Thursday, November 8, 2007

The fitting room

By now we have firmly established that while I may very well be a good enough Keeper of My Home, I am by no means an effective Manager of My Home--no matter how much I want to be. I have tried, and thus far, fitting my life into fifteen minute increments has done nothing but make me understand on some small level what it must feel like to have ADHD.

I would really like to be one of those people. I would like to have a life so slap-dang in order that it flows naturally from one thing to the next in neat little compartments. Instead, trying out one of those ultra-organized schedules is very much like me and a pair of size 6 jeans--no matter how hard I wiggle and shake, this behind only going to bust the seams on those babies.

So I continue to fumble along--with no apparent detriment to my children, I might add--discovering what works and what doesn't, and adjusting the whens and the wheres as I see fit. At times, this causes me no stress whatsoever. I see myself as being firmly in the "eclectic is good" camp, and have no desire to add a little more structure to my day.

At other times, though, I feel a bit more worn around the edges. This has been the case recently. Part of this is clearly because I have been pregnant on paper for well over a year at this point and part of this is because our schoolroom is still overrun with the Ikea purchases we made some time ago in preparation for the completion of the garage game room. Both of these things have been working together to drag the school day out well past what I feel are acceptable limits. I want to teach my children, yes ... but I also want them to have plenty of time to engage their own interests. "Doing" school until 4 p.m. leaves little time for that.

I vented as much at my most recent homeschool support meeting and found that I was not alone. A fellow homeschooler with three of her four children nearly the same ages as mine was in the same boat. We both wanted more structure without being tied to a schedule. The best of both worlds, in other words.

With that mandate still ringing in my ears, I awoke Monday with an idea. Now, this isn't a revolutionary idea, so please be prepared to be underwhelmed:

I made a to-do list for each of my two older children.

Yeah, that's the big revelation. :-)

Thinking to myself, "Well, it can't be that easy, but it can't hurt, either," I wrote up a 10-item list of things that needed to be accomplished before we could say school was officially out for the day. Included on the list were things that could be done independently (such as a few grammar exercises in Rules of the Game for Jo) as well as things that fell firmly in my court, such as Language Arts instruction for Atticus or read-alouds for the whole family. I highlighted the independent work, told them that they could work in just about any order they pleased and set about putting Logan through the paces of his Math-U-See lesson.

The day went wonderfully.

I was available for questions in between one-on-one sessions with individual children, and checked in with everyone on a regular basis. I taught both Jo and Atticus how to work the DVD player so that they could spend a little time with Mr. Demme and share in his mathematical prowess sans my intervention. I set up a tray of dry rice and left it on the kitchen counter to rotate kids to for cursive/spelling practice as needed. All the while, the older kids were ticking through their little lists without my constant redirection. Nothing was set in stone, nothing was demanded, no one was boxed into some pre-drilled hole of a schedule.

We completed all of our seatwork and were able to move on to our favorite parts of the day--reading--which had been getting shortchanged due to the fact that I was having to pull kids back to the table after each completed assignment. Our afternoon was lovely; one of those dreamy, sweet times that will live on in my heart long after my children have left home. Just me and a book (Across Five Aprils) on the couch, a quilt over my legs, tea on the coffee table, and children scattered around me on a rug littered with colored pencils, quietly scratching away at scenes in a Dover Civil War coloring book.

This is how I want to remember homeschooling. Orderly, but with room for exploration. Quiet, but with room for joy. Balanced ... and a good, comfortable fit.


Unknown said...

Ummm . . .a rice tray??

help me, O Educated One . . .


. . .and I'm with you. Vive le couch time! :)

Heather@To Sow a Seed said...

Rice tray ... as in Montessori-esque, multi-sensory approach to allowing kids to "experience" writing. Basically, it's a cookie sheet full of dry rice that they use their fingers to write in. Logan is also especially fond of driving small trucks around in it. :-)

Unknown said...

Ah. I thought Montessori, but checked myself . . .we EAT so much rice, I was stuck on any other purpose! LOLOL