Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Inch by Inch
Our last several academic years were whipped in a tornado spun of three and a half moves, house hunting and house showings, two pregnancies, two babies, two bar exams in two states, illness and anxiety. I told myself that it was temporary--that we were bare bones-- keeping up with the essentials and doing a few extras. When things settled down, I told myself, we'd do "more," we'd do "better."
The last several months have brought a period of much needed peace to our household. There is no tremendous drain on me emotionally or physically at present, the foundations of house and employment are steady (for now), and the two babies have outgrown their most troublesome stage. Not that they aren't any trouble at all, but somehow it seems much less.
Now is the time to focus on academic affairs. Now I can put more of my energy into the part of home life I enjoy the most--the formation of these young minds; and I have. We've celebrated this time of peace with record numbers of online orders of books and with trips to the library. But I must say that I have been most surprised to find how little I have changed what we are actually doing. Things now are pretty much the same as things were when life seemed so upside-down and I fretted that we weren't doing "more."
Alexander still reads to me as I fold laundry, Simeon still does his flash cards in the kitchen while I prepare dinner. We keep up with the essentials and throw in a few extras. Each of the children is progressing every day in a variety of subjects, but not by leaps and bounds-- bit by bit, inch by inch-- in a moment here, a few moments there. We are still filling the house with quality books, magazines and audio materials. And we still have the occasional structured project that we all enjoy, but our days and weeks are largely unstructured.
The boys view educational videos, they build a "bird watch" out of cardboard boxes they've found in the garage. They hide in it with binoculars and cover it with leaves so that the birds don't know they are being watched. They organize a grocery store with play food, play money, and a toy cash register--telling time and counting change. They draw and draw and draw some more. We read books together. They read books alone. They listen to books on tape. They ride bikes, swing on swings, invite the neighbor boy to come play. They play in the sand, play in water, build things with tools, explore the woods, and swing from vines. They "invent" things. They "map" places. They draw some more.
They were doing all these things then-- while I was busy packing or unpacking and feeling guilty about not doing "more." But what more did I want to do? I imagined more structure and organized activity, but I see now that it wouldn't work. These boys need an abundance of free time to play and explore on their own, getting outdoors as much as possible. The structure I have now is the most they will accept without becoming disheartened and frustrated. And when they become frustrated, I lose patience and then the tears come and nobody is happy and nobody is learning.
So, though life has settled down we will not be doing "more." We will continue to grow inch by inch and row by row. Even so, this period of peace has enriched the soil and blessed us with fairer skies. I have more time and ability to concentrate on planning and assessing and redirecting what we do and, certainly, that is "better."