My friend Karen says that no homeschooling family should ever, ever make any decision about homeschooling or anything else important based on what is going on in February. Words to live by. Our February had a lot of warm sunny weather, travel adventures and complications, but it was still February. We languished. I’m glad it is over.
I don’t think it really ended until March 2nd, when I dumped on Noah during our drive to choir rehearsal. I unloaded my frustration and resentment about his February. I didn’t make him very happy. I didn’t feel very good. But I think we needed to recognize how much our working routine had devolved in order to get things on track again. Sinking deeper and deeper into frustration and avoidance wasn’t serving anyone’s needs well.
As is so often the case, musical instrument studies are where our issues come to the fore, where they’re put in sharpest contrast, where the difficulties loom largest and we are forced to deal with them first. And fortunately what we do there, what we learn, how we cope, what we change typically has a beneficial trickle-down effect in all other areas.
Noah does well with minimal but consistent routines and clear unyielding expectations. He is normally very good at practicing every day. But that vacation got in the way. And all the travel. And he was sick. And other people were sick. And then there was more travel to Calgary. He easily slips into a habit of “going through the motions.” It is reassuring to me that motions are happening, but it is easy for me to miss that they are becoming smaller, briefer, and singularly unproductive. I too easily assume that nothing more than a good attitude is required in order for him to attend carefully, engage creatively with his own learning process and initiate his own problem-solving. Four to eight weeks is a long time between lessons for a guy who hasn’t had a whole lot of guidance in these areas. Having been through years of assisting my various kids in practicing I assume that these habits are basic and well-mastered. But truly Noah has had very little direct guidance this way, having resisted most parental input into his practicing beginning around age 8 or 9. He understands how to practice at an intellectual level, but the habits of doing so himself haven’t got a lot of reinforcement.
And it is amazing how easily a loss of momentum in one area with one child contaminate everything in our house. When Noah, my normally uncomplaining daily practicer, starts missing days, it feels like everything has slipped off the tracks. It has been weeks since anyone in this house has done a diligent job of practicing any of their instruments. The daily blocks of structured academics which served us so well through the early part of the winter have dwindled despite our efforts to get them back on track and inject some new interest and enthusiasm. Our entire family routine, and the affirming sense of productive accomplishment that accompanies that, has begun to fall apart. Once one bolt comes loose, the whole thing gets progressively more wobbly and the other joints begin to loosen and rattle too. It’s often difficult to pinpoint the first loose joint, and it doesn’t really matter what it was. They all need to be snugged up.
And that’s February. In its depths it is easy to despair and cry out that nothing is working and that we need some sort of radical new solution. That we’re all useless layabouts and hate our lives and everything is boring and uninspiring and no one has any energy or initiative. That’s when Karen’s words of wisdom come in. This too shall pass.
The answer to February is really just March. We don’t need to build a new family structure. We just need to recognize that things have rattled loose and then work together to tighten the bolts and snug everything up. Then we climb back on. A few little adaptations don’t hurt either. Creativity and new ideas are always welcome here. But in general, what we had was serving us pretty well. February did its usual number on it, but that’s okay. It’s March now. The days are getting longer. The “cabin fevers” will settle down eventually. Wrenches in hand we check the bits and pieces of our daily lives and pull things together again.