Not All Fun and Games
We had a really crappy morning in school today. I don’t know why this surprises me. It happens every time we start back with desk work after a break. Yesterday was the more or less ‘official’ start of M5. We’re actually running about a week behind. That’s okay though; one of the supreme advantages of homeschooling is that it’s flexible enough to take breaks when you need them. PeaGreen’s birthday and ensuing celebratory activities, combined with the constant go-go-go of Summer Activities over the past few weeks, have us all drained. We needed a bit of an extended break, so we took one. That’s all well and good, but for some reason going from ‘break’ back to ‘routine’ is excruciatingly painful. Especially the first few days. It’s like running around trying to catch all of the raindrops from one storm in a cup – you’re constantly moving but making little progress.
Then there are the mulishly stubborn offspring to factor in.
Let’s hear it for the child who can take something as simple as 2 + 2 and come up with EVERY ANSWER BUT 4 and insist – insist – that 9,276 is a viable option. We spent almost an hour solving this riddle: ’I begin with /ch/. I rhyme with lamp. I am another word for winner. What am I?’ Keep in mind that his spelling words this week ALL begin with /sh/. His grammar for today was a worksheet focusing on the /sh/ and /ch/ sounds. His favorite song in the world is ‘We Are The CHAMPions’ by Queen…. suffice it to say that the boy KNEW the answer and was flat out REFUSING to say it. He danced all around it. ‘Tramp’ ‘camp’ were two offerings that stand out in particular as taunting Mom instead of just finishing it. We ended up putting it all on the chalkboard and he was left with no option but to write ‘champ’. Then he finished the last 2 riddles with virtually no problem.
I recounted this story to my BFF & SFK (both of whom came to a potluck/swim day event at our house this afternoon) and got the expected chuckles at my frustration… BFF asked PeaGreen why he wanted to torment Mom like that, and his response was his standard, “That’s the way how I roll” with a big fat grin. Who would’ve thought that a 7-year-old child could be that diabolical? It positively staggers the mind. It’s impressive when you’re removed from the situation, really. That he could hold out for that long on his little tangent before finally tiring of the game and deciding to finish up so he could go play with his friends says a lot for his future as a lawyer.
Then there’s the other one… 8 years old and already a champion procrastinator. If he applied one tenth of the effort that he put into avoiding doing his work into actually finishing it, he’d be the speediest student in history. His spelling assignment today was a cryptogram style worksheet where you have to figure out which number = which letter, then fill in the blanks with the right letters to match the numbers. It wasn’t difficult, just time-consuming. He piddled. He fidgeted. He went to the bathroom. He sharpened his pencil. He got the cat out of his basket (on his desk where we store school books). He got a drink of water from his water bottle and dropped the cap. It took 10 minutes to find it and four other things under his desk. He added a letter. The repeated the process. Frustrating!! We won’t talk about the language arts lesson. We just won’t.
I honestly don’t know what to do on days like this – where it’s just a battle of wills that apparently must (for some reason) occur in order to settle back into the daily grind. If we had not just had a 2 week break with zero schoolwork of any kind, I’d have just scratched school for today. The most annoying part about this is that normal tactics of logic and sympathy just don’t work. If they did, then I could simply empathize that yeah, it sucks to go from carefree playtime to recalling how math works, but we want to learn things and to some extent, this is how we do that*. But no matter what logic you throw at them, no matter how much you sympathize, they won’t have any of it.
Once I’m out of my funk and irritation, looking back I can pick out the parts of the scenario that I would admire if it involved another adult. My kids are tenacious and goal oriented – they know what they want (in this case, not to do school work) and are willing to go the extra mile to accomplish it. They do know when their rock meets a hard place and understand that sometimes giving in is the best course of action. I can never say that they didn’t give it their all – they tried everything they could think of to get out of doing work today. I’m not sure what lesson we all learned today (and I’m sure we’ll repeat this scenario again…) but I do know that I need to figure out how to work smarter, not harder – I need to brainstorm on how to motivate them better.
Oddly, I don’t get a lot of protesting with the actual work once they get past the mental block that they throw up when we start a new mod. I kind of wonder if the farther we settle into homeschooling the smaller these kinds of hurdles will be. With PeaGreen, especially, it seems like if we go even a day without reading something, he slips back into such a negative head space with reading that it’s really hard to pull him out of it. Even with as crappy as this morning was, we managed to overcome that negativity relatively quickly and move on to actually sounding out the letters and reading the words (instead of seeing a mass of words and freaking out because there are so many). LittleBoyBlue, once he realized that I was not, in fact, kidding about tacking on extra writing if he didn’t get on the ball, actually finished his work with a fairly decent attitude. It took a while, but they both completed the assignments given to them and we were able to visit with our friends and carry on with the afternoon with basically no conflict.
If we hold true to form, tomorrow will be awesome. Actually, this afternoon as pretty great. We had friends over to swim and managed an impressive 3 hours in the pool. The kids played well together (all 9 of them!) and we three moms got to chat for a bit without having to regulate too many kid disagreements. When we came back inside we pulled the watermelon that we popped in the freezer before we went out and had frozen watermelon slices – so yummy!
Incredibly, it didn’t seem like that many kids when we had them all running around.
‘This, too, shall pass‘ is an often tossed out phrase among the mothering groups and forums I frequent. When you think about it, that’s a phrase that almost never has anything good come from it. If things are bad, then you’re repeating it over and over again while simultaneously looking for solutions and strategies that work better than whatever you’re doing right now that isn’t working. When things are good, that phrase is a reminder that the days are slipping by quickly and to hold on to that moment.
As I write this, my kids are gone. When my sister came to pick up Fred to go home, the boys managed to get permission to spend the night over there since Fred’s coming back here in the morning. Loverly Husband and I have spent the evening in near silence, just reveling in the quiet. Strangely enough, I actually miss them. As awful as this morning was and much as I need the break, and though I am supremely grateful to my sister for taking the kids off my hands for the evening, I am very much looking forward to tomorrow’s lessons and a fresh start.
We’re headed to my other sister’s house in Jasper tomorrow, so we’re planning a little car-schooling. I’ll print out some of their work and we’ll take workbooks for the drive. We’re planning on hitting Martin Dies Jr. State Park either tomorrow or Friday for the TX Nature Challenge mission there. It’s been a while since we’ve done one so this should be fun. Or we might just laze around the house. Plans are in the ‘as yet undetermined’ state at this juncture.
*No method debates here, please – we’re working hard to integrate three distinct learning styles here and to some extent, desk work will always play a part in our homeschooling. When I say ‘desk work’ it’s not necessarily ‘working at a desk’. I use that term to describe anything that is from a workbook, worksheets and assignments with lots of handwriting or written demonstration of lessons learned. Some homeschoolers opt not to keep track of progress with written work, others do. I choose to keep track this way for my own peace of mind, to show their dad and as a CYA-type thing if we ever get called to the carpet to prove what we’ve been doing with the kids’ education. Texas is easy to homeschool in now but it may not always be that way. Plus, even though writing may be drifting towards obsolete as technology becomes more and more integrated into daily life, that also may change one day. Just because we type more than we write doesn’t mean that writing shouldn’t be an integral part of education. My kids do an actual handwriting/penmanship lesson in addition to journaling and the written portions of whatever lesson we’re doing that requires writing. Boys, especially, seem to have a harder time with writing assignments so I try to keep writing assignments short, sweet and pretty narrowly focused. But however much they protest, write they most certainly will.