Ah, the well laid plans…

In 2004, Joe and I were teaching early morning seminary to a class full of 28 teenage students, ages 14-18, whom we knew next to nothing about. We flubbed our way along, one “learning experience” after another. After one of our lessons went disastrously in a different direction than we intended, I ended up calling our area supervisor for advice (and to let him hear our side of the story before it got to him some other way). He laughed and told me, “Every day’s the first day of seminary!” We got the point. If something wasn’t working, we were under no obligation to continue. Make a change! Get the train back on course!

I find myself thinking about that quote a lot. It was good to learn that lesson nearly eight years before I needed it.

We’ll be making changes to our homeschool days when we get back to it in January. We’re taking a break for a few weeks and will be lying low while I get things ready for Christmas, out of town guests, and finish up some painting and organization projects in our home.

What I wanted to have happen:

  1. Reading, ETC, Handwriting = 4 days a week
  2. Grammar = 3 days a week
  3. Math = 4 days a week
  4. History = 3 days a week
  5. Science = 2 days a week
  6. Piano = 5 days a week
Ambitious? Yes. But realistic. Handwriting, Grammar, and Piano only required 10 minutes or less a day.

What was happening in reality:

  1. It took about two weeks to turn into drudgery
  2. Mom spent most of every day encouraging, prodding, and cajoling to get the day’s work done, literally spending between 5-7 hours taking turns helping Henry and Sam one-on-one (so much for the teaching in tandem idea)
  3. Incentive charts were pulled out. Incentives seldom reached.
  4. Not a lot of time for play and decompressing
  5. The 10-minute timer was employed, with better results (each subject got timed for ten minutes and we’d just put it away when the timer dinged)
  6. Becca and Kate spent hours watching PBS every day so I could work with the boys
  7. All reading for fun disappeared

It really hasn’t taken me long to cry uncle.

I really liked “The Well-Trained Mind” theory. I thought it was a beautiful plan all laid out. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized that my kids are just that–kids. A 6- and 5-year old in whom I was squelching the joy of learning in favor of academic rigor. They didn’t need that. I wasn’t finding much joy in learning, either. I wasn’t finding time to work with my girls. I hated that we weren’t cuddling on the couch and reading together for hours on end. I was constantly stressed out because I had no time for meal planning or preparation. Not cool any way you sliced it.

Curtain down. Intermission.

So here’s what I want to do going forward: all of it, just scaled back. Instead of history three times a week, we’ll do one. Instead of handwriting four times a week, we’ll do two. And etc. Two or three subjects each day before lunch. Afternoons will be dedicated to reading, aloud, together, one-on-one, boys practicing their reading…piles of books everywhere.

I feel much more at peace with the new plan. Besides, I think back to my reflection on our first year, and even as erratic as it all seemed to me, we managed to get a lot accomplished just by baby stepping. So that’s my new focus: just do a little bit every day. We’ll get there!

I love that every day is the first day of seminary.


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