This week, week 3 of our homeschooling journey, has been a steep learning curve for me. We have tried some different things (some good and some involving shouting so not so good) and I think I am beginning to get some sense of how our week could work.
Discovery 1: Mondays suck. Surprise, even if you are not heading off into the office Monday is still a tough day. It may seem odd as we are still at home but after a weekend spent with both parents available the beginning of the week still feels difficult. This week Neirin seemed hell bent on sending me to the loony bin, he screamed, screamed and for a bit of variation in the day’s programming…yes indeedy, you guessed it.
We went to a local play group to break up the afternoon but the screaming continued, one of the other mums actually asked me if he was sick. Well she said sick but the look on her face said “possessed”. I could only shrug, say ‘teething’ by way of an explanation and continue to hold onto him while he attempted to dislodge my teeth by head butting me in the face after leaving my ear ringing by kicking it as hard as he could. With shoes on.
The difficulty I’d had was that this behaviour had begun in the morning while Huwyl and I tried to do school. We read, he screamed, we did writing practice, he screamed and tried to grab Huwyl’s pencil out of his hand, we tried to do some apple based activities and …well let’s just say he didn’t react well. Cue heading for playgroup for light relief but ending up with more screaming. By the end of the day it was me who wanted to scream.
The thing is it isn’t just the children who struggle with Monday, I do too. The transition from having Stephen around and having some backup with the children to the beginning of the working week is pretty horrid. I miss him and I also miss the chance to ‘get things done’. Monday’s can often end up feeling lacking in accomplishment. So I have a plan. Monday will now be ‘just reading’ day. We will read and do a nice craft to set the tone for the week, something both boys can try. We might even paint, but I’m not making promises on that one. Basically I am aiming to make the day a gentle return to routine for all of us, including me.
Discovery 2: I set the tone. On Monday Neirin had me in a real panic; Can I do this? Will he let me do this? Am I destroying Huwyl’s academic potential by keeping him home with me instead of sending him away to be with professional people who aren’t trying to deal with a screaming toddler at the same time? I came up with a radical action plan revolving around a play pen and a determined mummy who was going to get the job done.
Here’s what actually happened. Nothing. Neirin was as good as gold and we did loads of interesting work. No use of play pen required, no shouting or separation, nada. What was different? Basically me. Instead of trying to do a formal circle with Huwyl in emulation of kindergarten (which he and I love but seems to set the tone of misery when Neirin disrupts it) I sat on the floor and focused on Neirin. I gave him lots of attention and read his book first. He has recently acquired an intense passion for reading thanks to nightly book binges with Daddy, so I think he was getting really fed up when he wasn’t getting a turn. So I read to him first and then set him up with some toys.
I then stayed on the floor with Huwyl and we read our stories. Neirin played happily and we got through our stories with no major interruptions. Bliss! We went on to have a wonderful morning learning all about the Autumnal Equinox. We read the story of Mabon from the latest edition of Pooka Pages, we learned what the equinox is, we looked at the words equinox and equal and noticed the similarities, we did handwriting practice, it was brilliant. By giving Neirin what he needed first he was able to give us a bit of space to get some of our learning done. Most of the lesson was conducted with Neirin on my hip but I had concluded that this is ok too. Because we are not in a classroom. We need to learn in a way that works for all our family.
I also concluded that Huwyl may have to compete with his brother for my full attention, but in a class room he would be competing with 20+ other children so he is probably doing ok and his intellectual capacities will remain in tact long enough for Neirin to grow and gain a little patience.
Discovery 3: Homeschool is not school at home. We are not trying to replicate a formal teaching environment at home, this is a different way of learning altogether. I think it is really important that we set aside time each day for that learning, just as we do for cooking, walking outside or any one of the activities that are part of our life. But I can’t ignore the facts and try to create a fake environment that doesn’t cater to the actual people in this family.
Many of the activities we do as part of our learning look just like those in a classroom, reading, writing, exploring ideas and the seasons, but some really don’t. I am realising that the essential component of what we are doing isn’t school but home. I need to embrace the flexibility this gives us and stop trying to compete with the kindergarten down the road. I will never be a kindergarten teacher but I can know my child and help him learn in a way that works for him.
As part of this new found flexibility I ‘cancelled class’ on Wednesday when I realised that Huwyl was under the weather and could do with a break. No wait that was me. Actually it was both of us. But we did read together for a full hour which he loved, we even got some books in there for Neirin. On Thursday we headed off to the library and by happy chance discovered the wonderful story time they run there. Both boys had a wonderful time listening to stories and singing songs and I got to sit back and enjoy watching them. It was a lovely feeling to be a part of the experience but not be the one leading it. That is definitely on the calendar from now on.
This week has been up and down with land searches, near misses, what do we do nexts? and some decisions being made. As is right at this time of year we are at a tipping point. I taught Huwyl about the meaning of Mabon but I think I need to remind myself of the true importance of balance. I think it is also about acknowledging that with the light, comes the dark. Just as with our days the rough and the smooth go hand in hand. Moments of laughter and song and understanding walk alongside frustration and confusion and delay as the Fat Controller might say. Both good times and ‘bad’ times are equally important, equally real.
So as much as I love preparing wonderful resources for Huwyl and planning my marvelous curriculum (and I do and it is), I am starting to see that a harmonious home and a plan that works for all our needs is more important. So if we simply sit and read together, peacefully, we are achieving a great deal.
So that is my goal: A little peace and a dash of harmony. And some phonics.