Keepin' it real · mental health · Travelogue · Vietnam · waxing philosophical · Worldschooling

Day 1070: It’s OK.

The prevailing response to yesterday’s reality check was, “Can you move to a different place?”


In theory we could. We might lose the money we’ve paid for the month’s rent, or maybe the landlords would agree to refund part of our money; I don’t know. In any event, we’re not moving—at least not yet.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable sometimes (I tell my kids this on a fairly regular basis.) Of course discomfort is designed to make us change something; but I think it’s okay to live with a little discomfort. I know that it won’t be rainy and grey every day here. I know that we’ll eventually get our rental bikes and I’ll enjoy biking through the rice paddies to the market. I know that we’ll get to know the neighbourhood restaurants and their owners and they’ll learn our kids’ quirky preferences.

It’s okay to try very small changes before pulling out the big guns. Before I go off trying to find a new place and negotiating for the return of my money from our current landlord, I can try spending more time on our rooftop terrace with its 270 degree view of the river and the rice paddies beyond. No matter how cloudy or grey it is, it’s always brighter on the roof than inside the house. I spent a few hours up there this afternoon—I’ve declared it our schooling spot—and I felt a bit better. So there’s that.

It’s okay to not be okay sometimes, and it doesn’t always require a quick fix.

Photo of a rooftop patio with an arched roof over it. There are red Vietnamese lanterns hanging from the metal roof frame. In the foreground is a folding table and chair; the table has assorted stationery and a laptop computer on it.

We went to the night market tonight (disappointing in terms of no substantial dinner, but the kids ate their fair share of banana-nutella crepes.) It seems that Mr. December never met a souvenir he didn’t like. He also stops at every street food stand and buys from at least a third of them. The night market only covered a 300-metre stretch of road, but it took us two hours to go to the end and back.

It just so happened to be the first day of the lunar month, which is one of two days a month that people in the old town light lanterns and set them afloat on the river (the other day is the 15—full moon.) We were offered a lantern for 50,000 Dong but held out until we got it for 10,000 (tourist pricing is a very real thing here. Bargaining is essential.) E used the long-handled basket to lower the lantern down to the river to join the dozens already there. The water reflected the floating lanterns, the round lanterns on the river boats, and the lights in the streets. It was beautiful.

Oh, and for bonus points tonight, we found both a swingset AND a giant bouncy castle. If only I’d taken them to a proper restaurant for dinner instead of food stalls, I’d have won the ‘best parent’ award. Maybe next time.

education · goodbye clutter! · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · Unschooling · waxing philosophical

Day 903: Paper Trail

I decluttered again today.

This time I was working on a giant (3 foot tall) pile of papers that have been sitting in drawers in our basement since before COVID. I can say that with confidence, because all of the papers were from the various schools our kids attended. As I’m sure you know, none of them has stepped into a school in the last 903 days.

It’s always fun to look back at what our kids were doing four years ago, but this time it was confusing as well: in my hands were multiple pages of completed work that I’m certain my kids couldn’t do if I put it in front of them today. I’m talking about full-sentence answers in Hebrew, including the Hebrew words for vocabulary like “mammals” and “amphibians.” I was floored: based on their Hebrew proficiency (or lack thereof) I had expected some truly craptastic work. Instead, I had reams of papers written in grammatically correct and sophisticated Hebrew.

I decided to ask them about it.

“Oh, that stuff was all copied from the board,” K said dismissively. N and R nodded in agreement.

All of it?” I asked.

According to my kids, yes. All of it.

I dumped most of those papers in the recycling. They might be a record of what my kids did at school, but they certainly don’t show what the kids actually learned. It’s a timely realization as we go back to homeschooling: good work on paper doesn’t guarantee that they’ve learned what was taught.

You know what does show learning? Listening to K talk about her love of Anime for an hour straight. It happened last weekend in front of an audience of appreciative adults; she showed more insight about character development and plot devices than she’s ever expressed during a novel study or homeschool literature lesson.

Then there was last night, when she read a Canadian history magazine for kids—cover to cover—and then proceeded to pick apart all of the logical fallacies therein, written or implied. She out-argued me (I’m not very good at debate, I’ve learned) and was able to cogently explain why the magazine’s editorial slant was disingenuous if not flat-out wrong. I couldn’t resist pointing out to my “I hate writing” kid that she had just outlined an essay on the fly.

Maybe now I’ll relax about insisting the kids put their learning on paper…

or maybe not.

diet recovery · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 872: Your body isn’t wrong. Your clothes are.

Between the period dramas I’ve watched, all the historical fiction I’ve read, and the videos I’ve viewed with R about getting dressed in centuries past, I’ve stumbled on an astonishing realization: for much of history, women’s clothes were highly adjustable.

It makes sense, when one considers that most women probably only had a few dresses, and they weren’t buying new styles every year, either. If women were to wear the same few dresses for years on end, they’d better accommodate pregnancy, nursing, menopause, and everything else that causes women’s bodies to shift and change through the years. Suddenly all those lace-up bodices and full skirts with ties make so much sense, don’t they?

To some degree, I think we’ve gone backward in clothing design. Most of the clothes available to us are made to fit one size and one shape. Those pants may fit beautifully when you buy them, but next week when you’ve got PMS bloat going on? Not so much. And after pregnancy, your body doesn’t necessarily revert to its previous shape even if you’ve somehow lost all the “baby weight”. Things settle differently, and the clothes don’t look the same.

I thought about this a lot last week as I was getting dressed in my favourite Roots sweatpants ($15 at Value Village, did I mention?) and a stretchy t-shirt. These clothes have been with me for four years now, and they’ve never been uncomfortable, though my body has certainly shrunk and grown in that time. I could try to squeeze myself into my jeans—and spend the whole day feeling uncomfortable—but why? Just to perpetuate our society’s denial that it’s normal for bodies to change for a myriad of reasons? No, thank you.

Think about how much time I see and hear people devoting to the idea of “getting back your body” after a baby or dieting to fit into a particular dress; doesn’t it all seem a bit ridiculous? Our bodies do these marvellous things like protecting us from famine, building muscle mass, creating life, nourishing our babies… and we reciprocate by punishing ourselves mentally or physically until we can wear the same clothes we did five years ago.

Our bodies were made by millions of years of evolution… or a divine creator… or both. The clothes we feel like we have to fit into? Those were made by people—people who make money when you need a whole new wardrobe in a different size. Which is more likely to be wrong, d’you think: God (or nature)? Or the fashion industry?

diet recovery · waxing philosophical · weight loss

Day 870: Never Say Die(t)

I’m in diet recovery. My regular readers probably know that much from what I wrote about the process last summer. I haven’t updated you in a while, though, and I’m sure at least a few of you are curious about how it’s going. This post is for you (and for me, of course.)

Last summer my goal was to lift all restrictions on what and when I ate, and to eat publicly (instead of holing up in the library with the door closed so nobody would see me with my ice cream.) It was wonderful and nerve-wracking at the same time: I feared that without “rules” about what I should or shouldn’t eat, I’d have to keep buying new (bigger) clothes, among other issues.

It’s been about a year since I gave myself permission to eat whatever and whenever I want; a year since I started working on acceptance of the fact that I’m not skinny and will never be, barring starvation (or something very close to it); a year since I finally accepted that how I look in pictures is how people see me, and I just need to get used to it and stop posing in a way that I think makes me look thinner. It’s been a year since I started to entertain the idea that Mr. December wasn’t lying to me every time he said something appreciative about my body; a year since the first time I wore a bikini in public; a year since the last time I stepped on a scale.

So what has changed in that year? I’m happier, that’s what.

I’ve stopped putting myself down. Do you realize how hard it is to be happy when someone’s constantly telling you that your body is unacceptable, and that you’d better get it under control? It’s doubly bad when that someone is yourself. It’s a habit that I’ve given up, to my great benefit.

I’ve really enjoyed my food. I’ve also stopped bingeing. I don’t eat something unless I actually want it. This is a huge change from before, when I’d eat any junk food we had because it wasn’t normally something I “allowed” myself.

Most importantly:

I’ve given up the illusion of control over my body size. After a year of observing my body, I’ve learned that it changes from day to day; weight comes on and goes off, depending on what’s happening in my life and how active I’ve been able to be. What hasn’t happened is a continuous expansion of my waistline (or anything else.) I have finally accepted that my body knows what it’s doing (far more than I do, anyway, given that I’m 42 and the body’s finely tuned systems have evolved over millions of years.) Now, instead of admonishing or praising myself for changes to my body size, I just notice the changes: Huh. That’s interesting. Good to know. Sometimes I even take a moment or three to be thankful that I have a body that takes care of me (ensuring that I remain famine-resistant, for example.)

Some of you might be reading this and thinking, “But it’s not healthy to be fat!” Stop right there. You’re concern-trolling, and it’s neither appreciated nor helpful. The bottom line is that diets don’t work in the long run, and people who diet repeatedly (yo-yo dieting or weight cycling) have more health problems and worse outcomes than people who were fat and didn’t try to lose weight. I can’t change my body for a new one even if I want to—and believe me, I’d love to, given my weak joints, asthma, and fibromyalgia—so there’s no point in making delusional (and self-harming) efforts to that end.

I still have some work to do. I still pay more attention to my body size and shape than I think is warranted—I had a hard time deciding to attend a social event with my dance group, because I’ve gained so much weight since I last danced—But I’ve come a long, long way from where I started more than a year ago, and I’m proud of that.

education · gardening · Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 816: Weeds or Wildflowers?

Yesterday morning we came home to a jungle.

K mowed the lawn right before we left home for our trip. We knew the grass would get long, but we were shocked to see the waist- and chest-high plants that were dominating the front yard.

“It rained a lot,” my mum explained. She, my dad, and my in-laws are all fans of keeping the front yard neat and tidy. None of them appreciated Mr. December’s quip that this was our way of making homes in our neighbourhood more affordable.

Fearing that the neighbours would call bylaw enforcement on us, I biked out to Canadian Tire yesterday to get a new battery for our lawn mower (the old battery died before we left, and that last mowing was done with a lawnmower borrowed from the couple across the street.) This morning I told K it was time to mow; but first, I went out to pick some flowers I didn’t know we had. Now I have four flower arrangements brightening up my windowsill.

Four ceramic cups filled with wildflowers

As I snipped blossoms off their stalks, I reflected on how we wouldn’t have seen these flowers at all if we’d mowed our lawn like we’re “supposed to.” It occurred to me that these flowers are a bit like some kids:

  • They’re obviously not like the grass around them; they stand out from the crowd and don’t conform to our expectation of what a front lawn should look like.
  • When treated the same way as the surrounding lawn, they end up looking stunted and broken.
  • If we give them time to grow in their own way (instead of insisting they behave like grass) they thrive, flourish, and flower.

It’s so hard, when your child isn’t neurotypical, not to wish they could just be “normal.” Society is bent on making them fit in and behave like everyone else; but often these expectations only leave neurodiverse kids feeling like there’s something wrong with them that they need to fix. The very behaviours that make up part of who they are have been deemed unacceptable and unwanted.

But something magical happens if we stand back and observe. If we stop trying to make kids behave and learn and play like everyone else, if we give them time, our children astonish us. If we let them grow their way, they thrive. They put out flowers. They’re beautiful. They’re not weeds anymore—they never were, really—they’re wildflowers.

A weed can’t become a blade of grass no matter how often we mow it. A neurodiverse child can’t become neurotypical no matter what therapy or consequences we apply. But if we let them grow, unfettered, they will flower; and the world will be more beautiful for it.

birthing babies · community · Keepin' it real · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 739: You Need a Village

A close friend and I were reminiscing yesterday.

“Remember when [husband] was traveling for business and you brought the kids to my house and we fed and bathed them together? That was awesome,” I said. And it really was: it’s more fun parenting in a tribe than alone.

I don’t think I’ve ever parented alone. We had our parents, of course, but we also had friends who had babies right around when we did. In that first year when everyone was home on maternity leave, there were plenty of music classes and park meet-ups. Socially I had plenty of peers. On a broader scale, our synagogue chesed (kindness) committee organized meals for new parents, so we had no need to cook in that first couple of weeks. When R was born, a friend came over later that day with a whole festive meal—challah, meat, kugel, veggies, dessert—because that night was the beginning of Sukkot.

In other words, Mr. December and I were probably the farthest possible thing from alone when our kids were babies.

I remembered all this because of my close friends whose baby was born six weeks ago tomorrow. “We’re really feeling the lack of a village,” they told me. COVID is part of the equation, certainly, but even without COVID, these friends do lack a village. My village was large from the get-go, with my close-knit extended family (all those aunties that aren’t technically my aunts, remember) and our synagogue community plus all our friends. But if you’re not blessed with an existing village—say, if you and your spouse don’t have siblings nearby, if your university friends are scattered across the continent, if you’re not part of any community groups—what are you to do?

Well, as I often say: ask for the help you need. Worldschooling families do this all the time, by planning their destinations according to other families’ availability: someone gets on FaceBook and posts, “We want to travel to [insert name of place here] in June, who else is going to be there?” and many messages later, they’ve got a group of families committed to the same destination at the same time. To the friends without a village, I suggested posting in a neighbourhood group for a walking buddy who also has a very young baby. Who knows—my friend might even luck out and become walking buddies with another mom who can introduce them to all the parents with babies in the neighbourhood. It starts with an ask.

There are ready-made communities, too, and it’s well worth seeing whether there’s one that’s right for you. It might be a religious community; there could be a local parent-and-child drop-in centre (maybe not during COVID); in some places, the local public health unit runs groups for new parents to ask questions and get support. Once you’ve found a group, become an active participant: show up, help other parents lift their strollers up the steps, start conversations, offer someone the toys your baby just grew out of. As in every part of life, you’ll generally get out of it as much as you’ve put in.

The point is, having a local “village” of friends, family, and acquaintances is crucial in order to parent your kids (or just handle life) without burning out. One can’t do it alone; humans were never meant to. So ask for what you need, tap all your networks, seek a ready-made group. It’s well worth the effort to build and nurture the village you want to have—it will nurture you (and your kids) in return.

ADHD · waxing philosophical · Worldschooling

Day 718: Worldschool Summit, Day 2

Technically yesterday was the start of the Worldschool Summit, but yesterday was mostly getting-to-know-you-type mingling and icebreakers. Today was our first day of speakers and learning sessions.

We started off with a session about learning to live outside of our comfort zone. According to our speaker, we should be using our comfort zone to rest, but living in our “stretch zone” most of the time. Outside of the stretch zone is the panic zone, where we really shouldn’t spend much time at all. In light of R’s anxiety issues, this was a very helpful session; I have a hunch that she doesn’t have much of a stretch zone.

Our next session was about harnessing collective knowledge by using a set of rules for discussions. They were the usual sort of “don’t interrupt; everyone’s view is important; speak concisely” much of which is the opposite of how my family and I usually communicate. Some of this is a cultural thing, and some of it is ADHD, but it was certainly interesting to note that these rules are obviously rooted in a particular culture (not a bad thing—you have to pick some set of rules for everyone—but an interesting thing.) We had a couple of really interesting group discussions using the rules.

Then we met the anarchists. At least, they call themselves Anarchists—for all I know, that could be a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. They essentially gave a lecture on “building bridges” from which I took notes, but didn’t really gain much in terms of knowledge and understanding.

Lunchtime involved a super-slow caterer, but there was PB&J for the kids—a food win. We went back to our hotel (a two-second walk from the event venue) and Mr. December and I had a dip in the pool before our afternoon sessions.

The afternoon opened with a game in which we were split into two groups (“cultures”) and given a set of rules for our culture. Then we had various kinds of exchanges with the other group, often with hilarious results: in my culture, if someone touched you the correct response was to turn and walk away. You can imagine how well that went over with the other culture, who used touch for greetings and goodbyes. This exercise led into a discussion of how we navigate cultural differences when traveling.

We knew the last session would be amusing at the least and possibly very engaging—the title of the talk was “Don’t be a D*ck,” and it was a lively discussion of ethical dilemmas that many travellers encounter. I learned a couple of things from this: first, that the word “Colonialism” doesn’t mean what it used to, and second, that I’m uncomfortable with the hand-wringing, do-good-ing discussions about whether it’s supporting exploitation to pay a dollar to take a picture with costumed locals (for example.) It feels pretty patriarchal to me. Are we saying that people in other countries don’t have agency, or that they can’t make the right decisions for themselves and their communities? Isn’t that so similar to how Europeans landed in the Americas and decided to “help” the locals improve their lives through religion and education? I certainly think so.

In between sessions we met new people and heard about their lives and how they came to worldschooling; we walked to and from the nearby park a few times to check our kids in and out of the kids’ camp program (led by worldschooled teen volunteers); and—most importantly—I finally figured out how to activate my Mexican SIM card, which means I can now text people and order an Uber from anywhere, even if there’s no WiFi.

better homes than yours · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 670: I Give Up

Once upon a time, my living room looked like a living room: couches, shelves for board games, hammocks, an ottoman. The only adornments on the wall were a few framed paintings done by the kids. The wall unit had open shelves where we displayed some beautiful Judaica pieces, vases, and other items that were both pretty and practical.

Then we started homeschooling, and Mr. December wanted to clear some of the open shelving to make room for the kids’ binders. I resisted, relenting only because the kids’ binders are all colour coded and their colours are all part of the colour scheme in our house.

The binders slowly encroached on more shelves. Mr. December asked for his own space to store his books and papers. Still, it was just one wall unit. The rest of my living room was still school-free (when we cleaned up.)

One day I decided it would be great to have a timeline on the wall that we could add to when learning about historical events and people. It had to go somewhere; I mounted it just below the window that separates the living room from the kitchen, rationalizing that at least I wouldn’t have to look at school stuff when relaxing on the couch, which faces the opposite direction.

A wipeable map of the world joined the timeline. Then a map of Canada. By this point that wall was full, so when I made the kids’ magnetic schedule boards, I had to hang them between the dining room table and the stairs. At least they weren’t in the dining room, I told myself.

I used to harbour dreams of moving all our homeschool stuff down to the basement, so that we could have our classroom next to the Makery and not have to look at all the school stuff all the time. But somehow we always end up at the dining room table or on the living room couches, and so our stuff has migrated there too.

I’ve given up. I’m letting go of how I thought my house should look. I’m trying to, anyway, because I think it’s healthier to accept and work with what is rather than “should-ing” all over myself and my family.

Last week I wanted wall space to hang some of my Hebrew materials: the days-of-the-week chart, the months of the year, and the weather poster. Heaving a sigh of surrender, I pinned them up on the wall at the head of the dining room table.

“It looks like a Grade One classroom in here,” K said.

“Maybe because it is a Grade One classroom?” I shot back defensively.

“No, no, it’s okay,” she soothed, “at least you chose nice colours.”

I put the final nail in the coffin today: remember that wall I said was completely full? Yeah, it was only full below the timeline. There was plenty of space above. It took less than ten minutes to put up some 3M hooks for the kids’ clipboards that hold their “to-do” lists and music practice charts. I also hung up the giant Post-It chart paper, because I couldn’t think of any other way to store it without it getting folded or bunched up.

“I love that you have school stuff all over your walls,” K’s bestie told me earlier this week. “My mom won’t even let us put up a wall calendar. She says it ruins the aesthetic.”

“She’s right, it does.” I responded. “But I’ve decided to stop fighting it and embrace that my house is a school.”

When my kids were babies, I only bought wooden toys and toys in solid colours—no plastic, no characters, no flashing lights. It wasn’t for health or environmental reasons, I just didn’t want my living room to look like Toys R Us had just thrown up in there. Nowadays it looks like Staples threw up in my house… and I’m trying to figure out whether that’s any better than Toys R Us.

crafty · DIY · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins · waxing philosophical · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 661: It feels good to be bad.

“You’re old,” K tells me with a grin, every time I announce the death of some celebrity she’s never heard of.

And I reply, “Yup. And it’s so awesome!”

I’ve realized lately that there’s a significant amount of freedom in getting older. Not only do I care less what other people think: in some areas I even care less what I think. To wit: I have multiple hobbies that I’m bad at.

It feels like there’s a bell curve for hobbies. When you’re a little kid, nobody expects you to be particularly good at things because you just haven’t had time to develop skills yet. You’re adorably cute, so it’s okay if your violin playing is a bit squeaky. But then, as you get a bit older, the assumption is that you should be striving for excellence with your hobby: if you want to continue, grownups tell you, you have to practice more, take more classes, get this coach. This attitude intensifies through high school as the all-important university applications loom.

One day adulthood creeps up on you like the clown in a horror movie. Or maybe it just smacks you in the face like that swinging paint can in Home Alone. Either way, expectations of being good at your hobbies seem to plummet. It’s totally fine to try a new hobby and be bad at it… and keep doing it just because it’s fun. By the time you hit your eighties you get a medal just for showing up: “Wow, she’s eighty-nine and she plays in a community orchestra! So inspirational!”

I made a little chart for you:

A graph with an x- and y- axis; there is a line following a bell curve across the chart. The bottom is labelled "Age in years" and the side axis is labelled "expectations of excellence." The levels in the expectations axis are: none (age zero and sixty), "You're obviously still developing your skills" (ages 12 and 35), "Pretty good, but you're no [insert name of famous professional here]" (ages 16 and 28), and "If you don't perform like a pro, you're wasting everyone's time. Especially your own." (age 20.)
If you’re preparing to tell me that this isn’t correct for a bell curve because the x-axis isn’t on a linear scale, don’t bother. I’m bad at statistics, I don’t care, and I still enjoy making up funny graphs.

Now in my forties, I feel good about mediocre work for the first time ever. When I play my viola, I’m not focused on polishing a piece; I practice until I can play all the notes at the correct speed, maybe throw in a few dynamics or some vibrato, and then move on to the next piece I fancy. I’m not going in order of difficulty: I just play what I like. It’s very liberating. I’m a mediocre violist (which means I’m good enough to be last chair in a professional orchestra. Ha ha, little viola joke there) and everyone just thinks it’s cool that I play. Most importantly, I love it.

Ditto carpentry. I don’t usually spend time “honing my craft” or striving to produce professional-quality work. I just like the power tools, the smell of fresh wood, and the ridiculous amount of innuendo that woodworking injects into my conversations. I’m totally screwing around, doing a half-assed job, and most of what I make is good from far, but far from good—and I don’t care.

Take it from a former perfectionist: it feels good to be bad. I highly recommend it.

Darn Tootin' · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Montessori · parenting · waxing philosophical

Day 657: Don’t Fight It

“The kids begged me for more algebra sheets.”

Eyebrows raised, I just looked at Mr. December.

“Sorry, honey. I know I said you could have the morning for your subjects after a quick math drill… but they begged me. Seriously.”

“Eema,” E said earnestly, “Can I forget about my other work and just finish my cursive writing book? There are only fourteen pages left and I think I can do it!”

Of course I said yes. Why wouldn’t I?

Remember when I bought some highly structured curricula and decided we’d follow those lesson plans? Well, we’ve ditched the older kids’ history curriculum and I’m picking and choosing from the biology curriculum. Most importantly, I’m not fighting about schoolwork. I have some firm boundaries—the subjects aren’t optional, but how and when we do them is open for negotiation.

Take E, for example. She worked intently on her cursive writing for two hours this morning. I could have told her “let’s stop here and do something else,” but why would I do that? When a child is motivated and focused, why on earth would I go and break that focus? To enforce some abstract ideal of “balanced” subjects? Or to assert my power by imposing the schedule that I gave them on Monday?

It’s definitely easy to be flexible when the child is eager to learn and work on an area that interests them; less so when the child doesn’t want to do any work at all. Yesterday N didn’t do his writing or his Hebrew, and today he was still reluctant to do the assignments I’d given him. We compromised: he wrote about a topic of his choice, in the structure of my choice. I’ve decided to go for quantity over quality with him, on the theory that he needs to be able to get his ideas down on paper quickly; editing can be done later and with the assistance of someone else.

I’m also trying to remember the purpose behind the assignments I give. The writing assignment I originally gave all three big kids was to take a picture from our trip and write about it. Part of my goal with that assignment was for them to recall things they saw and learned during our travels. I think with N that’s not so essential, not because he doesn’t need to remember what we learned, but because I’m certain he already does. The kid soaks in everything and makes connections to what he already knows. Why should I belabour the point?

R’s writing assignment evolved differently, too: she’s writing a fictional story based on a series of photos from our volcano hike. I agreed to this on two grounds—first, that she’s in Grade Five and maybe doesn’t need to spend quite so much time on essay-writing; and second, that she’s a strong writer who really wants to hone her craft. Why fight her natural inclination?

I feel validated by this week’s experience with K and viola practice. Since Monday, she has worked diligently every day to learn a new piece. She does scales and practices trouble spots ten times in a row, all without complaint—in fact, she was eager to do it. I tried forcing her to practice for years. Years. Is her diligent practice now a result of my dogged persistence? No. No way. She’s practicing because she wants to play viola better.

That’s why I’m not being especially forceful with E and her flute practice. I’m not letting her give up flute, but I’m also not insisting on serious practice right now. It’s not worth the fight; when she’s a bit more mature and wants to play better, we won’t have to fight about it anyway. Right now my goal is to keep her immersed in music, have instruments available to explore, and try to keep it light and enjoyable. If she’s naturally drawn to it (I personally think she is,) she’ll play music no matter what I do.

This all feels very Montessori. Long periods where the child can do work of their choice? Check. Having all the resources available, introducing the child to the work and then allowing them to do it in their own time? Check. Stepping back and watching the child’s innate drive to learn? Check.

A happier homeschool environment and a more relaxed mom? Check and check.