Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Seven Words

I started this term with the plan that, once a week, we would do one 'hit' of formal, sit-at-the-table, workbook learning. This would be a page of maths, some handwriting and grammar and, for the older two, work on their monthly book project. It has become apparent that this is too much in one go: concentration and patience have been over-stretched and tears and shouting have not been uncommon. I am reminded of a recent post of Julie's, entitled "Strong Willed Mommies" which included these words:

"If you’ve got tears, you’re done. There’s nothing more to discuss or do that day. It’s gone too far."

Last week I reviewed what I was doing and split up the 'table-work' so that yesterday morning all we attempted was handwriting. My middle son wrote three sentences. My little girl, seven words. Having written their very best, they were tired, the pencil-work was getting sloppy and and I was beginning to find fault. I told them to stop. They looked at me with uncertain faces: was I about to shout? No, I simply said that that was enough for today (as I slipped away the lines from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that I had optimistically printed off for them to copy-write!) We retired to the sofa and began "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" and the epic "The Lord of the Rings". I felt close to the children, relaxed, and read for far longer than I normally do.
In the back of my mind I could imagine a school-teacher or an inspector criticising how much, or rather, how little we had done. I could hear the voice saying "They've got to learn to push through," or "How will they ever learn anything if that's all they do?" It was scary. I knew I could have made them write more and probably done some maths too, but I know that it would have been poor-quality, miserable work. I also know that my relationship with them would have been frayed a little. And, while we would have had more to show the fictitious inspector, I do not believe that they would have learned any more, except, perhaps, that appearances count for more that reality. So, while there were few words on the page, I believe that their handwriting improved a little from careful practice and they learned that quality matters, their feelings are heard and that we don't always have to fight!


Jane D. said...

Yey, that sounds just like homeschooling should be - well done!

Jean said...

This reminds me of one of my long-standing homeschooling mottos: if we're not both having fun, we're done. I figure that anything beyond that is wasting both our time. This has served us well during music lessons, and any other work we're doing together. If I'm feeling frustrated, then I'm clearly not demonstrating behaviour that I want emulated, and if my child's not enjoying the exercise, then the learning has shifted and is no longer productive. This was my way of trying to ensure that academics are fun and not associated with misery.
I think it is extraordinary that you were able to find a stopping place before any potential frustration. That is an amazing gift to your children!