Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Lowering My Standards

There's a Dave Barry quote on my fridge:

"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.

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"
It was a good day. Not perfect. But good. Very good.

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.


Emily said...

Wow what a great day!
Every Saturday when I was a kid, we had McDonald's hotcakes. And it was good. :)
Can I come be homeschooled with you? I want to read Our Town and learn to play the violin...

Liz said...

When my daughter used to describe a day of homeschooling to her friends it always started with "Mom made us cocoa and toast and then read aloud to us." She generally had said friends very envious by the time she finished. Of course we did both things like math and spelling tests as well, but what she remembered best was the cocoa and the read-aloud books.

One of the nicest things about homeschooling is the possibility of making happy memories that are connected just to your family not to some classroom somewhere with people whom you may never see again once you hit 18...

Mass and breakfast out sounds like a wonderful way to begin. Oh, and my daughter loved workbooks at that age, she outgrew that particular passion.

tanita davis said...

That Lewis quote - smacked me right between the eyes. I'm passing it along to a friend who is minister of music at St. John's Lutheran in Seattle. I had never read that before.

I was going to comment on your earlier post about homeschooling - just from reading your posts (and having a smart spouse) I am thinking that if I ever did have a wee bairn, we'd all hang together at home - I mean, D. reads aloud to me without kids, and we have so much fun with that. I can imagine the joy of passing that along. And he already plays the violin.

Happy, happy home. Yay, you.

tanita davis said...

Although, sister, we've gotta talk about that cookie dough...

Sara said...

I've had years where I stupidly scheduled a full day's work for kids who had done nothing all summer but play. They hadn't even done "summer reading"! Those days were awful. Even the first days where I lower my expectations are awful, too, but the difference is that I expected nothing better! It makes such a difference. You don't want to give up quite as soon!

Theresa said...

Another defeatist loser, here!LOL!
The past couple of years I have taken to "easing into the school year" and it has been the best thing. This year I started JBug a week before I started Superboy. And then it was only half schedule. It worked beautifully because then she had her routine down and I could concentrate on Superboy getting his routine down the next week.
I am all for being realistic in our expectations (aka lowering them). Makes for a much more positive experience.

Danae said...

Karl and I are big fans of that Lewis quote. Glad to hear it is being passed on to another generation! And your first day of school sounds perfect in my book.

Sharon in MI said...

Sounds like an IDEAL lunch to me! And a great first day. Wish mine had gone half as well, but I had a belligerent teen and disobedient 9-yr-old to contend with and that kind of spoiled things for the rest of us.

Ron said...

Thanks Karen. Definitely, our expectations have a lot to do with our sense of success & we went through the same process as you :)