Workbooks? In my home?

So often, one of the first questions that inquiring minds ask is what home educating moms do when they are sick.  There is no substitute teacher.  All the lovely plans of narrations carefully keyboarded by a patient Mama, long walks in the woods acquainting each other with flora and fauna, and messy, joyful artistic endeavors at outdoor easels are tossed aside in favor of a plump pillow and a steady stream of chamomile-peppermint tea.

I've spent seventeen weeks and five days with that pillow and tea (but who's keeping track, right?).  The first ten weeks or so, things moved along quite nicely.  We had been in a great rhythm and the children even planned and executed some very lovely Charlotte Mason days.  They spent about a week at the Rabbit Trails forum and put together a rather impressive snowflake unit.  They plugged away at notebook projects.  But then...

...somehow, the order started drifting away and chaos crept in.  They figured out that if I went to bed a few moments after eating,I wasn't going to resurface any time soon.  And I broke the cardinal rule of home and school management:  Don't expect what you don't inspect.  And so, my home and our lessons began a sure slide into disarray.

How to right the ship?  Well, I determined to redistribute chores on the chore chart and to begin a new unit.  I was sure we'd all be invigorated.  Problem is, invigoration and motivation were never my problem.  My problem was physical limitation.  I can want to take all the hikes in the world. I can want to do a unit that requires my constant attention. But the spirit is willing and the flesh is nauseous and dizzy.    I think God had a plan.

At the beginning of this school year, our family gladly volunteered to watch the one-year-old of a dear friend while she went to college. Her story is told here. For the first week, Gracie could not be consoled. She fussed. She cried.  She wanted everyone's attention, all the time.  I was despairing.  I didn't want to bail out of this arrangement.  I didn't want to sacrifice our home education either. I wanted Gracie to be a part of our days at home and I was confident that was God's will too.  Our lives were inextricably intertwined.  But how did God want me to incorporate it all harmoniously and productively?

The_day_today_020 I did something I'd never done before.  I placed a huge order for boxed curriculum. It came.  I didn't open the box for days.  It seemed like I was denying everything I'd always wanted to believe about education at home. I didn't want someone else's plans.  And I really didn't want workbooks.  But I was pretty desperate.  So we broke open the box and we discovered some real gems there.  We discovered that delight-directed learning and living books could co-exist along with basic, faith-infused workbooks and lesson plans. Mom learned a valuable lesson.  Funny thing was, Gracie had stopped crying before we even opened the box.  It turns out she was cutting four teeth that first week and just as soon they were in, she was all giggles and grins.  But we now had workbooks.

And oh what a blessing they have been since January!  I can stay completely still and horizontal and still help a child with a worktext.  We're still making progress.  And when we slipped into chaos, I drew up list and made a promise to check progress with those texts. I miss the lapbooks and the hikes.  I'm longing to do something impulsive and creative, but I'm glad for the blessing of the books in the box. We've read a whole lot of books up in my big bed, played plenty of board games, begun family blogs with lots of journaling, and been pretty faithful to the workbooks and somebody else's lesson plans.


I have found great comfort and encouragement in this poem about workbooks, written by the eldest girl in Alice's lovely Cottage. Clearly a child who could write such a delightful, sophisticated poem has had a an education that might have included workbooks but certainly wasn't limited to them or by them.  Wonder of wonders: workbooks can co-exist with real education! If Alice's children can know and "love" workbooks ;-) and still have the rich and varied education I know they have, mine can too!