Monday, 9 May 2011

Teaching My Children.

The Boys. (James, right, Daniel, left).
Following on from last week's post about focusing on one thing at a time and becoming good at that thing, I'm going to spend the next week or two really looking at home education. In particular, what I am doing with James on a daily basis. I've got lots of ideas, some more well-formed than others, about projects to embark on and trips to take, as well as weekly and daily routines. I've taken a semi-structured approach to James' education so far, partly because he likes to know what is going to happen each day, so a daily and weekly structure (I use that term loosely) is helping to keep things calm, and partly because I like the freedom of being able to 'go with the flow' of the day's ups and downs, and, if necessary, throw the routine out of the window and escape into the wider world or just veg if we need to.

Since we began home educating at the beginning of February, we've sort-of stuck to a general theme for each day -

Maths Monday (mainly maths, obviously)
Try it Tuesday (a chance to try something new - be it food, handstands, cycling uphill, or whatever)
Wordy Wednesday (reading, writing, listening to stories, talking, etc)
Thinking Thursday (sciencey stuff)
My Day Friday (A project or some such frivolity)

So far, this seems to be vaguely working, except when it doesn't. There are weeks when we get loads done at home, and weeks when we spend loads of time out and about. At the beginning of April, I did a little evaluation of what we had covered so far, and it was really reassuring, because in black and white we have actually done quite a bit of stuff, which put a stop to my panicking that we might not have made any progress. Since the Easter break, which for us was about two and a half weeks, I've been easing James in gently with some worksheets and games that basically reinforce topics we've already covered in maths (one of his stronger areas). He's especially keen on counting and spending his pocket money! (Who isn't?)

I would like to tackle some more challenging stuff, for me I mean. I feel I can handle the maths and English quite well (James is only seven, I should add). It's the sciences, geography, history and such subjects requiring a bit more planning and preparation that I need to get my head around. So I'm going to be doing some research and preparing some activities, as I really want to do stuff that captures James' attention and enthusiasm for learning. (I know it's in there somewhere, I've seen glimpses!)

This needs to be an area of ongoing focus for as long as we home educate, and that is why I'm choosing to start my 'one thing at a time' here.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Finding Focus.

Image credit

If you're anything like me, you try to do a million things in one day (OK, slight exaggeration, a thousand things). You succeed at doing no one thing very well, and end up going to bed each evening feeling full of inadequacy, with a side-order of guilt and a glass of must-do-better to wash it down with. On most days I have a 'to-do' list as long as my arm, consisting mainly of the mundane and the glaringly obvious (housework, appointments, shopping lists, bills, etc), and rarely do I get to cross off every item on it. 

Add to that the virtual 'to-do' list in my head for the bigger things I dream about doing with my time (reading, writing, creating music, losing weight, changing the world, that sort of thing), and it's a wonder I manage to stand up without getting dizzy from all of the buzzing thoughts and self-criticism whirling around inside my brain. 

Clearly this is not an ideal way to function. There is a perfectionist in me trying to get out and boss me around, and the me that won't stand for it is digging her heels in and refusing to co-operate, so I spend quite a lot of time bouncing from 'must get that done' to 'can't be bothered' and back again. 

I understand that someone looking in on my life might see things very differently. They might see that I am a mum and wife who home educates one child and looks after two full-time as well as working occasionally for the family business and staving off the 'Black Dog' of depression (it's currently in its cage, thank the Lord). I have a reasonably clean and tidy house, my kids and husband have fresh food and clean clothes, and most family and friends get birthday cards on time. I do loads of good stuff. I can see that. But I never see myself as being good enough. Good enough for whom I am not sure, but there you have it, the thought that crosses my mind on a daily basis. I'm not good enough. 

How do I counteract this daily tendency towards self-disparagement? 
How do I become 'good enough'? 

To my mind there are two answers to this, both of which, while seeming at first to be contradictory, are complimentary to one another. The first answer is that I can't be. No-one can be 'good enough' on their own. We are all falling short of God's perfection each day, and that is why Jesus was necessary -  to sort us out, to make us like him, like God intended us to be. That work will not be completed until the day he returns. The second answer is that I already am, in God's eyes. God sees me as good enough, because He sees me as I will be when I am made fully alive in Christ. So it is not by my own effort that I will satisfy my need for acceptance, but by the work of Jesus on the cross and afterwards, through the resurrection, and after that, through the work of his Spirit in me each day. 

There is, however, something I can do, requiring a bit of effort on my part, to make myself feel better (though I must point out this is not necessary for my being 'good enough' for God). In order to generate a feeling of achievement for myself, and thus contribute towards a sense of being good enough for my own standards, I must be realistic in what I can achieve. I need a sense of balance, not overload, to reduce the feelings of inadequacy I take to bed with me on a regular basis. In short, I need to do something, and do it to the very best of my ability. 

I need to focus

Years of juggling the acts of feeding, changing, cleaning and dressing both my children and myself, along with the numerous other trivial actions necessary for the maintenance of a credible day-to-day existence, have significantly reduced my ability to focus on one thing for any length of time. My finely-honed multi-tasking skills seem to have had an inverse effect on my ability to concentrate. 

So I am going practise. I am going to try and focus on doing one thing well, for one or two weeks. When I feel I am making some progress with that activity, I will shift my focus onto something else. I don't mean I'm going to neglect my daily routine and all the necessaries that it entails. I am merely talking about working at something until I am good at it, and then working at something else, and so on. I have an imaginary box full of things I would like to do well, and I am going to pick one at a time, and have a go. 

That's it. No pressure to be great, but just the intention to try.