I was telling someone the other day about my dog doing the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Awards. I am very laid back about my children's education, but I can release my inner pushy parent on the dog and put her through exams at a very early age without fear of causing permanent psychological harm. I have not been very happy with Coco's progress recently but my friend reminded me today how far this puppy has come. She will walk to heel, mostly, and especially if I make it very obvious that I have a treat in my hand. She will even walk to heel with no lead as we weave in and out of posts. She will come back across the park when I call, running right up to me and sitting. She will stay, usually resigning herself to the boredom by putting her chin on the floor and occasionally eating grass, and she will leave a tempting treat or her favourite toy until told she can take it. She has achieved both her puppy and her bronze certificates and I have rosettes for each to be proud of.
I always meant to measure my children's heights on a door-post so that we could all marvel at how much they had grown but I never did. Their development is clear to see however: they out-grow shoes and clothes, they bump their hips rather than their heads on grandma's breakfast table and they even coo over tiny baby shoes in the shops, which they themselves wore not so long ago.
It is important to notice progress and the only way to do this is to remember how things were. No matter how depressed I am about the state of my garden, there are a few photos of how it was three or four years ago that never fail to cheer me up. In the hazy worlds of home-ed and personal development it is hard to see this progress and easy to slip into the trap of feeling that nothing is changing.
Perhaps it is necessary to be intentional about noticing progress. To pay attention to what the children can do, or read, or understand right now so that I have something to compare last and next year with and to see how they are thriving; to pay attention to where I am right now, what I cope with, what causes me to spin out, how I respond to a difficult situation so that I can see that I am indeed becoming calmer and better humoured as I deal with some of the uncomfortable feelings in my life. Perhaps it is even time to fashion some rosettes of our own.