7 Schooling Takes

7 Schooling Takes October 12, 2018

It’s Friday. Did you even know?
Every August as I put my head down and plow, angst ridden, into the new scholastic year, I vow that this is going to be the year of success. This year, on my honor, I will do all the school and will succeed. We won’t careen from crisis to crisis. We won’t forget whole subjects. We won’t limp into the end of each quarter, panicked and anxious. We Will Do All The School. And then, by October, and then again in February, I discover that the wheels are already off and I’m pushing a raft across the desert with no wheels and no water and everyone is screaming and it’s the end of the world, only it’s not but it feels like it is.

As I’ve said over and over, that blog or book or whatever—the Homeschooling from a Place of Rest one, which I didn’t read—is so funny. And the Homeschooling with Grace people. And the ones who calmly work through all the school and do extra activities and stuff…insert crying emoji-gif here. More like Homeschooling Out of the Wellspring of Panicked Failure That Is The Totality of My Existence.

So anyway, to mitigate against that, I decided, even if it killed me, to do school five days a week this year. In theory, of course, the children all do school five days a week, but I have never done it with them on the fifth day. I’ve never shuffled into the school room on a Monday morning, ready and willing to see what’s going on and who can actually read and why that science book has been first crushed and then shoved under the bookshelf so that it is basically unusable until it is carefully reconstructed with a whole role of tape.

And all I have to say is, the effort is surely going to kill me. Doing actual school on an actual Monday can best be compared to facing down, like Heracles, mucking out the stalls of all those horses but not having a river to redirect and so doing it by hand without a river or a shovel and without being Heracles. I sit in my chair, insecure dog perched on my knees, suffering through the slow, agonizing sounding out of words letter by letter, the inexplicable failure to remember that if you take a bigger number away from a smaller one you have to borrow from the next column over, the curious idea that, if you haven’t memorized the spellings of all the words, magical thinking might come to your aid and enable you to pass the quiz, and so the long day wears on.

The point of this post was originally going to be Things That Are Working and so I guess I should concede that showing up on Mondays has actually worked in the sense that I’ve actually done it. And if you don’t do it, you certainly can’t succeed. It is, as they say, half the battle, and an important half, in that it brings the other half into existence. You can still fail, but you won’t necessarily fail because you did show up. And I have to admit, sitting there, with gritted teeth, directing the efforts of the young, rather than letting them twirl and spin according to the devices and desires of their own hearts, means that they have covered more ground and made more progress.

And it helps, for the first time in my whole homeschool venture, to have a real computer at my elbow. Not only can I vary the tedium with news, facebook, and various chat boxes—because, for those that don’t know, homeschooling is like war which, I’ve read, is long boring periods interrupted by chaos…you sit in front of the child while she writes out her sentence, and while you’re sitting there you have nothing to do, so you scroll through the desultory landscape of social media and politics—but I can also watch whole concerts on YouTube. The music lightens the atmosphere, at the very least, and I’m catching up on a lost lifetime of opera, chamber music, and weird 80s music videos.

And arriving, for one extra day, to sit in my chair means that all six children have at least a few hours of one day together in the same room, which lengthens just a tiny bit longer the sense of scholastic community that has grown up over the years as we’ve together striven, failed, and striven some more. When the first child goes away into some other life, there is going to be a horribly empty place for those who are left behind. So every few hours that we can catch together are worth the frustrations that accompany them.

So there you are, things that sort of work some of the time in the homeschooling life. Go check out lots more interesting takes!

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