Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Solution?

Grace is the oldest child of two oldest children, the oldest grandchild on both sides. She was doomed from the start. Grace is a take charge kind of girl. She always has some grand scheme or event she is concocting where all will be perfect if everybody just follows her instructions. I call her the program director.

She also, ironically, has had the most trouble with self-direction in her schoolwork. I attribute this to spending five years in public school being told what to do, how to do it, and when it must be done every moment of the day.

The other day, after piddling most of her day away, Grace had an outburst about homeschooling. She said she thought homeschooling sounded like a good idea in theory, but it obviously wasn't a good idea for her because she didn't know how to manage her time so obviously needed to go back to school to learn how to do that. I delicately explained to her that I was very familiar with that kind of problem and school classrooms make that kind of problem worse and not better. I told her that if she felt like time management is her biggest academic problem, homeschool is definitely the better environment to learn the skill set. She calmed down and began to ponder.

In the morning the next day, she requested that we do our readalouds early instead of late. Her reasoning was that having the day start with the readalouds would give her a defined beginning point to her school work instead of remembering to start while I tended to the rest of the circus. I thought it a very reasonable request.

My approach to readalouds has been to view it as the end of the school day. That time when everyone settles in and winds down and the toddler gets quiet in preparation for her nap. In the same way that you probably shouldn't goof off on the Internet until all your chores are done, I thought of the readaloud as a bit of a carrot to herd the children through their schoolwork. And if the schedule goes awry, missing out on me croaking out a chapter of The Secret Garden is no great loss on any particular day. I cannot say my approach has been very successful. I have documented the problem of the glazed eyes as they stare at their friends outside.

At about the same time as Grace had her passing crisis, I had to get up early one morning for something. Dave brought me a cup of coffee in bed to help get me up and moving. This was an old routine from when I was working but has since fallen out of practice. It occurred to me that if he brought me some coffee in the morning as he was heading into the shower--he's up a good hour before he showers--I might get a better jumpstart on the day, rather than fumbling around trying to make my own cup while children make demands. It's funny but I'd forgotten we used to do this every morning. If I have a little bit of caffeine and some calories flowing before I even get out of bed, I might have a fighting chance here.

Also, as part of my Lenten discipline, and let's be honest, I doubt I'd attempt it if it weren't Lent, I have decided to defer my showers to the evening, make the bed immediately upon getting out of it, get dressed immediately, put in my contacts immediately all before leaving my bedroom. Then I will start a load of laundry and unload the dishwasher before making another cup of coffee and eating some breakfast. This little series of events takes the better part of an hour and, thus far, I have had to fight the temptation to chuck it and go sit down in the kitchen every single morning. My hope is that making myself do mindless tasks first thing in the morning will become a habit and will clear out some room later in the day for other tasks.

Now here is where the stroke of genius lies! What if I made the Program Director in charge of rousing me out of my stupor after breakfast in order to start the day? It *was* her idea to do the readalouds in the morning. She loves telling people what to do. If I make it her job to prod me a bit and I still don't have to think very much because I am just reading words off the page, maybe we both win. She gets a definite starting point for her school day and gets to feel like she is running this operation. I get to pawn off some of my executive function and not think very hard.

Will it work? I'm not sure yet. Even though I had these ideas a couple of weeks ago, we have since had sick children, snow, more sick children, more snow, a sick me, a well me catching up from being sick, and at least three days where we were not home. So. My hope is that since this coming week should be pretty normal, we will get to try it out and see how it goes.

Stay tuned...


bearing said...

I think it's a great idea. Have Grace work out your whole family's simultaneous schedule as a starting point. Then help her adjust it so it makes sense.

Beginning with reading or some other pleasurable togetherness activity, either at the start of the day or at other natural break points like returning to school after lunch, makes a lot of sense. It serves to "collect" your children so that you have an opportunity to direct them.

Jenny said...

I think it sounds great, too... I look forward to reading how it goes!

mandamum said...

Sounds like a worthwhile experiment! And interesting about the coffee-in-bed habit. I'm betting both these changes could help revolutionize your mornings.