I've been so immersed in my Waldorf books this week as prep for this series of posts that I haven't had any time to read blogs all week, and now I see what I've been missing. I love this passage by Willa:
There will be slow days, thorny days, miraculous days. But if you are there, they will be good days. They will balance themselves out in the long run. You will see what needs to be done, and do it.
Homeschooling is an art more than a science. Knowledge helps make the art better, but it is not the art itself. The art is in actually living like a homeschooler, in season and out, trying to do your best but keeping an openness to the not so good days. Learning from them but not letting them ruin what you ARE doing.
That's just what I was getting at yesterday with my lists of what we did and didn't do in the course of the day. Charlotte Mason talked about narration as a technique for discovering what a student actually knows about a subject, as opposed to various testing strategies that in effect show what the student doesn't know. She wasn't writing from a self-esteem-boosting, "focus on the positive" standpoint; she talks about the subject in a very pragmatic manner, suggesting that the positive information (what the student knows) is far more useful for both student and teacher than a paper full of wrong answers, because in looking at what the student remembers about a subject well enough to narrate it, we see how the student connects with the knowledge, forms a relationship with it.
I think the principle applies perfectly to how a homeschooling mother might assess the "success" of a day of learning. It's all too easy to get hung up on the deficits, the weaknesses, the miles yet to go. But that information is really only useful insofar as it relates to the somewhat arbitrary timetables slapped on skill sets and knowledge categories by external parties.
More useful, in my opinion, is a good look at what the children do know, what they have connected with, because this view gives me the opportunity to strew the path with books or experiences that might expand the connection even further.
I think this also keeps me looking at who my children really are instead of viewing them as sort of shadowy figures behind a superimposed amalgam of the accomplishments, habits, and knowledge I would like them to possess.
On the topic of rhythm, Jeanne Faulconer has shared an excellent article she published in the Virginia Home Education Association newsletter a while back.
Despite not being able to figure it all out, I continue to try to hit any homeschooling challenges with my rhythm hammer. A lot of times, it works. I can attempt to organize our time with attention to rhythm, and I can counsel myself to be patient with a child who learns in a "two-steps-forward, one-step-back" rhythm. And when the cobwebs mount in our brains I can walk my boys down to the river to catch crayfish and skip rocks. Even if I ultimately have to use another tool to resolve a particular homeschooling challenge, considering rhythm gives me insight and helps me generate alternatives and potential solutions.