We had a bit of a drive yesterday because we went out to Bethpage, about an hour outside of Nashville, to visit some dear friends on their farm. As we drove, I gave Noah a sheet with some words he’d printed on it and asked him to read the words out to me. In response, he crumpled up the paper and threw it on the floor where none of us could reach it, as the kids were trapped in their car seats and I was driving.
So often, people ask me how homeschool is going, and I usually just say “It’s going well,” or “It’s great!” It’s hard to answer honestly, because it is going well, and it is great, and I do truly love it most of the time. My favorite times, the times I feel so lucky and content, are when we spend an afternoon baking bread and listening to French tapes or when we curl up on the couch and learn about Native Americans and figure out where on the globe Christopher Columbus was trying to sail. I love Mondays at the Frist with friends, Wednesdays at the zoo with friends, Fridays at the community center with friends, math lessons at the coffee shop together, and mornings I spend in the kitchen, the smells of breakfast still lingering as the dishwasher runs, listening to my children playing together upstairs. I love the slowness and ease of our days, the fact that we can stay in pajamas until noon if we want to, there’s no rushing to get out the door, we can watch Planet Earth in bed with hot chocolate on a cold day or spend the whole day at the park if it’s warm. I love that Tuesdays and Thursdays after my kids get home from “school” we can do whatever we want to do, we don’t have to worry about homework or studying for tests or getting home and getting dinner ready quickly so they can get in bed on time and wake up to do it all over again… we can spend the rest of the afternoon riding bikes at the playground until the last light from the day fades below the horizon.
Yet sometimes, times like yesterday, I feel ready to throw in the towel. At that moment yesterday, when Noah refused to read even five tiny words just out of sheer stubbornness, it brought all the doubt, all the insecurities, all the frustrations I’ve felt this year into sharp focus. I was so angry and, even though I know I’m not supposed to let this happen, my feelings were hurt. It seems like Noah and I are always fighting about schoolwork these days; if it’s not reading it’s writing, math, or piano practice. And this is on top of all the other things we fight about (“Stop stealing your sister’s baby doll!” “Don’t punch your friend!” “No! You’re six for God’s sake! It’s time you start wiping your own butt!”). I’m not sure how to cope anymore because I’m all out of energy and I’m all out of creative ideas. Advice from friends is tricky because everyone feels so strongly about it one way or another. I really am so grateful to hear encouragement and kind opinions, but I always know exactly what someone is going to say before they say it. Parents whose kids are in school are like, of course you should just put him in school, school is great and that’s what kids do. Parents whose kids are homeschooling are like, of course you should keep homeschooling and it’s just a phase and it takes time to hit your stride. I obviously have reasons for wanting to do both, but I can honestly say it makes me sad when I think I might not be homeschooling anymore. I’m torn in two; I don’t know what to do.
Lance and I opened a bottle of wine last night and talked late into the night (for us, 11:30) about it all. We went back and forth, and came up with some strategies and experiments (for instance, Lance is going to start doing school with Noah on Saturdays and I’m going to take Wednesdays off so all the school stuff doesn’t always come from me), and we’ve given ourselves a deadline of the end of the month to see if things improve.
In the meantime, I’m trying to live in the moment. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom it offers us and the time we’re able to spend together. Yesterday the kids and I spent the whole day at our friends’ farm. It snowed off and on while we were there, and out there in the wide open fields and the woods the snow looks so beautiful and clean and white. I wish I’d brought my real camera, which I never bring anywhere anymore. I did manage to snap some great pictures with my phone, though.