"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire" -St. Catherine of Siena
You probably wouldn't guess it from looking at them, but these pictures document my worst day yet of our homeschooling journey. In fact, while it got nominally better after that day, I came dangerously close to throwing in the schooling towel after the first two weeks. It's probably a good thing I wasn't blogging then because I would have written something halfhearted, trying to sound positive about the whole thing. A little ways out (and a few normal to awesome weeks under my belt) I have a bit more perspective on what went wrong, what I could have done, and what I just had to live with.
Let me start at the beginning. I get super excited for the start of each school year. I make crowns for the kids, I wrap up their school supplies, together we choose a saint and a quote for our year. This year it is St. Joseph of Cupertino, chosen by Max for his gift of levitation during prayer. At first I was a little unsure of this saint as our school saint... he wasn't known for his brains; in fact, he failed at a lot of things he tried to do. What kind of role model was that for our school year? And then it hit me: he's perfect. He was an incredibly holy man who loved God with his whole heart. Isn't that what I want for my kids? One of the great things about homeschooling is that my children don't have to strive to meet academic standards before they are ready so I am free to focus on what really matters: faith, values, and character development. So Joseph of Cupertino was added to our litany of saints and I began praying for his intercession in our schooling.
Then I started hearing friends talk about reading levels and math curriculum. I saw teachers on Facebook posting about their classes, and I began to panic. Max isn't reading yet! He doesn't know all of his basic math facts! He's behind! I pulled together the different parts of my curriculum with the goals of reading and math at the top of my list, edging out inspiration and love of learning. It had been easy to follow the trails of Max's interests when he was in preschool and kindergarten; no one expects a kindergartner to be a fluent reader, and a four year old who is obsessed with the Hobbit sounds really impressive! But suddenly there were expectations, and frankly I was terrified that my son would be labeled "behind" his peers when I know how brilliant he is. As Albert Einstein so perfectly stated it, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." I love that homeschooling allows my children to learn at their own pace, without being labeled or put into a box.
But for some reason (pride, I'm guessing) I was still trying to put my kids in a box. The first day of school started and I had the kids sit down and practice writing the letter 'a'. Max balked. Lucian ran away. Audrey wanted a snack. And Edith cried. I spent the rest of the day fuming, mad at myself for failing on my first day, mad at the kids for not doing what they were told. I'm sure Max was dumbfounded. School for him had always been the highlight of his day. "School" meant the time when we learn about things that are interesting, and while Max is interested in a lot of things, writing the letter 'a' is not currently one of those things.
After a few days of powering through my original plan for the week, I threw in the towel and started from scratch. I loved homeschooling last year, why had I psyched myself out enough to almost ruin it for everyone? With such a rough start it took awhile to get back into our groove, but I'm happy to say that we're on track once again. I am listening to my children, working with their interests, and having a grand old time. We have kept some of my original curriculum pieces in a drastically modified form, and I have discovered the wonder that is Pinterest to find better ways to inspire my kids to learn those things that I do believe are essential.
And I tell you what, Max is on the road to reading. He still has a long way to go but we are making steps at his pace, and he never needs to think that going slow is a negative. Even more important to me, though, is that he is once again telling anyone who asks that school is his favorite time of day.