Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the daily battle

This article in Brain, Child magazine has provoked a few homeschooling mothers to write posts about the author's use of the term "excessive mothering." I wanted to write more about the very real daily battles that occur over schooling.

No, I don't have to wake my children up at the crack of dawn to get dressed, eat, gather their backpacks, and be standing at the curb at 7:30am for the bus. No, I don't have to spend all evening cramming in hours of homework while simultaneously cleaning the supper dishes and giving baths to babies. I don't have to argue, "I'm not buying you the latest IPod or sneakers, or whatever, so you can 'fit in'."

But I do have to cajole them endlessly to perform the same 5 tasks every morning before we even begin our work: eat, get dressed, brush hair and teeth, and make the bed. School seems to drag on forever and it always seems to be a different subject that needs extra encouragement and more motivation. Today it was Mary's handwriting- she recently started cursive and can't seem to find the beauty in the curves and swoops that Will loves. Often I have to stand over Will listening to him practice his piano pieces, "Play it again, and again, and again until it is perfect." There is also the daily grind of how to keep three little ones quiet long enough to get some education accomplished. And with 5 little ones in the house who can't help but whine, fuss, bicker,and fight I often feel like needing a time-out, perhaps on a deserted island.
All homeschooling moms have their strengths and weaknesses. I really admire moms who organize unit studies and actually pull it off. I ask prayers from those moms who can manage to get all 8 of their kids praying the rosary every night after dinner. I laugh aloud everytime I hear some mother say, "I could never homeschool, I don't have the patience." Neither do I. My only strengths are organization and pure perseverance, I won't let us fall behind or give up. I will fight the battle to give my children the best education I can give them because their souls and minds are worth it.
"Most homeschooling books never speak of these tensions--the power struggles and resentments and irrational moments of fury that emerge in any family, however loving. ...Reading them, one would think that homeschooling is an endlessly rosy enterprise, filled with brilliant, cooperative children well on their way to the Ivy League. In all my reading I never found a book that addressed what I feared most--the battles. ...whether the subject was dragons or fractions, the result was always the same. If I was not nearby to push and prod and cheer, Julia would muddle through her tasks at the pace of an aging sloth.

One afternoon at our public library I described my concerns to a seasoned homeschooler, a teacher-certified mother with an advanced degree in early education. I expected her to tell me what I was doing wrong. Instead, she sadly shook her head: "That's the story of my life."
The more mothers I queried, the more confessions I heard. Many moms had similar trouble keeping their young learners on track, and the relentless foot-dragging sometimes drove the parents crazy...
In my darkest moments I was glad that my homeschooling was limited to one year. That light at the end of the tunnel served as my guiding star. But when the light expanded into the sunshine of mid-June, I felt surprisingly sad.
Julia and I had grown closer through our moments of triumph and anger. She had read and written and calculated more than ever before in the public schools. And now that she has entered a conventional middle school, and is once again oppressed by the combination of piles of homework, little fresh air (no recess in middle school) and endless multiple choice tests (multiple choice is the greatest sign of the failure of American education), she often grows nostalgic."

1 comment:

BeckyC said...

Good luck with piano. I have twin boys and they started in 4th grade.

The first year, my boys' teacher was very easy on them. It was a good and easy start, but I had to teach them how to practice. They needed me to listen to them play and hold them accountable to...

1. understand the rhythm,

2. play the rhythm exactly right,

3. recognize the notes,

4. and play the notes exactly right.

I believe if you can't play exactly what the composer wrote, you are not getting closer to understanding what he or she meant. There is a time for creativity in one's own improvisations.

So I would take the time to listen closely to each boy practice once a week. I'd help one boy at a time isolate the measures, or measure, or two successive notes in a piece that were giving him trouble. I would stand over him to make him play the troublesome part slower and slower until he was playing slow enough to hit every note in proper rhythm. Sometimes he would need to practice just the left hand or just the right hand. But when both hands were ready, he'd put them together and speed up the part little by little. Then add it back in to the rest of the piece.

This was very hard and not natural for either of the boys to do, for months and months. But now, they can do it for themselves.

It was worth the struggle.

It is worth the struggle.

Good luck!