Thursday, April 22, 2010

Highlights of the Days

Let's face it: Homeschooling can be hard. It's exhilirating at times and deeply satisfying overall, but there are days that just suck. When you feel crappy but can't take a sick day. When the kids are squawking or in a fussy funk. When you secretly fantasize about sending them to a rigid uniform school with bars on the windows and police checkpoints at the doors (hey! that's our neighborhood school!).

Now, I need to preface this post by confessing that I have become fairly compulsive about homeschool record-keeping. Every night before I go to sleep, I jot down brief notes about what we did that day. Maybe the kids did some handwriting and played a math game in the morning, ran around in the park after lunch, met up with friends late in the afternoon, and read books after dinner: I'll write it down.

I keep track, too, of how often in the week Nini and Desmond do certain things: play outside, get together with friends, do math or play music, that sort of thing. I don't yet have to file any reports to the Board of Ed, so it's not for that purpose. It's a way for me to see quickly if we're covering the bases: if we're getting outside enough in the middle of winter, say, or getting out the art supplies to draw and paint.

At some point this winter, I hit a particularly bad patch with the kids. We had one conflict-filled day after another, I was feeling blue, and the whole enterprise was seeming misguided. So I added a new category to keep track of: the highlights of the day.

Some days are no-brainers. Maybe we snuggled together reading books underneath the cherry blossoms at the Botanical Garden. Maybe Nini proudly made a huge breakthrough in her reading, or Desmond enthusiastically produced a stack of wonderful drawings. Or maybe they both got all excited about adding and subtracting while playing Pet Store with their stuffed animals.

But there are days when it's not at all obvious what would count as a high point. The loud tantrum in the library? Nope. The huge screaming fight over a pencil? Don't think so. The two hours spent watching cartoons while Mommy tried to sleep off her migraine? No, not that either.

There's always something, though. On one particularly horrible day, all I could come up with to write was the happy skippity way the kids walked to the subway. And you know what? That's now what I remember about that day. I couldn't tell you what the bad stuff was -- I've utterly forgotten. But the marvelous image of them bouncing down the sidewalk in front of me is fixed in my mind.

I've found, too, that this habit has helped me work harder and better to make the bumpy days have highlights. I'll stop grumpily checking my email and ask the kids if they want to cuddle on the sofa with a stack of books. I'll find the energy to get us out of the house and to the park. I'll make up a silly game and pretend to be a knee-eating monster (Nini knees are especially yummy, after all).

I'm not going to pretend that everything is now sweetness and light. Some days are still a huge struggle. But most of the time, focusing on what's good and sweet and exciting in our life makes it all a little bit easier.


  1. That's a lovely way of looking at your days. It's so easy to focus on the things that don't go right, but it's so much more productive to find those shining moments. (and I'm here via your husband's articles on Salon; my kids are a bit older---5, 7 & 9---but it sounds like we may share a lot of the same struggles as we move through our homeschooling experience)

  2. We have a dinner-time ritual of asking each other about "the highlight of our day". (We use those exact words). It's interesting to see what the kids choose, and its a way to get dinner hour conversation going.

  3. This is a great idea - love your post!