The First Week of School
School started last week. As usual, it was a bumpy start. I wasn’t intending to write about it due to the horrifying nature of the entire week. But when I spent a few minutes writing notes about it (to make myself feel better about worse weeks in the future? To comfort myself that it couldn’t get worse than that? I don’t know. I just write about things.), I decided to share. Maybe you can laugh at me. If nothing else, it might make you feel very, very good about your last school week…
Unfortunately, the night before we started school I happened to go on social media for a few minutes. The view I saw of everyone’s back to school activities, completed assignments and craft projects was stunning. I was in the depths of despair. I muttered some obscenities under my breath. Of course I’m a homeschool mom, so my obscenities sound like “good grief”, or “oh my goodness” or “heaven help us”…the posts looked so beautiful. So perfect. So…educational.
Our first day of school leaves a little to be desired in the ambiance department. There is candy. There are people. There are books. There is noise. There is a harassed teacher.
For the past five or six years we have taken our “first day of school” picture on some very special steps. This year we have different steps. I don’t think anyone really noticed, due to the ash swirling around us from the (extremely) close forest fire.
As the day progressed, I realized that despite my planning, I had overlooked several things that directly affected our day. (No, I can’t tell you what they all were. After all, Charlotte tells us to treat our children as people, so I’ll not share all the details.) There was the child who was massively struggling with a subject that I had not been brave enough to trust completely to the Charlotte Mason method. There were behavior issues that had been dormant for the entire summer, and finally had an opportunity to rear their ugly little heads. There was a potty training toddler. And when I staggered into the kitchen after hours and HOURS of all of that, there was a giant mess. I did not take a picture. I know, what was I thinking? Who in the 21st century wouldn’t take a picture of their insane mess?
It was a terrible day. The kind where (if there is time) you just lay on the ground moaning.
(There was no time.)
Michael, who is incredibly busy, spent a very valuable hour taking all children out of the house to feed them, leaving me exactly 55 minutes to “do whatever you want to do”. I decided that what I wanted to do was clean the kitchen and mop the strangely sticky floor. I think he had something else in mind, because when he got back before rushing out the door again, he just looked at me sideways shaking his head. But he is also quite an intelligent man, and dropped chocolate off with me before leaving again.
Although bedtime was just around the corner, and I even had several in bed already, I decided that this was not how I wanted our first day of school to end. So, I got them all back up for a few stories on the couch. We had lots of fun, laughs, and good times.
I grabbed a book about the Erie Canal. They were amazed. So many questions and concerns. Until I happened to mention that many men actually died digging the canal because they had to dig through so many swamps and the mosquitoes killed them.
And that was it. Game over.
The worst school day of the year had a dramatic and horrifying ending. There was shock. Horror. Near tears. I quickly tried to explain that they were different mosquitoes than the kind we have here. Nope, that didn’t help. There was nothing for it, but getting everyone quickly to bed.
As you can imagine I was up late and early contemplating how that day had gone. At 5 the next morning, I was studying Charlotte’s Home Education with a vengeance. As I read and thought and took notes, something came to my foggy mind:
In speaking of using and evaluating her method for 30 plus years, Charlotte says this:
“The reader will say with truth, – ‘I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles’; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated.”
I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose. I had to at least try once again to use the method to the fullest, as Charlotte intended for it to be used. I changed what I did for just the one subject I was holding out on, and wow, did that day go better. And then the next day. And the next. Note that I’m not saying they went amazingly, just better. Good things happened, people were again enjoying school. Their teacher was more sane. Looking back on last week I can smile at a few of the high points. (I’d happily share our downer moments if it might help someone who is struggling in their school, but I do try to protect the guilty!)
So, a few things we’ll enjoy remembering:
When Mom quit using the curriculum for that subject she knew she shouldn’t be using in the first place, and went back to the Charlotte Mason method with that one kid. Kid’s reaction: “Oh, I’m doing so well! This is sooooo fun!!!”. (Yes, this really happened. I am not exaggerating here.)
The time we sat around the table eating lunch and yelling our Shakespeare. (For some reason lately when reading our lines, people feel compelled to yell.) The yelling really excites the 2 year old who ended up stealing lines from another person who was saying theirs a bit too slowly. Maybe you haven’t really enjoyed Shakespeare until you hear a 2 year old yelling “I would I were invisible, to catch the strong fellow by the egg!” (Leg-she doesn’t say her “L” yet.). Everyone went into hysterics. (Well, everyone except the person who had their lines stolen.)
This week I also had the good fortune of coming across the artist Andrew Wyeth. I was mesmerized by his windows, his depiction of the country, and his story. His art reminds me of Wendell Berry’s words. We did a little impromptu art study on Wind from the Sea, and I bought a cheap book of his prints on Amazon. They were thrilled to find Wind from the Sea right on the table in the living room! “Hey Mom, look, it’s OUR picture!”.
Other bright spots included: Someone remembering how to do math from last year, someone else being so proud of learning to spell their name. Others are very happy with their new math curriculum. Some are ecstatic to identify the new tree in the front yard. The books are rich this year. As usual. I am remembering to pre-read the older kid’s books this year, which saves us all a lot of pain and personal anguish. There was one pretty hydrangea that has survived the summer’s heat, so we brought it inside to enjoy. It’s been much enjoyed.
As I was contemplating our first school week, this is what came to mind:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
For my friends around the world who are teaching their children, happy back to school! Here’s to a better week two!