“Real School”

When Bailey threw a fit Monday morning because at 11:15 I told her she had to stop playing, get dressed for the day, and do her school work, I pulled out the “If you were in real school you would have been at school for three hours already and had no play time.”  Then she started pestering me to have a real school day.  I tried to explain that real first graders don’t get to sleep in until 10:30, so in order to have real school I would have to wake her up way earlier.  We agreed, though, that she could start at noon and have school until six.

I petered out around 4:00…she wanted to do it again on Tuesday.

Like my husband noted, it was all just a game to Bailey.  She loved having a set time limit to eat her lunch (at 3:00), although she did complain a slight bit about only having ten minutes for recess.  (Ten minutes is only the first third of a television show.)  She also knew that I wouldn’t completely hold her to the same standards as would be expected in a school.  She knew that I wouldn’t really put her in the corner if she forgot the rules and got up or spoke without raising her hand first.  I wasn’t as hard-ass on her as I probably should have been if I wanted it to be miserable for her.

I gave her lots of extra work, but in the end I kind of ran out of things to give her to do.  We did our minimum Monday requirements of math and a new Greek root word.  I did actually give her double the math load, then I added Explode the Code, read aloud time to me, read aloud time from me, logic exercises, religion, and history.  (I had her watch a DVD on Ancient Mesopotamia while I slipped away to take a shower.)  And then I didn’t have anything else new to give her.

Teachers in a school usually don’t have to plan a full six hours of work because they lose a lot of time just to administrative issues, moving the kids in lines, and specialty classes where the kids go with another teacher for awhile.  So, it’s no wonder that I ran out of stuff when I only plan about an hour of work per day, and I only have two kids standing in line for bathroom breaks (Piper wanted to play along for a little while, too).

Bailey wanted to do it all again the next day, except she wanted to get up as early as the other kids.  I told her that I would get her up earlier than usual if she wanted, but I was not getting us both up as early as schooled kids.  Plus, I explained that there is no way I could dedicate that much time just to her every single day.  I have two other kids to take care of as well.  They need just as much of my time and attention, if not more.

On Tuesday I woke her up at 9:15 (the same time the rest of us woke up), and we started school at 10:00.  We worked until around 1:00.  Our timed lunch became sidetracked when she bit into her food and a very loose front tooth started bleeding profusely and became very dangly.  It took about ten minutes for me to calm her down, unsuccessfully try to extract the tooth, and stop the bleeding.  (Her daddy heroically got it out when he arrived home from work.)  Later that night, with her tooth tucked under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy, I explained that we wouldn’t be able to start school early the next morning since everyone needed a bath.  “That’s ok,” she said, “I’m getting kind of tired doing the school thing anyway.”

So, real school lasted for about two days.  I was both glad and a little disappointed.  I was glad because as much as I love Bailey the intensity level always goes up a few levels when she gets up.  I was used to having at least an hour before she woke up to get chores done and interact with Piper in our quiet way.  And without that calm before the storm, I felt more overwhelmed trying to juggle school, childcare, and housework.  Also, on Monday Bailey did terrible on her Explode the  Code; she made lots of little careless mistakes.  I think she was mentally fatigued from a particularly challenging math lesson.  If she hadn’t insisted on doing real school, I probably would have made her take a break before starting the next thing.  It is more important to me that she really learn concepts rather than just get through a to-do list or meet a time limit.

I was disappointed to see real school go because for two days I was able to have read aloud time with no complaining.  In fact the lack of complaining in general will be missed.  Whenever I would slip into Mommy-mode and ask, “Do you want to stop?  Is this too much work?” ect., Bailey would shrug and say, “You’re the teacher.  Just tell me what to do.”  For two wonderful days we read the The Secret Garden; it was great to snuggle with all my girls on the couch sharing a classic book.  This just reminds me for the millionth time that this is something I must start doing with Piper and Katie on a daily basis.

Overall, I think it was more of a learning experience for me than for her.  I learned that the reason I set such a limited amount of school work each day is as much for me as it is for her.  It keeps me from being overwhelmed or depressed if it doesn’t all get done.  I realized that I have more history resources than I can get through in just one day.  I also learned that Bailey is capable of much more work than I thought.

So, when we start our third week of the semester next week, we’ll be doing some more tweaking.  For instance, I’m going to add extra sessions of history and Explode the Code on Mondays.  As part of our real school day, we started each morning with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Morning Offering.  Bailey really does need to learn the Pledge of Allegiance since that’s a basic cultural thing, so we’ll keep practicing it until I think she’s got it down.  The Morning Offering I’ve been wanting to incorporate anyway, so we’ll continue that indefinitely.  I think Bailey and I are both glad, though, that “real school” was just a game for us.

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