A Chink in the Armor

May 2014

May 2014

I’ve decided to begin this story chronologically. I don’t know if that is how I will continue, but for now let’s go back to April 2014. You know what? T.S. Eliot was right. April is the cruelest homeschooling month. Because in April, all I can see is everything we have not done. All those detailed plans and intricate projects over which I labored all spring and summer? So very few of them were completed. And no matter what we had actually accomplished, I couldn’t see any of it in April. Which left the month of May to make up for all of it. Poor May. Poor us.

In doing my Big Paper Planning, I had slated Medieval History for May. Why in the world did I think a major history block *and* a related research paper sounded like a good idea for the last month of school? Ay yi yi. It was not a good idea at all. I will spare you most of the gory details, except to say there came a day where I was certain Vincent would likely wind up in analysis because of an unexplainable fear when anything related to the Middle Ages was mentioned.  I called it quits after about two weeks of being at constant loggerheads. Our “Waldorf-inspired homeschooling” consisted of two audio books and two documentaries. We listened to Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz (incredible, by the way) and the audio version of The Story of the World: Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer (mediocre, at best). We also watched (yes, watched) two (fabulous) PBS adaptations of David Macaulay’s books: Castle and Cathedral.

Thanks to these drastic measures, we survived last May more or less intact. I filed everything that happened under “cutting my losses” and started planning with a vengeance for next year. And what a year I was planning! Ummm . . . what is that they say about the best laid plans? Oh boy, was I going to find out.


Just for kicks, I went back to see what I had posted in this space last May. Read this. I wrote that at the very beginning of the month and once again, the prescience renders me silent. A bit later in the month – I’m pretty sure it was after I scrapped formal main lessons – I posted this. The slightly frenetic tone is a small indicator of the sense of urgency and overdrive I was starting to feel.

If I could go back with a year’s worth of hindsight and a bucketful of kindness, I would tell myself a few things. Breathe. Go Slowly. Be gentle with yourself. I know you won’t believe me, but everything is going to be all right. Even better than all right. Come next May, you will have a rock-solid certainty at your core and a joy-filled lightness at the edges of your fingertips. It won’t be easy, but you will get there. For now, just trust me. I’ve got your back.

** Read the next part of this story here.

May 2015

May 2015

22 thoughts on “A Chink in the Armor

  1. Hi! What a perfect post. I find the spring time so frustrating with homeschooling. My kids are ready to be free and I feel a huge amount of guilt for the multitude of failed projects. I am not even sure if I want to come up with a plan for next year. I always spend a lot of time on it, yet it doesn’t do much except cause anxiety. Hopefully my boys will give me more direction in their interests. I want to go towards project learning a bit more. Enjoy you summer.

    • My brain shuts off right at Memorial Day. It’s like clockwork. I finally started honoring that internal rhythm and stopped planning anything beyond that. We do our testing in June which is totally no-pressure and more of a state-required formality.

  2. I have to giggle a bit at this post because I relate so much to it. I always have grand plans. I make monthly plans, weekly plans and the kids have daily plans. Every year, they go wasted. Ok, maybe not wasted but surely not used as I intended. We are full steam from August to February- then it all stops. We start to play more and do “school” work less, but I swear to you that they learn more in those last months than they do all year. My husband craves the schedule and the stability of the plan which is why I think I make one each year. I crave the ability to have a plan in my head and make it fluid with our lifestyle. We even each other out well. As long as our children are healthy (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), I feel we are moving in the right direction. SO no matter what you “planned” to do, you are following the path that you were meant to follow and your children are learning so much from it!

    • Amen Sharon!!

      Like I said to Blythe below, I have a lot more to say about the whole planning thing. And like you, we look a lot more “schooly” during our first semester, but again, like you said, I don’t think they learn any more than they do when it looks less so.

      It’s a bit of a mind game for sure.

  3. This is a wonderful post. I love a plan, and it never works out as I intend. I just looked at the book list I had for S at the beginning of this year…let’s just say he got through one and a half of five of the novels. But he did a lot of other reading on his own so I really am okay with it. I look forward to reading about more of the breakthrough/breakdown and I love the photos!

    • I keep composition books every year to hold all my plans, notes and ideas and I recently re-read the one I started last May. Oh. My. Stars. It was painful. All I could see was my over-compensation . . . for what exactly, I don’t know. What it has all boiled down to is trusting myself and living in the truth. I have one already started for next year, but the feel of it is so different. I have a few ideas about spines I want to use, a basic outline for both boys and that’s about it.

      It’s the details that are the bugger for me. When I start to get into too many little specifics – that’s when I get myself into trouble. Big time.

      Well, it’s 11am. Tom should be pulling into your sweet little town any moment. He left at 5 o’clock this morning. I told him not to take a nap at the rest area like you did. LOL

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your journey here. My kids are still really young but I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to approach this whole homeschooling thing. Sometimes I read about Waldorf homeschooling and think the mother’s are either a) way better at this whole thing than I am or b) martyrs. Not to say that you are a martyr. Just to say that I don’t want to adopt an approach to home education that will leave me feeling like I’m never measuring up. Or that my kid isn’t measuring up. I waffle between Waldorf and Charlotte Mason and unschooling and some of those approaches are much more forgiving of the “teacher” than others seem to be. I think we all need to find the joy in it, because if it’s not joyful (at least some of the time) then why do it at all? I certainly don’t have it any more figured out than the next mama.

    • Hey Sweet Annie!
      I know those feelings intimately, on so many levels. What I can tell you is this: there was a day this year, maybe late fall, where I distinctly remember walking onto my side porch and having this intense aversion to anything and everything related to Waldorf homeschooling. I remember thinking “It’s too effing much. And I’m not doing it anymore.” I don’t know if I would put myself in the martyr camp (and I didn’t take your words like that AT ALL). I’m just not built like that. My weakness is the “overdrive” that somehow fools me into believing that over-planning, over-connecting, over-engaging will PROVE – once and for all – that I am not inadequate!! My journey was to begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, I was enough.

      And I want to distinguish between joy and fun. Life is not fun all the time – neither is homeschooling. Surprise, surprise. LOL But at the core, there needs to be a deep joy for what I am doing everyday. That is what I had lost.

      I would encourage you to remember what drew you to Waldorf in the first place. And for that matter, CM and unschooling. Remember that. Tattoo it on your body. Because I really, really believe that is the voice of your soul that found an echo in these forms of education. The rest of the crap can take a hike.

      Thanks for commenting.
      I’m glad you’re (still) here.

      • Yes to all of this and to everyone else’s comments. This is a great community you’ve fostered. It really does help to know that others are grappling with these big questions.

  5. “With a year’s worth of hindsight and a bucketful of kindness…(love those words) everything is going to be alright. Even better than alright.” It is an amazing journey, isn’t it? Balance is my word of the week. And it applies to planning as well…if we underplan, we feel like we’re flying by the seat of our pants; but if we overplan, we feel like a failure because we never get to it all. I really appreciate the educational terms the “planned curriculum” and the “learned curriculum.” They are never the same thing. There’s even a third thing in between – there’s what we plan, what we actually end up doing, and what the children learn. All much more fluid than we would like to admit when we’re sitting down with pencil and paper (or even post-it notes)! The art of planning is in creating a plan and then letting go of the outcome. Plans aren’t meant to work out exactly as we create them!!!

    • (Picture me channeling my inner-Alison at the moment, bc I’m not really sure if this relates, but I’m going with the spirit right now. LOL You know how she can do that with such unbridled enthusiasm and unbelievable grace?!?) There is a quote by Lynda Barry that I love: “There is the drawing you are trying to make and the drawing that is actually being made. And you can’t see what you are really drawing until you forget what you were trying to draw in the first place.”

      My goal for planning going forward is to provide enough structure to ground me, yet enough freedom to allow me to rest in the present moment. When I was compulsed with over-planning, I was not looking at my boys. I was looking at my effing plans. (I can see RS up there, shaking his head!) You know how I have struggled with the feelings of not being enough. What I have come to oh-so-very-recently is that at the base of those feelings was a lack of trust in myself. It has been a slow, yet exponential process, but I can now say, yes, I do trust myself.

      And just for the record: I’m fucking enough.

      It’s always good to remind myself.

      Miss you.

      • LOVE your candor! You are effing enough! So am I! Maybe we need to remind each other of that regularly!
        “Everything is going to be alright. Even better than alright.” So true! Trust!
        Beyond grateful to be walking with you my dear friend!

  6. Yes! You are enough!!! And for sure, as a recovering over-planner myself, I know it comes from being worried that I won’t be enough, do it well enough, etc. etc. etc. I LOVE the quote by Lynda Barry, there is something about doing the planning and then letting it go, or holding it more loosely…I remember a moment last year at Taproot when we were talking about navigating unknown waters, and Alison and I said YOU as the Moms will be set adrift as well (I’ve found it tends to directly correspond with having kids in 7th or 8th grades) and you will emerge from this year a different person! Alison and I talked afterward about how impossible that is to get until you go through it. And here you are! (RS never wrote about the Mom’s journey, or the homeschooling journey for that matter! He is for sure shaking his head up there, because he SAID the inner work is the key.) It’s very hard to trust when you don’t trust, but we can help each other remember that it really does all work out in the end. (And if it hasn’t all worked out, it’s not the end yet!) xoxo

    • This thread is blowing my mind. I am writing this on my phone from the Chicago apartment. I am definitely “unbridled” but perhaps not the most graceful at the moment. I feel rather like a French mistress wallowing around drinking tea and wine and eating chocolate… But anyway where were we? I just love that Barry quote too.. Pay attention to the drawing being made…. I love the idea of planning in a way that allows for something unplanned to emerge from the underlying structure you create. That allows for surprise and mystery and maybe even a little danger to become elements of the “drawing being made.” It seems older students and adults love to be part of this sort of “plan.” But maybe that is the French mistress in me talking 😉

    • I wish I would have taken more notes at Taproot. LOL
      But this is the stuff you can’t plan for, nobody can tell you about and notes are ultimately no help.
      I’m glad to be (mostly) on the other side of it all.
      Putting words around it helps too.

  7. “Come next May, you will have a rock-solid certainty at your core and a joy-filled lightness at the edges of your fingertips. It won’t be easy, but you will get there. For now, just trust me. I’ve got your back.”

    What a hook! Can’t wait to read what happens next.


    ps – it is somewhat unnerving to go back to an old post and read my own comments LOL. A lot changes in a year ‘eh?

    At the moment I’m reflecting on how much I have changed – in a big picture kind of way. I feel as though I have had a series of lives in this lifetime, not just one, because some of the changes that have come my way have been…seismic. The choice to homeschool has been one of those and I’ve been so busy doing it that there’s just not been enough time to reflect on it – not in a meaningful way, deep and lingering, the kind of way that, really, I NEED to do. It feels like a conflict – spend time doing it or spend time reflecting on it, but I haven’t got time for both LOL. So that’s a sign of way too much doing I’d say.

    Love the Lynda Barry quote too.

  8. Pingback: Shipwrecked | Sure as the World

  9. Pingback: Let’s Talk About Homeschooling – Shall We? | Sure as the World

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