This is the time of year when Minnesota begins to work her Memory Charm on us, making us forget the terrible weather most of the year as we enjoy the briefest and most wonderful spring. Our yard is full of flowering things, as you can see, throughout this post.
This week we have been doing a lot of “real homeschooling” — which to me means that we are all just living our lives together and learning happens at various points. I have been very very busy with a project, and have some real childcare challenges, so every day has been Take Our Daughters to Work Day. (Well, every day is Take Our Daughters to Work Day here, but not in such obvious ways.)
I’ve been taking Violet to the university library with me almost daily. I love doing this, because I remember going to various universities with my dad, who finished his PhD while I was a young child and then has been a professor at various universities. I remember thinking that it was very cool to be a kid wandering around an adult world — coolest especially when you start to get really familiar and comfortable there.
I’m doing some unusual research for a project on — no smirking now — Syphilis in Art and Literature (1400-1800) so we’ve gone to some different areas of campus (i.e., the medical school), which has been a little adventure for both of us. We talk about the tunnels connecting the university so students can survive the freezing winter, about being a medical student or a doctor, about when Violet might go to college. (At a recent event she met a family whose daughter went to university at 13, but, unless she develops a driving and focused interest, we are trying to disourage that!)
We still have accomplished math (daily!), piano (daily!), and some Chinese, history, and handwriting (sporadically), but the focus of the day is not on homeschool, not on one particular person. Everyone has their things to get done for the day, and so everyone gets a turn at driving the agenda. I set the agenda, of course, but usually I am not on it myself! But this week I am.
I’ve liked this, because homeschooling — not to mention just parenting — often feels like this huge, draining give-a-thon. I see the potential in homeschooling to support us being a family-centered family, but not a child-centered family. Where I live, at least, it’s so easy and tempting to be child-centered: scheduling everything around school (even homeschool work), lessons, kids’ bedtimes, keeping kids entertained, etc. This is what is often seen as good parenting. And no doubt it is pretty good–better than what a lot of kids get–and very well intentioned.
But I’ve enjoyed this week feeling like we’re moving away from that kind of lifestyle. As my youngest approaches 4, we’re no longer the slaves of urgent feeding, napping, and potty needs. Now the daily schedule can be focused on getting lessons done, or getting mom’s work done, or getting ready for a yard sale. It’s not 24/7 “How are we providing for the kids?”
As we sat at Brueggers having lunch on Friday, after a morning of math and research at the Bio-Med library and picking up Victoria at preschool, I was not thinking about what I was going to do with the kids next. The three of us, Violet, Victoria, and I, just sat having lunch, not talking much, mostly watching sparrows gather dry grass and fly off to feather their nests. I wasn’t managing them or entertaining them; I was just being with them. I could almost feel my shoulders dropping slighly from their usual “ready to pounce” position.
I would never have expected this from homeschooling. It’s why people say “I could never do that,” and “you must have the patience of a saint”; you expect homeschooling to be one more burden on the back of mom, the family mule.
So I am pleased and surprised to say that this is not true, that homeschooling actually seems to be allowing us to escape from that way thinking about family.