Friday, September 2, 2011


1 b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things

My parents like to tell the story of the first time I used the word compromise.  I was young - 4 or 5 - and I was debating something with my father.  The details have been lost - I wanted something and he wanted something else.  Perhaps I wanted ice cream for dinner and he wanted an actual meal.  The part that is remembered is this: after a bit of discussion, I said, "How about we compromise?"  My father laughed at me, thinking I didn't know the meaning of the word I was using.  "Compromise?" he said, "What's that?"  "You know," I replied, "We don't do it your way and we don't do it my way."  Not a bad definition, is it?

You can see some things about me in this story: 1) I loved words at an early age, 2) using the right word in a given situation was important to me even way back when and 3) I've always been quick to compromise if it meant avoiding conflict.

I recently had an epiphany regarding homeschooling my daughter B.  It's been an up and down process thus far, so I was praying last night that God would grant us a good day today.  I felt one good day would go a long way towards me believing this could be done - that we could actually get through a year of homeschooling together.

My prayer was answered.  B was motivated from the moment she woke up.  She took her Psalms study to bed with her so that she could do it before she even got out of bed in the morning.  Before I left home at 7:45 to take K to school, B had already completed her vocabulary warm up, had a math lesson and was at work on her math problems.  By 10:15 when it was time to leave for the orthodontist, only two items remained on B's daily plan: science and Latin.  That's when it hit me.  The source of her motivation?  It was the fact that we were going to the orthodontist and then piano lessons.

This opened my eyes to a pattern I've seen, but not recognized, in our homeschooling: B's best days have been our busiest days.  A trip to Cheekwood?  Her work was done and she was ready to go.  The lake for her birthday?  Friends over to do schoolwork alongside my girls?  Appointments?  Errands?  These are the circumstances in which she thrives.  Maybe you're thinking, "Great!  Now you know how to give her a successful year.  Just make sure there's something to do or somewhere to go everyday."  The challenge?  These same days that B loves are the hardest days for me.  They are good days, but exhausting for this introvert mom.  It tires me to drive across town for one appointment, then back to our neighborhood for a piano lesson, during which I rush home, eat a sandwich and return to get B.  The truth is that my favorite homeschooling days are the days when we don't have to go anywhere between dropping K off at school and picking her up.  Those are the days when I can work out, do laundry and read my Bible - all in the same day.  (Not one of those things has happened today, just in case you were wondering.)

Clearly, a compromise is needed.  I can't go on trying to teach a child who is decidedly unmotivated to do her schoolwork.  But I also can't give her a jam-packed schedule every single day without it coming at too great a cost to me (not to mention what it would cost her sister A, who is wired a bit more like me).

So what should I do?  Should I set aside one day each week when we'll do a field trip to an art museum, a public garden, even an antique shop?  Is one day weekly going to be enough to motivate her?  Do I relax our television and electronic standards and make them a goal she can attain by completing quality work in a timely fashion?

I clearly need to find a compromise.  I not only need to, I want to.  I don't want to force B to conform to the way things work best for me, but I don't think I can - or should - conform to what she wants.  How do I blend the qualities we each need in our days, weeks and months to arrive at two satisfied people who have learned from each other?

Suggestions welcome.  In the meantime, I'm going to work on having compassion for both of us as we work through this.


Misha Leigh. said...

I have this same dilemna and the older my kids get the more it surfaces because it really and truly matters to them - more than just a preference, it's how they are made to shine.

I have compromised by keeping the mornings unscheduled and booking their afternoons. So I get a slower, quieter start to the day but they know that every day includes something for them to look forward to (for one kid that's a challenge I'm not in charge of - i.e. rigorous dance class, for the other it's seeing people - he's my extrovert!)

I don't know if that helps you - but I think you are on to something. I have learned a lot about the difference between personality, learning styles and motivational factors since homeschooling! Even my introvert needs external goals that don't include me. : )

WordGirl said...

Misha, I agree that this is more than a preference for B. She's always had energy to burn and then will need a burst of time alone after flaming out. I'm really thankful to have realized this motivation issue and she and I have been in discussion about how we might manage her needs and mine. I think it's just a steeper learning curve than I anticipated. So thankful to be heading into a three day weekend... :-)

Natalie said...

Oh, Shannon. So often when you write about your struggles they just hit so close to home. I've been praying for you and your newest home schooling venture.

When Ford was little, my one and only prayer every single morning when I would hear him cry was, "Dear Lord, help me make it through this day." It was all I dare ask.

Ford, like B, was always happiest when we were around other folks. I'd work around nap time and early bedtime and we'd run errands. But, there were some days when I just wished we could stay home.

I don't know if it would take much to rejuvenate or motivate B. Could you plan a short activity in the middle of the home schooling day to help get her through? Obviously, there will be days when you have things you HAVE to do ie orthodontist appointments. But, what if is just a thirty minute break to just go somewhere? You could save up some big-girl play dates as a big incentive for some weeks.

Those are some thoughts that I came to mind. I am experienced with dealing with a much younger child than B. So, I don't know if a trip to the grocery store or bank would do anything for her. Ford never cared where we went as long as he got to interact with someone other than me!

Hang in there! I'll keep praying!