... is still better than a bad day at school!" That's how the saying goes - and I'm so grateful that it's true! To be fair, today wasn't really that bad - it was mostly down to my mood (isn't it always?)
You see, last week we had a good week. I kept meaning to update the blog, but we were too busy or I was too tired. Middle and Youngest started the week fighting off some kind of lurgy, but it wasn't too serious. We had to cancel one playdate for Monday because Youngest was really miserable that day, but for the rest of the week they were OK and our time was chock-a-block full of socialising. It was half-term for schools in Herts - and while I don't particularly feel the need to take breaks at the same time as the school holidays, it is a great opportunity for the boys to catch up with their friends who are still in school. So we dropped all parent-led activities, and they had a lovely week full of playing with friends, playing computer games, watching TV, and just playing - while Mummy got to grips with some serious sorting out that was badly overdue!
It has been almost eleven years since I was able to just get on with tidying up etc, as ever since Eldest was born, I have had babies/ toddlers to keep an eye on. To this day I maintain that if you have a child (or more) aged 3 or under, there is no point trying to keep a tidy house as they create chaos faster than you can sort it out! Some children are reportedly good at entertaining themselves safely without requiring much supervision (apparently my brother-in-law as a baby could be left in a room playing with toys and when his Mum came back into the room he would be exactly where she left him... I cannot even begin to imagine it!) None of mine were like that - and especially not Youngest! However, now he has reached the grand old age of four, he is calming down slightly. He even voluntarily took my hand and walked with me instead of running off the other day while we were out shopping (I was simultaneously shocked and thrilled). So anyway, now he is slowing down a little I have found myself better able to get on with jobs around the house while he is happily occupied elsewhere. Of course, my ears are on high-alert like ultra sensitive satellite dishes so that if it goes ominously quiet I can leap into search-and-retrieve mode immediately - but the fact is, last week I not only maintained the necessary level of housework but also got some boxes of stuff sorted (y'know - the "stuff" that gets shoved in a box/ cupboard/ shelf/ room somewhere in a hurry when people drop by, and then stays in said box for weeks... months... (years?) on end). I was greatly pleased with myself!
By the weekend though, I confess I was really tired from all the hosting playdates, tidying/ sorting and being solely responsible for the boys all week as Hubby had had a really busy week of very long days at work. So by Saturday we were both fairly wiped out, and somehow managed to not only do hardly any tidying up all weekend, but also not have any family time together in the great outdoors. Big mistake. Today I woke up to a kitchen full of mess, an erupting laundry bin and a house-full of inhabitants who are going more than a bit stir-crazy. Enter the "bad day home educating": I just want to be outside, walking through my beloved woods, not stuck indoors moving from dishwasher to washing machine and back again (although I am really grateful for said machines of course). However, the boys are adamant that it is Monday and therefore pyjama day - grrrrrr, for once I am not having such a lovely Monday! I'm trying not to be grumpy Mummy, but I do feel really cooped up. Unfortunately it's a vicious cycle as to persuade the boys to get dressed and go outdoors would take a lot of 'jollying along' - and jolly seems to have disappeared from my repertoire today. I have suggested going to the park a couple of times but they're not keen (except Youngest, bless him) - and I know if I tried to force it, it would turn into a major battle. Hey ho - at least we can go out tomorrow!
It has to be said - in "educational terms" the boys have done just fine: they've all had some time on Reading Eggs(press); Eldest and Middle have spent some time on their lapbooks; Youngest did a jigsaw puzzle and made a marble run; we all experimented with separating colours using felt pens and filter paper - a good day really. However, the Reading Eggspress was more taxing than I expected as they all hit issues and needed my input (Eldest needed me to find the right books; Middle got too many answers wrong on his comprehension bit so had to redo it (which is never encouraging) - he did fine the second time though as doing it with me makes him slow down and read the questions properly; Youngest managed to accidentally switch off our ancient home computer three times! Given that it takes 20-30 minutes to get from 'start' to having loaded an online programe, that was enormously frustrating) Eldest is starting a new lapbook and even though he already knew what subject he wanted to do (Life in the Rainforest) it took him ages to get started as he kept hitting problems with loading Youtube clips of his chosen creatures or finding a good photo for the cover etc. Middle is just finishing his 'My Body' lapbook - having had a week off he had run out of momentum on it, but we think it's important that they learn to see jobs through to completion, so I shamelessly bribed him with a glowstick from their treasure box of goodies-they-receive-for-doing-good-work (their idea, not mine), and eventually he did a bit more - hooray! Hopefully it will be finished soon! Oh, and the lovely ink/water experiment didn't work as well as the examples show in the book, although the boys thought it was cool - and it didn't go down well when somebody knocked over the glass of inky water all over Mummy's lap just when I was trying to tidy up!
Big sigh. Never mind! I hope I haven't depressed you... I wanted to be honest and faithfully record the ups and downs of home educating - but at the end of the day, that saying is true: a bad day home educating really is still better than a bad day at school. Bad days at school never left space for precious cuddles with loving little boys; at school we couldn't make allowances for feeling tired/ fed up, and adjust our workload accordingly; if we'd been at school that mountain of washing-up & laundry would still have been waiting for me when I got back, even more exhausted than I started the day. If Middle had had to redo a lesson in school he would have ground to a halt, he was so low in confidence. At least today he was happy to try again with me next to him - that's real progress! They are not being asked to do mindless exercises; they are not having their behaviour scrutinised; they are not subject to the anti-social pressures of hostile peers; they are not being tested on things that will be forgotten after the tests are completed. They are free to learn through play and exploration; they have space to move about and stretch; if they want to spend hours on end just experimenting with their camera (Middle this afternoon) they can. Even though Mummy has had her grumpy moments today, they are still in an environment where their worth as individuals is unquestioned and they are loved for being who they are. It's got to be said - for all my petty complaints, that's still a pretty good day!