:the fourth day of the week, following Tuesday
I've come to dread Wednesday afternoon, no matter how diligently I prepare for Wednesday morning. I attend a weekly Bible study with an amazing group of women. While we talk, share and pour out our hearts, A is in an upstairs bedroom. Theoretically, she is doing school work during this time, but the lack of self-discipline I have been exhibited today and last week is stunning.
Last Wednesday morning, A was given an assortment of work to complete - math, Thanksgiving study, art and more. What did she actually do? Almost nothing. Instead of working, she spent her time gazing out the bedroom window, reading and daydreaming. There were consequences. We had planned to go straight to the library after study, but instead headed straight home, where she worked quite diligently on her school work in order to have her work done in time to attend Barefoot Club, a once monthly gathering of kids from her favorite summer camp. Both J and I talked with A about her behavior. We had hoped that this, coupled with the consequence, would help bring changes.
Before this morning's Bible Study, I prepared. I found an art lesson on portraiture that tied to our Thanksgiving Unit Study. I wrote out her assignments in her agenda. I taught her math lesson this morning to be sure she understood the new material. I even gathered the books she would need, stacked them together and reviewed all of my preparations with her last night to be sure she was clear on the work.
I was actually hopeful as I headed upstairs at noon. Hopeful that I would find her on the bed reading, her work complete beside her. This was not what I found. What I found was a child who had completed three of six set tasks and was only a fraction of a way through the fourth. Instead of reliving last week's questions about how she spent her time, I went downstairs and gathered my things, hoping to gather my emotions and some wisdom at the same time. I'm still waiting for some wisdom to arrive.
In the meantime, I handed A a fresh baked brownie, drove her to Chick-Fil-A to grab lunch, then made her sit outside the library to do her math. This might not seem like a punishment on a beautiful fall day, but I can assure you that this child would have far preferred walking a library aisle to sitting at a picnic table doing math.
I do have some responsibility in this - I did not properly label the priorities of the assignments. (I would have preferred she start with math instead of leaving it until last, for example.) But I'm not sure this matters a great deal since she didn't make it halfway through the list of assignments.
In looking back through a record of A's work on Wednesdays, it seems that the most she has been able to complete is 3-4 tasks. Regardless of how many or few things I give her to do, this seems to be her internal limit. So do I set my expectations - and future assignments - based on the data I have from weeks past? Do I accept that A is going to be less productive when she does not have direct supervision? Do I give up Bible Study as soon as my current study is complete? Or are these Wednesdays supposed to teach me something, too?
What if I'm supposed to be learning to appreciate a child who can entertain (if not educate) herself for two or three hours? Or learning to be thankful for the work she does get done, instead of lamenting all that is left on her to-do list? What if a lesson I need to learn is that home schooling this fifth grader is going to require school work on Fridays, something I have eschewed thus far? In short, what am I learning? And am I applying what I'm learning or doing the exact same thing and expecting different results?
I'm discouraged by setbacks like this and A's loneliness, but I continue to enjoy home schooling. I know A is learning. Her math skills and, even more importantly, her confidence in math have vastly improved. She is able to calculate problems in her head that would have frustrated her on paper weeks ago. And I'm learning, too. Just today, A and I discussed how Andrew Carnegie's principles of philanthropy were good and bad, alongside a discussion of what life might be like if the industrial revolution hadn't happened. These are good conversations - for me and for A. But they are also fleeting and I feel the sting of a morning gone awry far longer than I feel the glow of a well spoken insight.
So what now? I'll keep walking along the path we're on and keep tweaking to see what works and what doesn't. Next Wednesday, I'll try shortening the assignment list and see whether that yields better results and a happier mom and daughter. In short, I'll just keep trying. Because it's too important for me to just give up.