"Sometimes people ask me, 'Dave, what is the essence of parenthood?'
I always answer, 'Lowering your standards.'"
Sometimes people ask me (not really, but let's pretend for the sake of a blog post), "Karen, what is the essence of the first day of homeschooling?"
I always answer, "Lowering my standards."
First days come with high expectations. Curriculum has been sifted through, assessed, and weighed. Books have been bought and neatly stacked on shelves. Shiny new school supplies have delighted one and all. Lists have been made, schedules labored over, planners filled and chore charts posted. Children have been prepped. Earlier bed times! Up and at 'em! Today's the day! This is going the be the best school year of our lives!
And then it arrives.
Someone struggles to get out of bed, and so it begins. Math is still hated. Chores are forgotten. Pencils break. Hopes are dashed all day long. Nothing is perfect and nothing has changed.
Unless you change one thing: your expectations.
This sounds like the plan of a defeatist loser, but I'm going to contest that charge. (Maybe I just don't want to admit that I'm a defeatist loser, but, hey, I'll let you be the judge.) Long ago, I gave up the idea of a perfect first day. It doesn't fit with my personality, because I've known for a long time that I'm so far from perfect that I don't even know what a perfect day looks like, much less am I able to plan one.
So, I plan on a good day rather than a perfect one. A fun day, with some new disciplines mixed in. A day that reminds us of why we homeschool and why we hope to keep doing it. A day that starts with Mass in the morning, and always includes breakfast out (a real treat around here). A gentle introduction to the math we need to tackle, reading some good books, praying in thanksgiving at the end of the day for the blessing of our family and our days together.
Our first day this year:
~Mass and McDonald's (that actually qualifies as "breakfast out" for my kids)
~Violin and piano
~Anne-with-an-e read 15 or 20 pages of Our Town
~Math all around!
~Ramona's read aloud (which we're all enjoying): Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat (thanks, Johnna!)
~Workbooks for Ramona (sigh. She loves them. The more the better, she thinks.)
~Read some Screwtape Letters aloud with Anne and Betsy and talked about "taste" and "having opinions on things" such as music, and so I dug up this quote from C.S. Lewis on humility:
There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices his own (esthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God.It was a good day. Not perfect. But good. Very good.
The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot, or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect. Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.
But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled with pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical, complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferior complex on all who would try to improve their taste -- there, we may be sure, all that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the Holy Ghost.
~~ from his essay, "On Church Music"
And we had cookie dough for lunch.
So, slap the loser label on me (that lunch alone qualifies me) but know this: I love our first days of school.