own set of needs and it’s even more of a challenge.
I find that when I plan things are more likely to get done. This applies to just about everything in the household: meals, household chores, what preschool activity to do with David, what books I need for the next few weeks from the library. I’m constantly making lists and checking them off. I have an overall yearly plan and monthly plan and weekly plan and daily plans. Periodically, I review them to make sure we’re on track.
However, having kids will teach you nothing if it doesn’t teach you that plans are made to be broken. Life happens. Babies don’t nap when they are supposed to. A friend calls needing to talk right at the beginning of a school lesson. We spend an extra hour at the park and never get to Latin. Being flexible is too often a struggle for me. It’s the control freak in me. I’m learning. I’m getting better at seeing the big picture and realizing that often just as much learning happens in the things that aren’t planned as in the things that are.
One day on a whim I put a list up on the wall for John of all the things we needed to get to that day. Turns out he loves checking off lists also. He likes seeing what he needs to do and choosing what he wants to do next. It’s been a really helpful tool for us. I worry a bit about getting him in the mindset of “checking off” learning. Part of homeschooling is wanting to instill a lifestyle of learning so it’s not that when we’re done with the list we’re done with using our minds. However, for now it works and he likes it.
I’m trying to be mindful of using the list to teach him now about flexibility. That sometimes we won’t check everything off and that’s ok. That sometimes we’ll finish but still want to do more. That sometimes we’ll just throw it out the window and read books all day.
When all else fails, go outside.
Jessie Wise of The Well-Trained Mind, has a solution for meltdowns: “Have a sandwich, take a nap, take a shower.”
It’s good advice.
I would add “Go outside.”
I’ve found for us that fixes almost anything.
It’s the shortest lesson but probably the most useful one of all.