Monday, September 13, 2010

Starting School

After a summer of lax schedules, far more time with neighborhood kids than I would have preferred, and letting way too many incidents 'slip by' for the sake of a little computer or reading time, a nap, or a shower - our first week of school began.

All of it by my own choosing, because... well... I wasn't raised with good habits. But really, at this point, it's because I continue to choose not to be more scheduled and disciplined through the summer.

My son had a pretty bad cold, but we couldn't have a sick day our first day of first grade! So I decided to go ahead with school and see how things went.

The morning went well. We had several expected interruptions by my 2yo dd who I instructed several times to either play quietly or go upstairs in her room. There was some fussing and crying, but we were prepared for that as we knew it would take a little training for her to learn to adjust to the new schedule. When she fussed about being quiet, I'd stop reading, set down our book, walk her upstairs, sit her on her bed, and let her know she's not to come downstairs until she is ready to be quiet.

This week, she's been quietly patting us on our arm to get our attention instead of talking to us - an improvement :)

This year, my ds is in YR1 and my dd is in YR3 so I have 2 schedules and separate readings for each. Rather than having both sit in on all the readings, or letting one go play and then have to call them out of their play, I took Kristine's advice and am having one do their chores, copywork and math during that time. Once they're done with those things, they can choose to do either a drawing, any writing project, handicraft, or recitation memory work independently while I go through the reading with the other.

After lunch, I had my ds review some of his letters for copywork. When we got to the letter g, he started to pout about having to write it starting from the top. He wanted to know why he couldn't just write it from the bottom up. I explained about cursive, etc. but he wasn't really interested in reason. He was sick with a cold, he didn't want to do it the right way, he wanted to do what he wanted to do and that was that. Don't we all act like that sometimes?

So I sent him upstairs for a nap and told him we'd finish school after his nap. He started to cry and fuss because he didn't want a nap, but I could tell from his puffy eyes and yawns his body felt otherwise, so I explained he was either going to have a nap or he was going to have a nap and a consequence - his choice (not the consequence, but whether he would get it or not). After a little more fussing and me reiterating his options, he chose to take his nap without the consequence - smart boy. I tucked him in, said prayers, gave him a cuddle, and went back to finish things up with my dd.

He woke up an hour and a half later in a cheerful mood and diligently finished his copywork well without a word from me. Since then, he's done better work at his copywork and hasn't complained again.

Yesterday, he had a similar pouty mood about doing his nature drawing and today, he wanted to read silently to himself and only ask me when he needed help instead of reading out loud to me as I had asked. These are not ability issues, he knows how to draw, he knows how to read, it wasn't our first reading lesson; he was just not wanting to and starting to get into a habit of complaining and trying to get out of it. Each time, I made clear what was expected of him and explained his choices to him. With the nature drawing, he chose to draw without the consequence and even showed it off proudly when he was done with it.

With the reading, he chose to scrub the kitchen floor before choosing to read out loud to me. As I got the rag and the soapy water out for him, he continued complaining so I again made his options clear to him - he could either scrub the floor in probably less than five minutes and get on with his reading, or he could scrub the floor and the garbage bin and depending on how long he continues complaining, any number of other things I have needing cleaning around the house. Again, his choice.

Thankfully he chose to stop complaining and scrub the floor, be done with it, and then finished his reading out loud.

On the upside, he did also say things that week like: he loves school, wishes he has one more book read to him every day, he asked me for one more page of Parables from Nature, giggled at Whale from Just So Stories, told others about his favorite school books... also, the story of James Watt's invention of the Steam Engine that I read to my dd has spurred them on to play creating new inventions with their tinker toys and making agreements on their ability to use each others' ideas (patents).

Is this the right way to handle things? That is a question that I continually ask myself over and over as a parent and homechooler. What I do know is that my children need a 'firm hand' at home to help them make good choices and do their best. And I need God's grace to provide that for them with wisdom and 'purposeful determined gentleness'.

It seems a delicate balance of a firm hand, a listening ear, and a tying of heart strings through play and engaging them in what matters to them - a balance I've upset before and am certain to do so many times again - God help me.

When I slack in providing that clear framework, it isn't long before the home grows disheveled, schoolwork beings to fall by the wayside, attitudes seep in, frustration spills over onto my husband and before I know it the whole tone of the home is affected.

So our first week was less than ideal, as it usually is coming off a lazy summer. There will probably be a few more incidents before we get into a smoother groove, but God willing, we'll get there.

Education is a discipline... so Charlotte wrote.

How was your first week?

I have heard of families who work on good habits all summer and consequently start school with ease. That's how I'm hoping to be when I grow up :)

I'll leave you with some of Charlotte's own words on Parental Authority and instructing our children in the 'art and science of living', from Vol. 5, p 198-201...

Now, here is the secret of home government––put the child into the attitude of a receiver, the parent into that of an imparter, not merely of physical care and comfort, but of a careful and regular training for the responsibilities of life, and the rest comes easy. The difficulty is, that many parents find it hard to maintain this superiority to their children as the latter advance in age and set up other standards than those of home. They possibly feel themselves less clever, less worthy, than some others with whom their children come in contact; they are too honest to assume a dignity to which they doubt their right, so they step down from the rostrum, and stand on the same level as their children, willing to owe to affection and good-nature the consideration which is their lawful due.

Very likely such parents are not less, but more worthy than the persons they give place to; but that is not the question; they are invested with an official dignity; it is in virtue of their office, not of personal character, that they are and must remain superior to their children, until these become of an age to be parents in their turn. And parents are invested with this dignity, that they may be in a position to instruct their children in the art of living.

Now, office in itself adds dignity, irrespective of personal character; so much so, that the judge, the bishop, who does not sustain his post with becoming dignity has nothing to show for himself. So of the parent; if he forego the respectful demeanour of his children, he might as well have disgraced himself before their eyes; for in the one case as in the other, he loses that power to instruct them in the art and science of living, which is his very raison d'ĂȘtre in the Divine economy.

If parents put it to themselves that their relation to their children is not an accident, but is a real office which they have been appointed to fill, they would find it easier to assume the dignity of persons called upon to represent a greater than themselves. The parent who feels that he has a Power behind him,––that he is, strictly, no more than the agent of Almighty God, appointed to bring the children under the Divine government, does not behave with levity and weakness; and holds his due position in the family as a trust which he has no right to give up.

And now, given the parents in their due position as heads of the family, and all the duties and affections which belong to the family flow out from that one principle as light from a sun. The parents are able to show continual tenderness and friendliness towards their children, without partiality and without weak indulgence. They expect, and therefore get, faithful and ready obedience. Their children trust them entirely, and therefore bestow confidence, and look for counsel; and, of course, treat their parents with due honour and respect.

But there are times when the "relations are strained"; and of these, the moment when the child feels himself consciously a member of the school republic is one of the most trying. Now, all the tact of the parents is called into play. Now, more than ever, is it necessary that the child should be aware of the home authority, just that he may know how he stands, and how much he is free to give to the school. "Oh, mither, mither why gar ye no' mak' me do it?" was the cry of a poor ne'er-do-weel Scotch laddie who had fallen into disgrace through neglect of his work; and that is just what every schoolboy or schoolgirl has a right to say who does not feel the pressure of a firm hand at home during the period of school life. They have a right to turn round and reproach their parents for almost any failure in probity or power in after-life.

But no mere assertion of authority will do: it is the old story of the sun and the wind and the traveller's cloak. It is in the force of all-mighty gentleness that parents are supreme; not feebleness, not inertness––there is no strength in these; but purposeful, determined gentleness, which carries its point, only "for it is right." "The servant of God must not strive," was not written for bishops and pastors alone, but is the secret of strength for every "bishop," or overlooker, of a household.


  1. Thanks for sharing that Naomi! And I love Ryan's handwriting. Beautiful! So true, that first week takes more discipline than the rest!

  2. Thank you so much for writing honestly about your first week! I was physically ill trying to teach my YR1 son to read yesterday (upset stomach). The sighs, the groans, the I can'ts were enough to make me wonder if a teacher at school would be more successful at teaching him, then I wouldn't have to listen...but then I thought I would hear about it from the teacher when he didn't cooperate and we'd have to do homework with him anyway.

    I wondered if anyone else had the complaints and trying to get out of it. I so appreciate you being honest and I like your solutions. I wondered what to do about it. I like the idea of combining chores and school, too. Have a blessed week. ~Cori

  3. I agree with Cori. It is very helpful to hear others' honest accounts of their homeschooling adventures. I'm definitely going to reflect back on this post as needed (I printed it out to put with our homeschool binders)! Blessings on your journey,

  4. Cori - I'm glad you posted your comment. Boy, when it's good, it is sooo good and when it's bad, it can be so discouraging! But I believe God is faithful to show us the way to love, encourage, and teach our boys and raise him for His glory. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, especially with my son. I find myself teetering somewhere between thinking these are discipline issues vs. readiness issues vs. just the way boys are. It's that balance between letting them be boys and not stifling them, while also training them to give their very best and work hard that is not always so easy to discern.

    I found some stats on boys from this page here (http://www.childandfamilyprotection.org/eceissuesbgca.html) and thought it worth posting. You can see the source of the footnotes on that page also:

    23. Replicated research has consistently demonstrated that on the average girls develop formal academic skills at an -earlier age than boys.30 Many studies suggest that the decreased self esteem experienced by boys has resulted in much of their antisocial and delinquent behavior. This can be traced to the failures in their early school experiences due to their comparatively slower development.31
    24. Dr. Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in his book Boys Adrift, that physiologically boys’ brains and girls’ brains develop differently. For instance, the parts of the brain most involved in integrating information (i.e. sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing) develop in girls at a rate roughly two years ahead of boys.32 A 2006 Educational Horizons article explains that this more rapid development of the left hemisphere of the brain in girls enables them to learn to read and write earlier than boys. “Its primary responsibility is auditory processing and verbal expression, such as listening, speaking, and writing.” However, the right hemisphere, which develops sooner in boys, “... has the primary responsibility for visual-spatial and visual-motor activities, such as [are used in] sports, architecture, sculpture, painting, and carpentry.” 33
    25. In another study of first through sixth graders it was noted that 70% of readers with visual, perceptual, or refractive problems were boys.34 It is significant that boys lag behind girls in their development from 6 to 12 months. - -Stanley Krippner noted from his research that boys made up 90% of disabled readers.35 This is supported by Bickel & -Maynard in their 2004 paper on “No Child Left Behind.” 36
    26. Dr. Raymond Moore37 points out, “What the child needs most to grow well is a warm one-to-one relationship with a parent (or parent figure) who is always there to comfort and guide him. During the first crucial eight years, home should be the child’s only nest and parents the teachers of their children.” 38