By 11:30 this morning it was starting to look like today might be a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. The kids had just come out of two hours of math, except for R who set a speed record today for giving up on a word problem. Even after we told her it was okay (and maybe necessary) to struggle with the material a bit, she chose to throw herself around and moan a lot.
Eventually I had them all gathered around my desk for the start of our Geography lesson. I began by showing them this list of unusual maps, with the intention of discussing the myriad ways and reasons we use maps, other than navigation. That discussion didn’t really materialize because K began yelling about how someone must have farted and now it was too smelly for her to stick around. Completely irritated, I bellowed, “Either stay and participate, or leave NOW!!!”
Then I stared at her pointedly and quietly said, “I’m waiting…” until she actually left the room.
Phew. Back to geography…oh, wait. Now R was starting to whine about how she had so much math to do and how it was really hard, and could she just skip geography today? Um, no.
I moved us to the table and started helping R and N draw their own map of our neighbourhood; meanwhile, K was who-knows-where doing who-knows-what. I can guarantee she was not working on anything.
At lunch I was still feeling punchy. I dragged Mr. December outside and vented to him for a while about K and R’s behaviour this morning. He talked me down off the ledge and reminded me that this is only the third week of “serious” homeschooling. He then pointed out that I had handled the situation in the most school-like way possible, which is to say that I was completely autocratic and punitive. Ouch.
I eventually caught up with K and we had a good talk about geography and what she would like to be doing. “The stuff you’re doing with us would be interesting if I didn’t already know it,” she opined. “And I know the map of the world and where countries are and what they’re called. And I don’t need one of those books that’s all like, ‘This is how people here live, this is what language they speak, but we’re really all the same!'”
I reflected on this and then invited her to look at a geography curriculum that incorporates social issues, physical geography, and science. I think she was hooked when, flipping idly through the workbook, I stopped and said, “Here, look. An article about the health effects of cannibalism.”
“Gimme that!” She devoured the article. “Okay,” she said when she was done, “I’ll do this stuff. This is great.” Then she sat down at the table with the books and started to work.
Well, that was one problem resolved. And then K turned around and defused another problem by offering to help R with her math work. She even made helpful notes in the margin so Mr. December and I would know what help had already been offered.
Now our school day is over; K invited her bestie over to jump on our trampoline, and R and E are snuggling together under a blanket in the treehouse. N is sitting in a hammock reading, as usual. And the day has ended with all of us in a reasonably good mood, all work completed, and everyone still talking to each other. So what if I was walking around at noon muttering, “A jury of my peers would never convict me”?