Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Five Good Minutes

A few months ago, I read an article in Brainchild, a magazine I like in spite of its subtitle's smug implication that some mothers are thinking mothers, and others aren't. I don't know which issue it was, but the whole issue was about homeschooling. There was an article written by a mother who described the year she homeschooled her daughter, and I think I remember that the article was titled One Good Year. Her daughter was stressed out by the exigencies of conforming to a system that didn't make sense to either of them, and this mother's aim was to take the pressure off for one year to let her daughter recover, in order to re-enter the fray the following year.

Along the way, she described the joys and challenges of homeschooling, particularly given her particular plan, which required that her daughter's homeschooling dovetail with the local public school's curricula. They had to keep pace and study the same topics, because the following year, her daughter's teachers would be quite specifically building on the knowledge the kids were supposed to have gleaned the previous year.

This is something most homeschoolers don't really have to contend with. They can follow the school's curricula if they so choose, but as far as I can tell, most don't, and that's just fine for them and their kids. We build on what our kids are learning, whatever that may be.

But for this mom, it was the right thing to do, in order to give her daughter One Good Year. It was a good article, well-written and interesting, and I enjoyed the mother's story. It had a certain internal consistency, and I could understand why she chose to homeschool for a year, and why they proceeded as they did.

I also have a book, titled Five Good Minutes: 100 Practices to Help You Stay Calm and Focused All Day Long. It's a good book, and I got it as a gift from either my mother or from my good friend Colleen, at a time when I was really struggling with keeping it all together. I was working hard at a failing school, and feeling very frustrated that I was probably wasting my effort, but seeing no alternative. At the time, it seemed like a good idea: spend five minutes in the morning on bringing my attention deeply into the moment, and that would get me off on the right foot for all the difficulties I would face during the day.

But now that I'm looking at this from a perspective where if we're not having a good day or a good week, I can change it, this seems pathetically sad. Is this all we as a schooling society can offer our kids? One Good Year? Is this all we as working moms in stressful jobs can offer ourselves? Five Good Minutes? Is that all we can hope for, all we can expect? We are literally spending our lives on a treadmill that doesn't ever seem to stop.

And I am acutely aware that the very freedom I currently enjoy, in which it seems to me for the very first time that I am able to read, write, do, think, pursue whatever interests me and the kids the most, is a privilege so rare and precious that many many people will never experience it. I am also acutely aware that we enjoy this freedom at the expense of my husband's long days at his job. He loves his job, and he doesn't complain, but he has quite literally given his life over to it, and that's what makes it possible for me to sit here, on a late morning during a weekday when the vast majority of the people around us are working in jobs they are only tolerating, and write out my thoughts.

I know I will work again, and I hope that when I do, I'm able to construct it in such a way that I can count on a little more than Five Good Minutes.

1 comment:

klflote said...

I'm glad that you're carving out such a satisfying life for yourself, and the boys too, I imagine. It's a gift to have the opportunity and it's a gift to be able to make it work for the family, I think.

I have a question about home schooling by following whatever curiosity arises, at least to some extent. I'm sure you provide some focus too. My question is whether there's an underlying assumption that over time the "conventional curriculum" will get covered. Will following their interest will the Os learn the things the will give them boys choices about how to pursue their education as the get older. For instance, if one of them really wanted to go to public school, or take the SATs to get into college....will they have learned the information they need to move into more conventional educational settings if they so choose? As they get older, will there need to be more structure and specificity? How do you balance learning naturally in the course of what emerges with keeping more conventional doors open; it seems to be that this question becomes more important as the boys get older.

I would be very interested in responses to my wondering.