Once is better than never…
…twice is better than once, many times is better than twice, but many many times is not better than many times
Yes, that was a long title. Let’s talk about it for a few minutes.
I hear from moms who feel badly that they are not doing more of X (copywork, dictation, poetry teatimes, lullabies before bed, housekeeping, revising freewrites, science, read alouds, nature study, Shakespeare, field trips, math pages, phonics, creative writing, report writing, history, time alone with one child, games, movies…). You name it; someone feels guilty about not doing enough of it.
When I began to develop products for Brave Writer, I had one thought in mind: How do I help moms feel successful without requiring them to do more than they actually will?
In other words: how can I help them to succeed? In reality?
Many programs promise the illusion of success (follow these five steps, keep this 36 week schedule, order your days around this daily lesson). Then you get two weeks in, life happens, and the plan goes out the window.
What follows is this: the big “give-up.” You think the practice isn’t working for you so you quit it and head out in search of the next better thing. But what really happened is life. You couldn’t sustain the pace of the practice as dictated by the schedule or the program and mistakenly thought the practice was to blame.
Brave Writer is organized (I use that word loosely) around the principle that even one time is valuable in the education of your child.
One copywork passage done conscientiously and with care is much better than never doing it. If that is the only passage ever copied in the child’s entire life, so be it. It counts. It matters. It is a part of the whole fabric of education, and created a learning moment. It’s a learning moment that will lodge itself in between all other learning moments—it doesn’t disappear. It’s not wasted simply because your child never copied another passage for the rest of his or her life. It’s not a bad practice just because in your family, you never got to it again.
If you can start with the principle that even once is valuable, you can forgive yourself for not continuing if that’s how it goes. You can celebrate the One Time. You can say with confidence: “We did copywork once. It was an interesting experience. My child completed the passage in her own hand. It looked nice. I saw how it works for learning. I was proud of her for doing it.” End of discussion. No need to denigrate the practice inside yourself to justify not ever doing it again. It may not fit with your life or your child’s current habits. But that one time, copywork was completed and appreciated.
What would happen if that was how you saw each act in homeschooling? Rather than judging yourself, what if you savored and appreciated any single thing you got done or savored or tried and tested?
So you did one poetry teatime in a year…that’s ONE poetry teatime more than you might have done. That’s ONE rich experience of poetry and family. One is WAY better than none.
Is two better than one? Well, find out. After nine months go by and you realize you never did get the weekly idea of poetry teatimes going, why not just stop what you’re doing and have another teatime now? Two! TWO in a year! Wow. Good for you! Two rich teatime and poetry experiences shared by you and your children. Awesome!
You don’t have to nature journal every week. You might only enjoy nature one month this year because it was sunny and you got a new puppy who needed to take walks in the woods. So you enjoyed nature, you hiked, you pointed to unnamed birds, you breathed the clean air, you stopped in the nature center and looked at picture books. Bam! Nature study. One month of four walks with a puppy.
Who knows? Maybe next year you’ll try again and this time bring a field guide and name one of the birds. Maybe in a year you’ll have the toddler walking rather than riding in the backpack. Now you can identify a few trees. But maybe you won’t. Maybe that one year, one month is it. Let that be okay!
I never did a very good job of well-organized science education. Yet when I look back, we hit science (literally due to my recurrent guilt) repeatedly throughout my kids’ childhoods. We used kits, or we’d surge for a month doing some kitchen chemistry experiments, or we’d go to an observatory and use a telescope, or we joined the zoo and studied animals. These were the science lessons of youth. Not structured through a book, but on the whole, at the end, I can see that we did keep “hitting” science and those “single” experiences were rich indeed! They created the tapestry of science in our homeschool. Amazing.
Here’s the thing.
Your children won’t remember what you did every day or how frequently you did any of the plans you execute. What they will remember are RICH EXPERIENCES.
Have them! One is WAY better than none.
Once you have one experience, you may want to have two. If you have two, it’s possible you’ll gear up for a third. If the whole thing starts to feel comfortable or stimulating, you will want to do it a fourth time. Eventually, you may do it a bunch of times. And those “bunches of times” may be every week for two months, then nothing for two months, then every day for two weeks, then every other day for a month. There is no rule here for HOW you hit the practices. Some moms will love the structure of knowing what to do when, but others are positively crushed by that kind of systematic structure.
You get to decide. For you.
Many times is wonderful. Many times looks different in each family. Once you’ve hit many times in any practice:
Stop! Drudgery, dullness, tedium—these are the enemy of home education and learning. When a practice becomes so rote that everyone moans, switch to the next thing. Take a break.
Routine is wonderful, comforting, predictably pleasing (even if not exciting like a brand new shiny toy).
But drudgery is not routine. Drudgery is a practice that lost its luster. Trade it in. Do something else. Do ONE new thing ONE time.
Keep the cycle going: of trying new things, enjoying habits, and affirming your efforts, whatever they may be!
Cross-posted on facebook. Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie