A fifth-grader, third-grader, first grader and preschooler began their school year in my house August 17. The fifth-grader dove into the myriad of subjects, well-rested from a summer of exploring the fields, imagining stories of fine and heroic ladies, horseback riding and adding braces and glasses to her ensemble. Despite the order of subjects presented, she continues to pursue math sooner than directed and to blow through her history books without consideration for the questions she must answer. The former may be from a sense of getting the worst over first. The latter from an aggressive love of reading.
The third-grader, less enthusiastic, is navigating the idea of the servitude that comes with a new and more challenging grade. Being rational, now that he is past the age of seven, as the days go by slowly does the realization grow that the quicker he works the more time in the day there will be for Legos.
There sits a first-grader, diligently copying her letters and stories, drawing solar systems, requesting coloring pages that include an [anatomically correct] heart and a brain, and reminding her mother-teacher that it is time for phonics.
A preschooler’s time is best spent in play, drawing upon the hard lessons of life and competition, to develop his sense of the world and how to move within it without hitting his head on doorknobs. Nevertheless, when I can put him off no longer, I guide him through his art book, shape identification and letter tracing.
Bouncing between all these is a chubby seven-month-old not quite sure why her mouth hurts, why her mother keeps setting her down despite her protests and who this punk four-year-old is who continually piles toys around her while she learns to crawl.
The Honest Fact
I was nervous about beginning this year, and I was right to be nervous. This is hard.
A Plan of Attack
When I know something will be difficult, the first matter I must address is my mindset. We used our first week to determine our ideal schedule and make changes. The day ended at a set time without or without completing all the subjects. More time may have been spent with me running back and forth from the printer than was necessary, but in a way, I needed to dive in and see what I was up against before I could concretize a plan of attack.
Consistency is king and despite the baby’s insistence on unpredictability, we have achieved some sense of normalcy with almost two weeks under our belt. I keep very busy. This is the first year I found our schedule better set by the hours of the day than generalized blocks of time. We begin at 8 a.m., break for lunch at noon whether or not the current subject is completed, resume instruction at 1 p.m. With a drawing lesson and drawing time and end the day at 3 or 4 p.m. End times depend entirely on the student’s age and willingness to engage in one’s lessons without great lapses of wandering into space.
My temptation is to plow through, like my daughter and her math lessons, not to get lost in the act of savoring, like my son and his drawing. But I knew in my heart that our mornings beginning with prayer, songs and stories, and our afternoons beginning with a drawing lesson, were linchpins on which our whole day rested.
But do I apply this to myself?
But I haven’t quite learned that for myself yet. My nights are irregular, or maybe, regularly rough, and I am trying to find that secret ingredient at 4 p.m. that will reset my mind and prevent me from turning into a gargoyle. I’ll let you know when I find it. I have a feeling that, like the balance I seek for my children, the tools for preventing my 4 p.m. meltdown will come from what happens earlier in the day.
Possibly and probably the list includes good sleep, good nutrition, a walk, and midday break away from the kids before the beloved drawing lesson. We shall see.