Monday, November 23, 2015

Homeschooling When You Aren't In the Mood

Madison and I have officially been on our homeschooling journey for three full months of kindergarten now. It's been a learning experience for both of us. Because Madison's "school" experience was a play based preschool, she wasn't quite sure what to expect from homeschool. And because my last teaching experience was a public school, I wasn't sure what to expect from homeschool. Obviously I'd done my research and chosen materials and roughed out a schedule, but it was new and different for both of us and we both needed to adjust. We've had some hits and misses, but generally speaking, we're happy with the way things are now.

But here's the thing. Some days you just aren't in the mood. We've all had those days. You're tired, you don't feel well, you just don't feel like it. Most of the time, one of us is feeling it, and we can push the other one. But we've had some stress in our house the past few weeks (a story for another time) and it's permeated everything. I'm not really in the mood to plan, and Madison isn't necessarily in the mood to work. When both people aren't in the does that work? When everyone needs a cheerleader and no one is cheering...what do you do?

At first, I thought the solution was sort of a "suck it up, buttercup" answer. Do I always feel like cleaning the bathrooms? No, but I have to do it or we'll descend into filth. Does Madison always want to clean up her toys? No, but it's not negotiable. Who cares if you want to, it's school. You have to. When I was teaching, I had to keep teaching. I might not have been the best teacher, but I did it. Well, now I'm teaching my daughter. If I don't feel like teaching, I still have to do it, right?

It was Adam who pointed out that one of the glorious benefits of homeschooling is that we don't have to do it that way. Madison and I were having our first day when we weren't meshing. I wasn't feeling it, she wasn't feeling it, and even though we were both crabby, I was forcing us to soldier on. Which, of course, was resulting in tears and frustration and two very unhappy people sitting at a table.

I went upstairs for a moment to compose myself and he said,

Isn't this one of those times when homeschooling is awesome? Just stop, get up, and walk away.

Oh. My. God. Brilliant, that husband of mine.

Why were we forcing ourselves to push on when we had the ability to adjust?

I grabbed our coats and we headed out of the house. We ran a few errands, then ended up at the library. We wandered around, grabbing books and DVDs that caught our eye, did some computer time, and finally, made a plan to get our schoolwork done while having a snack.

We re-centered. We came home, and we went back to it after adjusting our expectations.

And now, we know that this is allowed.

Most days, it isn't an issue. We do what we need to do and we're happy doing it. But on those off days, those days when the thought of sitting down at the table with our books and pencils feels like a punishment, we give ourselves that permission to take a break.

We cuddle up in the big armchair and just read together. I read from the chapter books we're working our way through. Madison reads her books to me. We don't stop and do little comprehension quizzes and checks, we just read.

We choose a movie to watch. We have a stack of "school" movies that aren't curriculum exactly, but that I'm ok watching during school time. Fantasia. Disney Nature. Leapfrog. Even movie versions of the books she's reading.

Madison chooses a craft from her stack (a mix of Melissa and Doug and Kiwi Crate activities that we keep on hand) and I bring out my grown up coloring book.

We cook together. We work on a chore together. Laundry is tedious for me, but Madison still enjoys helping.

We go out and visit the library, or take a trip to the science museum, or even just run errands. But we get out of the house.

Most of these days, we eventually get back to what I've assigned for the day. But sometimes we don't. Sometimes, we smile at the thought that we are in control, and and that a day of "hooky" won't derail us.

One of my friends was shocked to hear this. She said that if her kids had the option to just "not do school" when they didn't feel like it that they'd never go again. But maybe because we have that freedom is why it hasn't happened. Let's face it. I do like a clean bathroom, and I'm going to make sure it happens. Madison grudgingly agrees that it's more fun to play in her room when it's neat. Madison and I are happy when we're doing school, even grumpily, because it's the right thing and because we know when we really need that break, we can and will take it. It's these things that shine light on the fact that, for us, homeschooling is the right choice. The freedom to adjust is liberating.

Homeschooling doesn't always have to look a certain way, and it doesn't mean that Madison and I are always best friends. But it does mean that we can help each other back on track, and that's a benefit I'm really enjoying.

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