Sunday, August 21, 2016

Quit Comparing Already!

Just now I was reading an acquaintance's FB post about how she was prepping lessons since her kids were starting (home)school tomorrow. My self talk went something like this "Oh no, I'm really not ready to start yet! But that's OK, 'cause it's not Labor Day yet. I wasn't really planning to get going in earnest until after Family Camp and Labor Day anyway. I wonder if I should anyway... I'm not very good at this. It makes me cringe to think about doing formal lesson plans. I hate cutting stuff out and laminating it and everything and... Arrgh!"
Thankfully, as I was starting to spiral into this garbage, I had to do a serious face-palm: we never actually Stopped school this summer! We did very little school during March and April while my husband was on sabbatical, so there was no formal break this summer. Sure, things got in the way, but mostly - at least three or four days a week - we sat down for Bible reading, and at least a couple of days a week we added math, handwriting, or etc.
This very week, for example, Grace and I have read a number of books together - as in, Grace is actually reading a significant portion of the words in the simpler books to me. And this largely at her request! This is a big step forward! (It helps a lot, I think, that I've entirely abandoned "how to teach your kid to read in 100 easy lessons" with her. James did great with this method, but Grace was bored stiff by it less than half-way through. When we started looking at books she actually cared about, reading got interesting again. I am so thankful for the flexibility of actually being able to say "OK, this isn't working, let's put it away!")
Grace reading an Elephant and Piggie book with Lucy - and Nettle!

On top of that, we went through probably 6 or 7 chapters in "Life of Fred: Apples." This is also at Grace's level, not James', and she's mostly quite interested - at least in the stories. There's a little more prompting and "encouragement" needed from me when it comes to the exercises (and I'm learning she really isn't solid on how to write many of her numbers!), but we're making progress. And again, this is homeschool. If she needs to take a couple of minutes to calm down out in the middle of the deserted cul-de-sac while I sit on the porch patiently waiting, it's OK. We can work with that. And if she wants to practice her memory verse by adding some ballet moves, double bonus!
Both big kids also spent 3 hours each afternoon at "Building Camp" at the local Christian school. The girls also had their ballet class and James his taekwondo plus a speech therapy lesson.
James did little formal school work outside of a couple of minor copy-work assignments, but even that is a victory for me, since he resists them so thoroughly.  In fact, it was a really rough week for James (and his parents!) He's struggling mightily against anything that sounds like it might be work, and he's being very disrespectful about it, especially after he's lost his temper - which is happening several times a day. I don't know how much progress we made on this issue this week, but I do know it consumed nearly all of my energy, emotional and otherwise, so it is purely amazing that we made any school happen at all. But as one of the blog posts I recently came across said, addressing behavior and attitude *is* your work: it's not a distraction, it's the main event. It's actually far more important than just about anything else you're teaching.  It's hard to put it on your schedule, or create a curriculum for it, because it happens in real time. Of course, the rest of school does too, I think, if you're actually doing it right. :}

So, yeah, my school 'storage space' still consists of a vaguely localized pile of books and a file carton. And my notion of what the 'start of school' should look like is amorphous at best. We probably won't have a kick off party. Maybe I'll get around to dressing them up in nice clothes and take a Pinterest-worthy picture with a sign in front of the house - and then again, maybe I won't. It's not the end of the world. Neither is it a big deal if I start with the Spelling-U-See and writing curriculum right away in September. October would be fine too. Or even later. Especially if we find that we need to spend a lot more time than expected working on behavior and the willing execution of chores! ('cause, how do you plan for that?!) And if it's half-way through the year before I decide whether Grace is actually doing Kindergarten or First Grade, does it really matter? Isn't the whole point that I'm teaching her on her schedule the things she is ready for and eager to learn?
I need to frequently remind myself that we're not doing school in a box On Purpose, and that if my school actually Did look like my friends' schools (let alone anything I might see on Pinterest or a Mommy Blog), that would actually be a bad thing. I don't have their kids, or their specific strengths and weaknesses. We were designed for each other, and since I am clearly Not slacking off entirely, perhaps now would be a good time to quit beating on myself and giving myself the credit I am due.

PS: After writing this - at 11 o' clock at night! - I had a long and detailed nightmare about finding myself in a third grade classroom full of children. I realized that about half of the kids in that classroom were actually My students and were here with this other teacher only because I was new and needed a little prep time. My own classroom was next door and they'd be hitting it in force in mere moments. Of course, I hadn't prepared a Thing. No curriculum, no lesson plans, no nothing! I snuck out and into my own classroom hoping that the previous teacher had left materials for me. She had, but they were in a mess. There was certainly nothing I could pull out and present to the kids at short notice. Thankfully I woke up before my students showed up.
Anxious much about school? ;)

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