7 Living Inside the Box Takes

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Kelly’s Takes today are about what is working in her homeschool. I might as well follow suit. I’m into my third quarter, and I’ve survived February, and so let’s see what’s working, and maybe even what’s not working, which has got to be a lot more exciting.

One
I have no idea how long I’ve been doing this–every time I pause to think about it I get sort of panicky and then decide that it won’t be helpful to attach a number of years to this task. Probably by the time I’m done people will introduce me in hushed awe as a veteran fifty year homeschooler. That sounds like a treat doesn’t it? But the good thing about all the time is that I think I might have finally let go of some of the panic. Now, finally, I show up for the business of instigerating knowledge every day and just do it without internally freaking out about whether we’re doing what we should be doing and if everything is going to be ok. We just open the books and do the day’s work. And then we go on and some other things. So that’s working. Less panic is a really nice way to live.

Two
We’ve also settled in and are finally really using the school room. The one single indispensable lesson I’ve learned in the last decade is that whatever you’re doing, you have to be able to do it. You can’t go with the ideal if the ideal doesn’t work. This is contrary to everything in my nature. My natural, inborn charism is to give up almost immediately if I can see that the ideal is going to fail. You can always make up some reason for why failure is imminent and then self sabotage the whole process so that the failure won’t be your fault. What’s the word for that? Stupidity? Perfectionism?

But when it’s your kids and not you, suddenly a lot more reality comes into focus. So I’ve learned, through piles of failed curricula, that even though I wish we could use xyz beautiful material because it would be so perfect and beautiful, we can’t because I don’t know how to make it work. I know how to make this work over here, so that’s what we have to do. That goes all the way down to the arrangement of a school room. It might look nice to have the map over there, but it can’t be over there because I can’t reach it. It might be nice to use a CD player with cds, but there’s no point because there’s no plug and we don’t have one. And so on and so forth. You have to work with what actually works. Which ends up making the whole enterprise essentially creative. Creativity, in my view, is best when it has structures and boundaries. What kinds of interesting things happen when you think inside the box? Lots more than if you open the box and get lost because you have nothing to fix on. Plus you never become good at the box if you’re always opening it and wandering away.

Three
Having a clean house really helps every corner of my existence. I hate and I feel guilty about this, and that this seems to be the way that it is, because I wish I were free flowing and fun, bohemian if you will, but I’m actually an uptight jerk and if I have to wade through piles of stuff to get to my school chair then I will either decide not to do it, scream, or distract myself with my phone. Having a clean house that we take time to clean means that I am able to do the work of school, but also that I have free mental space to read and be a human. Since our big grand clean up I discovered that I don’t actually have a Facebook addiction, I just need people to pick up their crayons off the floor. In the spirit of sanity, this week I just decided to accept this about myself and spin it as Me Giving The Gift of Order to my children. They know how to clean, so yay me! And because the school room is clean they also are learning how to spell. It’s a win win.

Four
I’m also accepting the reality of Better Late than Early, and Better Late Than Never. Most kids are not prodigies. Most kids do better with more time on their hands to work with a concept, like letters and numbers, rather than less time. Well, most of my kids, I guess I shouldn’t make any assumption about yours. Part of the panic of life is thinking that you yourself and also your children should be hitting various bench marks directly on target by certain dates. As I spent the last decade watching my eldest miss those time frames my panic rose and rose. Except that she always did hit them, just in her own sweet meandering time. Now she is almost fifteen and she is catching the bug of school for its own sake–the learning of interesting information, the delight of success, the happiness of a good grade, the point of delaying gratification, the satisfaction of long hours put in toward a singular goal.

So, Of Course, I’m a lot more relaxed with the rest of the pack. I’m also starting almost everything long after I thought I should start things with her.

Five
Better Late than Never is about discovering that you forgot something for the first two quarters and then not beating yourself to a guilty pulp, but just adding it in and then realizing that it’s better this way because you really didn’t have a handle on your time before, but now that you’re in a grove it’s fine and so you’re getting through that subject even faster than if you’d started it on time.

It’s also about going ahead and doing a whole school day even if you’re only starting that day at 1pm instead of 9am. You have plenty of time. Don’t give up. It’s fine.

Six
It really is true that Less is More. Doing a few things really well is better for the child and better for me as well. I can’t read all the good literature in the world. I can’t do all the science experiments. I can’t take the best of every other person’s homeschool and do it hopped up on steroids. I can only do some things. The some things that I do should be worthwhile and also doable. It means wistfully saying goodbye to almost all homeschool curricula, and thousands of interesting extracurriculars, and just doing something that feels, in the moment, very narrow and pitiful. But when I do that narrow pitiful thing well, I end up much better off than if I did all the things. I’m finally living this out this year. Finally. So that’s a great big fat win for me.

Seven
So is there anything that’s Not working?….bwahaaaaaaaaaaa
Why yes, there is. I am still yelling. And I still have one whole subject to add in. And I am already behind in my third quarter. And I may have to do some things all the way through July and August. So yay! Oh, and I should really think about remembering to pray about more things. Should should should. That’s what makes homeschooling so great!

And now, if you will excuse me, I will arise and go to the school room where I will settle back in my chair and shout at children to Work Harder and Be Better. They can model their lives on me, hahahaha. That’s a joke. Go check out more Takes!