Planning and Recording for Real

It's been nearly a year since I Lissa launched this blog.  When Lissa first pestered me about proposed a blog, I protested.  I thought that there was no way I could find time to write here on any regular basis and still keep my "other" job as a columnist.  I just wouldn't have enough words.  Lissa told me that writing would breed more writing and that blog writing was different.  She was so right!

She also said that blogging would make me a better teacher, a better mom, maybe even a better wife. Also right.  As I organized the narrative that is always running in my head, I also organized my household and my "homeschool" (I  hate that word but it's too early this morning to find another way to express it). All was well as I blogged just enough to frame life in the heart of my home.

Then, I had a brilliant idea.  It had been suggested to me by more than one expert that I needed a way to make my children accountable to my husband for lessons.  In most homes, this could probably be accomplished with an evening conversation. Not here. My husband works erratic hours and is often gone.

Also, my inbox was filling with "how to" questions.  When did I cover such and such?  What was the toddler doing?  Who held the baby during read alouds?

So, I had this brilliant idea. I'd blog the day in detail and Dad would have a  complete picture no matter where he was or what time he checked in and all those questions would be answered. Faithful Over Little Things was born.

At first, my entries were written with an eye toward showing how we wove real learning into real life. Slowly, though, something started to change. I discovered that I could make a template of what we usually covered at the table each day and then just fill in the details. Instead of a conversation, the entry became a list. It was quicker, easier, more efficient to cut the conversation and just list what we did--just list those things that could be quantified and checked off at the end of a day.  Funny thing though (unless you're my kids, then it's not funny at all): our days were starting to look like the blog. My tapestry of learning was becoming a straight seam. The work at the table--the "just the facts ma'am" stuff--became the whole goal. There were chains at the learning room table and they were growing bigger and heavier. Yesterday, ten of us were at home and eight of us were crying (for the record, teenage boys did not cry).  I'm not a straight seam kind of person and my children aren't straight seam learners.

There is a fine line, it seems, between planning and recording for real learning and being a slave to one's plans and records. The basics need to be covered--the list-able, predictable, slightly boring basics. But they should happen in such a way that they are not the central focus of the day.

Yesterday, before the breakdown, Katie was gluing jewels to a wooden frame.

Katie: Look, Nicky, I'm doing my school. Isn't it pretty?

Nicky: That isn't school.  You're not doing real school.  If you were doing real school, it would be boring.  If you were doing real school, you'd be bored.

All would be well if the conversation ended there. I would assume that Nicholas had decided that what was happening in the large institutional building across the street was boring. But then, he held up the book on the table in front of him and

Nick: I am doing real school.

When did we start calling it "school?" How did we fall into this lifeless rut? The materials are actually quite "living." Even the methods--narration, copy work, picture study--are "living." Something subtle happened in late February and early March and it killed the joy.

When I write a column, I can raise a question, present a problem. But I have roughly 700 words to answer it or solve it.  For fourteen years, I've been wrestling with and writing about life's mysteries and nailing neat solutions in 700 words or fewer. Needless to say, I haven't tackled anything too big or broad:-). But this is not a column. I have no editor (unless you count my ten-year-old). I don't have to solve anything this morning. I'm blogging. I'm thinking in narrative. I'm working it out in my brain by getting it up on a screen. It's not neat. It's not tidy. It's not solved. But it's real.

Today, it's supposed to be eighty degrees. I got up at 5:30 this morning and bought birdseed.  The garden needs weeding.  The feeders need filling. I've promised to play basketball before lunchtime...

It's a beginning.