No, not THAT Talk. But still, a Talk with a capital T. Do all homeschooling families have this conversation, or is it just me and some of my more delinquent homeschooling friends? Let me back up a little and give some background. Here’s what happened:
Last week was Billing Week. It’s the most important week in my business month. It’s the week when I frantically finish as much as I can so that I can reconcile as much as possible and bill as many people as can reasonably be billed, with the faint hope that some of them will pay me in time to pay the rent. It’s an adrenaline-fuelled roller coaster ride that adds the pizzazz to my stay-at-home-work-from-home-home-educating lifestyle. Needless to say, for one coffee-driven, sleep-deficient week, very little formal education gets done (although unfortunately I think a lot of other education takes place. The kids have a front row seat in the theatre spectacle we fondly refer to as The School of Life).
It’s never great to have even a day or two without focused education. We all seem to lose the plot. The girls get fractious. They snap at each other and forget their manners. They get bored. Since Papa Bear and I are stressed, slightly panic-stricken and utterly exhausted, we don’t always handle this situation with the best grace (although we really, sincerely try with all our might). The final result is that the little bit of “school” we do have becomes a loose, relaxed affair, and kind of blurry around the edges.
This week we’re working on getting back on track. As you know, I’ve already explained that we’re doing a month-long unschool experiment. This means that “school” shouldn’t really take very long at all. Bible time is about 20 minutes, and so is Maths. Technically, copywork shouldn’t take more than about 15 – 20 minutes so, at most, we’re looking at an hour of the basics, followed by an entire morning of super-fun learning adventures.
Yesterday, that “hour” took nearly three hours to complete. It was punctuated by wild hilarity and chaos, and the half hour of copywork yielded scarcely six deformed words a piece.
I lost my cool.
Using that quiet, sinister tone that only very angry mothers use, I explained in graphic detail every aspect of my day. I explained how I start the housework at 6AM, breakfast straight after that, then school. After school I work, make lunch, carry on with school, work some more, make supper, read stories to them, work some more, and do my best to get into bed by 1AM. The next day it starts all over again.
After that, I explained slowly and quietly how, when they took three hours to do one hour’s work, they were stealing: stealing my sleep from me. Stealing their experience of a happy mother from themselves. Stealing food from their own plates because I simply can’t achieve deadlines and will lose clients as a result.
The poor babies watched with pale faces and wide eyes, and I was astonished to find that I felt no guilt at all. I really felt that they should realise that if they don’t take at least some of the responsibility for their education and success, they may as well not even have the benefits of a home education. Their potential would hardly exceed becoming poorly paid waitresses in a local coffee house, and frankly they can acquire the skills they need for that in any government school. I explained that they have phenomenal potential, and they’re allowing it to atrophy with their sloppy attitudes and distracted focus on what really matters in life.
All the time I was talking, I could hear my dad pouring out of my mouth. I remember him saying these words to me. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the weight of responsibility and utterly not understood. I also remember pulling up my socks, working hard, being at the top of my class and achieving most of my goals in my life so far.
Perhaps I was hard on them, perhaps even cruel. I don’t think so. I realised that I am actually a Tiger Mom, after all, and that I do believe in giving my children the very best life has to offer: character, self-discipline, high expectations of themselves, and the ability to achieve no matter the odds.
Have any of you ever had to have The Talk with your home educated children?