Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Attack of the Killer 'Should's

I have long since averred that the word 'should' needs to be banned from the English dictionary.  I'm sure language purists could present a good case for the importance of preserving the word, but it's the weight of condemnation behind the word that I really dislike.  I find it difficult to think of a sentence in which the word 'should' does not leave a negative feeling, as in "I should clean the toilet" - or at best, a feeling of uncertainty (eg "this experiment should work").
However, having been aware for a long time of the perils involved with allowing the 'should's into one's psyche, I still succumbed this morning, and had to fend off a full-on attack!  You know the sort: "I should be doing more 'proper work' with the boys"; "we should have achieved more by now"; "we shouldn't be enjoying ourselves so much" (where did that come from?).  I could bet every single person reading this can think of their own example to add.
What's more, the attack came out of nowhere, with no warning.  Yesterday was another lovely day (although admittedly I was feeling the desire to be doing more work - maybe because I tried to push that onto the boys, rather than taking my lead from them, maybe that triggered this morning's 'bleurgh').  I have been thoroughly enjoying HE - learning loads, seeing the boys relax - not a single regret.  And yet this morning, although I didn't threaten to send them back to school, I did end up shouting, and they did end up in more 'time out' than usual - partly because their behaviour was worse today, partly because I had less patience :(
Who knows what triggers a 'Killer Should' attack? - it could be hormonal, it could be too little sleep, it could be a full moon, it could be just a restless day on the kids' behalf, it could be a thoughtless comment from a friend, it could be a cold, it could be a million other things - but it can be pretty illogical too.  Actually today DS1 & 2 had both spent a good hour on Maths Whizz, DS3 had a lovely time with Mummy and some flash cards, DS2 & 3 both did some dot-to-dot puzzles, DS1 did some more experimenting etc etc... as Home Ed days go, we ticked lots of boxes... but it wasn't enough: I still couldn't shake the 'should's.  And 'should's really are killers - they kill your peace, they kill your enjoyment, they kill your confidence - and of course, the same goes for the children too.  I found myself feeing really driven - at one point this morning I said to them to choose a workbook to have a go at, and it was only when every single one of the boys had hit a problem with a bad attitude that I stopped to ask myself, "why am I doing this to them when my goal is to foster an enthusiasm to learn?"  We put the workbooks away soon after, and the Wii went on while I gave myself time to stop and think.
A wise Home Edder once said that when she gets swamped in doubt and guilt about what she is or isn't doing, she takes the time to re-focus on what her goals actually are - why she chose to Home Ed in the first place.  So here I am, doing just that, and letting you in on the process, because what's the point of a diary blog if I only write about the good days?  Existing home edders wouldn't be able to relate (actually, they probably just plain wouldn't believe me) and those considering HE would get an unrealistic expectation of what it could be like for them.  Besides, it's not my style: I am a pretty positive person I think, but I don't believe in hiding the negatives away.
Anyway, refocusing... why did we decide to Home Ed our boys?  And are we achieving those aims?  Well...
1/ We are confident it's the right thing to do for them.  That was the main reason, with a whole lot of extra stuff backing up that belief.  That confidence is still there - I am convinced it's the best thing I can do for my boys, and I'm grateful for that.  I may be having a bad day, but I'm never tempted by the alternative of school.  Tick.
2/ We want our boys to be free to explore what they want to learn about, not have to sit in a group where the subject is chosen by someone who, even if they are trying their best, can't be expected to give all their attention to just one child's interests and abilities.  Tick.
3/ We want our children to regain their confidence in themselves as people and as learners.  They're all at different levels with this one, but I have seen definite improvement since they came out of school, so... tick.
4/  We want our boys to be able to learn at their pace, without feeling pressure to perform, or feeling bad for making mistakes (which are after all a vital part of learning).  Well, apart from this morning's blip they have generally set their own pace - and are learning not to be put off by not getting everything right first time.  I hope they will be capable of attempting more in the future but am aware that they are still deschooling, and I refuse to put them off by adding pressure.  So - putting today aside as a lesson for Mummy, that's a tick.
There are undoubtedly more reasons that I could add, but now it is lunchtime,  and we are going to have a nice lunch together then go for a long relaxing walk in the sunshine and do exactly what we like.  I may be temporarily discouraged, but I'm not quitting.  Take that, 'killer should's!


  1. I am going to start referring new home educators to this blog. I know when I started home educating I wanted to sit and look over the shoulder of some one already doing it. I learning visually and a visual picture of the reality of home education is what you are writing here.

    Have a great day without your should's :-)

  2. wow, thanks for the vote of confidence Sally, that's really encouraging and lovely :) xx