Some years ago I offended a friend. She was telling me about her bad homeschooling day. I should have offered some empathy but I didn’t. Before I could stop myself, I tactlessly suggested the problem might lie with the mother rather than her children. I regretted my words instantly when I saw my friend’s upset face. Later I returned with a huge bunch of flowers and apologised profusely and my friend forgave me and all was put right.
So why did I judge the situation so wrongly? I suppose I assumed the friend was like me.
I used to have an awful lot of bad days. On those days all my children wanted my attention at the same time, the baby cried, the toddler whined, everyone bickered, no one did anything without arguing or delaying for as long as possible... A heavy weight pressed down on my head and I wanted to scream and run away. I wanted to run away from all of my children who always chose the exact same day to be out of sorts. Why did they do that?
But one day I realised something. Perhaps all of my children weren’t out of sorts all at once. Maybe it was me that wasn't feeling my best. Have you ever noticed how a mother’s mood sets the tone for the whole day?
I decided that most bad days occurred when I was feeling overtired. I could handle a bit of whining and crying and noise on an ordinary day, even a child or two who were not feeling like their usual selves, but when I was extra tired it didn’t take much to turn me into a dragon mother without any patience at all.
Two things made the situation worse. Firstly, I blamed the children for being slow, noisy, demanding... which made them just as upset as me… and secondly I ploughed on with my day regardless of how we were all feeling. Why did I find it so hard to let go and admit I needed an ‘easy’ day? Perhaps I was afraid every day would end up being an ‘easy’ day and we’d never get anything done.
These days we don’t have babies and toddlers in the family but I still get overtired. On days when my head is hurting and I’m not feeling my best, I try and admit it. I don’t carry on in a vain attempt to be the perfect mother. I try to arrange a relaxed day and maybe do something for myself. Does it really matter if we have a day when all we do is read books, or draw, or write blog posts or watch some DVDs or go for a walk or even sleep? The things I’d hoped to do with my girls or the things they were hoping I’d help them with… they can wait until another time. I suppose it's all to do with abandoning myself to the circumstances of each day.
I am aware we have an advantage over many homeschoolers. We don’t have a curriculum that is guiding us, a curriculum that has to be kept up with. I don’t make plans. Every day’s learning is a bit of an adventure and so it’s easy for us to be flexible about how we spend our time. Learning is just part of our life and it doesn’t stop even when I am tired and we have a slow day. I have discovered that learning occurs on every sort of day... every sort of day except those that are filled with yelling mothers and unhappy children.
All we learn on those days is how much we hate bad days.