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.

February

12 thoughts on “February

  • March 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm
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    Oh, this is so so true! I'm glad you posted it. We were going through February as well. Thanks goodness for March! March 1st literally corresponded with new bursts of energy and hope.

  • March 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm
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    I hope March is better for your family. Remember too that having a member of your family seriously ill as your daughter was shakes everything and everybody up even if it happens at home and not far from home.
    I hope March is better for you. I'm glad february is over too.

  • March 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm
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    I found an interesting article in the NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/28/magazine/28depression-t.html?scp=2&sq=evolution%20depression&st=cse

    Perhaps it offers some insight into why we (in our family) tend to procrastinate on creative work or other stuff that requires a significant commitment of time and brainpower: possibly it makes us feel mildly depressed! Especially in February. And now, just when the sun is coming up at a decent time again, daylight saving time is less than two weeks away! Aargh!

    Deborah

  • March 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm
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    Thank you for this, it is SO true. I feel better about our own struggles, over here with two little kids, when I read your February thoughts.

    Could a better strategy (next year) be to lower expectations for this late-winter season? Or do we need to exercise more vigilance over the tendency to slip into inertia? Frankly, I'm not sure the latter is really possible….

  • March 4, 2010 at 8:06 am
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    Yes! February is like that. And you are right – just because Feb. is rough doesn't mean the whole family life philosophy is wrong or bad and everything is going down the tubes, etc. It just means it is that time of year. And now it is March – I'm really looking forward to spring this year…and outside, garden, sunshine. Ahhhh.

  • March 4, 2010 at 9:44 am
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    We too had a February. We had flu bugs, cabin fever and a LOT of watching Kipper the Dog.

    It was helpful to remember reading your previous posts on the yearly nadir that happens every February and how quickly it seems to dissolve once the weather gets warmer and the sunlight more present. It made me more willing to wait it out rather than getting frustrated with my own hibernating crew.

  • March 4, 2010 at 10:28 am
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    February is just a month to “Get Through” around here. We scheduled music practices later in the day(to give his body time to ungrog as Feb morning grog is so strong) and a half hour less than other months. We also broke the practices into two sessions before and after lunch. I can't go near my son's music practice with a 10 foot pole during Feb…..or total war breaks out. We did a lot more hands on arts-based things(which we normally never do) and he did math on the computer instead of his book based program. We watched a lot of documentaries and ate a lot of popcorn. Even with all that, it was a miserable month. Now the March sun is shining and early warmth this year is glorius!I often wonder what a the year's cycle is like near the equator.

  • March 4, 2010 at 11:41 am
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    yes, thank you so much for this post! I really appreciate how articulate you are about these things. It is such a relief to read that someone else feels like that and experiences things like this. Yes! It was just February… I feel so much better now!

  • March 5, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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    Now I know that we had a February moment last night when tetchy children started scrapping in the sitting room early evening, an adult stood up from the sofa to move them out onto the landing, so that a laptop was unbalanced and slid from the sofa onto the neck of a violin that had just been got out for practice and was waiting on top of its case – cue a spectacular crack as the neck broke and all strings were released – and two luthiers have today pronounced it a write-off.

  • March 5, 2010 at 8:33 pm
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    One of my favorite February poems is about a woman named “Silent Until the Thaw.” She didn't speak in the winter, and her people eventually understood that there was nothing really wrong with her; in the springtime she would begin to talk again.

    The last line of the poem is “And we always looked forward to that.”

    My mood and energy level are affected pretty dramatically by the winter. Some years are worse than others, but every year is difficult. The single most important thing that makes winter bearable for me is the knowledge that, every single year, spring comes.

    And I always look forward to that.

  • March 10, 2010 at 6:53 pm
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    Your friend is one wise woman! Strangely enough, it is in February that I contacted our local school to know more about part-time attendance… and as soon as March came around, I couldn't even conceive sending ds to school part time lol

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