Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Attempting to Micromanage in the Early Years

Chocolate chip pancakes for Shrove Tuesday

The baby is nearly seven months old and, slowly, ever slowly, life is becoming more predictable. Therefore, I hatched an (old) new plan to make our school time More Organized, and positively militaristic . . . like Institutional School!

I sat down and I created a chart.

It was such a beautiful chart.

I created four columns, one for each child, and many rows for each time slot or "rotation," if you will. Rather than spend my school time trying to teach John and Mary while frequently shooing away Margaret and Joseph, and juggling a baby on my knee, I would engage everyone.

This would be my very own One Room School House!

If our American Pioneer children were successfully educated in a one-room schoolhouse, why not my children? (Because the American Pioneer schoolhouses had no one under about age eight or nine in them, right? That's why . . . )

Each child would be engaged with her loving mother. Yes, I realized it would be hard to teach a 3-year-old how to sit at the table with us, and even the 4-year-old, but I'm already struggling with their regular interruptions for fighting because they're being left bored and unsupervised. I would "pick my poison" and having them totally engaged with me would be better.

My beautiful chart showed the work we would do before breakfast, during our school morning, and in the afternoon. Every time slot (which I estimated at 10-20 minutes each, depending on the subject) had every child occupied.

Perhaps my readers would like to relish this chart like I did . . .

I, for one, didn't hear God guffawing at my attempt to make my life with five children nine and under as militaristic and predictable in its organization as an institutional classroom full of same-aged students, a teacher, and a teacher's assistant. But maybe you could see the punch line before I did . . .

Today I tried to follow my new chart.

Today . . . when the children slept too late, so the up-early-baby was falling asleep in his high chair during breakfast because we'd already run up against his first nap time.

Today . . . when the exhausted baby didn't nurse to sleep quickly, but required me to attempt about six times to sneak away before I was successful, during which time the children were left unsupervised downstairs watching a video for History ("The Early Christians").

Today . . . when I was trying to juggle simultaneously cooking a meal for a parishioner who just had a baby. so I was teaching Memory Work while marinading chicken.

Today . . . when the baby's first nap was ridiculously short, so he woke up with a piercing cry when I was literally pulling out our first textbook.

Today . . . when the baby screamed inconsolably for about an hour, so loud that the children couldn't hear me screaming out instructions, nor could I hear them answering me from two feet away. (As an aside, I think he was teething because I can see the white tooth trying to bulge through and he returned to his chortling happy and flirtatious self soon after I gave him ibuprofen.)

Baby passed out from exhausted crying after the ibuprofen kicked in,
Mama trying to teach spelling while everyone whispered

By the end of my morning spent trying to soothe a hysterical baby while teaching school according to my new schedule, I was screaming at the top of my lungs and slamming my hand on the desk, revealing just how thin is my emotional reserve, my cushion that makes me think it is me responsible when things are going well and which is revealed to be as sheer as veneer when things are going badly.

I have to face that Home School is not School at Home. It doesn't look like how I grew up attending institutional schools, nor probably should it.

Little tiny children, especially those five years and under, and particularly babies, cannot be organized into a rigid chart. Their sleep fluctuates, they have urgent potty and diaper needs, feeding requirements, random illnesses, and big, strong emotions.

Homeschooling when one has a range of children, down through the young years, like I do currently is like running a daycare for tiny tots and then trying to teach elementary school in the same room, at the same time. Nobody would do that because that would be crazy, right?

So, I will return to the beloved spiral notebook lesson planning with my trusty No. 2 pencil that has served me so well for nearly the last year. I will return to trying to have a daily big vision without micromanaging the minutes. I will return to keeping all the children close enough to me but without planning their every minute. I will return to continuing to try to teach my older two students to work independently on as many subjects as possible.

I can only hope that our Home School is living life at home, raising our family, while we guide children toward a love of self-directed learning.


  1. Your humor cracks me up! Sometimes we can only laugh at ourselves. I have been sticking with the spiral notebook method and it has served me well. One day, my friend, they will be all grown up enough to manage those types of schedules, and we will be crying in our coffee missing our wee ones. Hugs.

  2. My Type A is in constant conflict with my goal to raise free-thinking, self-directed children. We're definitely not wanting to recreate school at home, since institutionalized schooling is what we're working so hard to avoid (fighting it every step of the way).

    I ran into an issue yesterday where I had a very strict schedule planned...we had school, we had errands, we had dental appointments. But it was a beautiful day (the first in some time), and the kids were distracted by the sun. Schoolwork was not getting done in a timely manner, I felt my anger start to flare up, and after hearing "but we want to go outsiiiiiiiide," I gave it a quick thought (thinking back to my criticism of Public School taking away more and more recess time in favor of developmentally inappropriate academics), and gave them permission to go outside. All three kids played remarkably well together, they were having fun, being kids, so I let go of my plan, decided enough schoolwork was done, and I came to the conclusion that not all my errands had to be done that day...I let the kids play for hours.