Lines between school and home can become amazingly blurred in a homeschool. I teach on so many fronts – it’s sometimes difficult to tell when I’m just doing standard mothering, when I’m teaching character, or when I’m instilling study skills. Like most mothers, headway is often difficult to discern. Any assurances of progress are usually small and seemingly out of the blue. The children are so like me; I’m tempted to excuse our common faults. But as their teacher, I must stay vigilant to objectivity in order to teach proper behavior. But I am still human….
My youngest son got a new bell for his bike. You know the type: the little, round, metal one that sounds a lot like the fire alarm at school. Anyway, my son came out this morning to find it didn’t work. Perfectly silent. Like the smart kid he is, he took it apart and instantly realized that the dual “pizza-cutter piece” was missing. He came crying to me and I unsympathetically told him if he didn’t take it apart, he wouldn’t lose the pieces. He insisted he had dismantled it only for diagnostic purposes, and that someone else was to blame for this. I noted that he had explained himself clearly and semi-calmly, so progress is happening. I dutifully marched into teen brother’s room and accused him outright of pulling one of his standard tricks on little brother. He admitted with a chuckle that this was a great idea, but unfortunately, he had not done it this time. Hmm. That was pretty straightforward; I’ll trust him. (Reminder to self: take crow out of freezer for dinner.) At that exact moment, a loud argument broke out in my daughter’s room with the still-disgruntled victim. She was livid that he wouldn’t stay out of her room when she was trying to focus on schoolwork. Well, now that sounds odd, but I issued a blanket order to anyone within earshot: whoever dismantled the bell needed to produce the missing part – now. Amazingly, nobody stepped forward. (It works sometimes…) Just for good measure, I looked at my daughter and asked if she had his part. No. I didn’t expect she would, but then she blurted a stream of only semi-coherent vehemence. She did not have his part, “but the stupid bell is so loud that it jangles the entire neighborhood. He’s driving everybody crazy with it.” I cannot believe what I’m deducing: she, the non-mechanical one, has effectively disabled his bell with no visible trace. But, she was honest; the piece was not presently in her possession. I do need to learn to ask better questions. At my glare, she angrily retrieved the part and restored the little devilwork to order. I realized that our science lesson last month had been a success: she had run my experiment in reverse, using the scientific method to achieve her goal of silence in the yard. Too funny – but at least she’s keeping the boys in check.
A couple Saturdays ago, I had to run an unexpected errand for my husband, who was across town. I quickly instructed the big kids on what the littles would need before I returned while I threw on my shoes and grabbed the car keys. I greeted the neighbor boys who had come over to play basketball and jumped in the car. It was then that I noticed the garage door was halfway up, jammed diagonally in the frame and definitely off its track. That looked dangerous – if it fell, it could seriously hurt a wee one. I asked my second son what’d happened. “No biggie, Mom. Just a little glitch. Nothing teen boys can’t handle. You run along and don’t worry your pretty head about a thing.” That was the end of the conversation. (He’s a keeper, that one.) He and his buddy smiled and waved like nothing was wrong, and off I went with a hesitant sigh. An hour later when I returned, it was, in fact, good as new, and no little brothers were injured in the process. Both boys were rewarded with an admiring smile and a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies. I hadn’t really doubted them, but they showed me something bigger: they’ve become manly men who can handle any small emergency with finesse and competence. They are not sheltered mama’s boys like our detractors feared. And I truly didn’t have to “worry my pretty little head” over it!!
But then there was the afternoon I asked the two middle kids to mop the floor, since they were strong enough to handle a large bucket, diligent to stay focused on a task, and had been trained in the proper amount of cleaner per floor space to be covered. I came home to a beautifully sparkling floor with all chairs and tables replaced perfectly. The last of the children were still in the shower, and the oldest told me that all of them had gotten involved in the mopping and had gotten wet. He’d ordered everyone cleaned up before Mom returned. Perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I must be a really great mom to have such amazingly great kids. It was two weeks before I was sweeping behind the dining table and noticed the large hole in the wall. As the story dribbled out over another week, it appears they had completely soaped the entire floor and, since there were more children willing to help than mops available, everyone was issued a towel with which to scrub. It quickly devolved into playing slippy-slide in the abundant suds through the kitchen and dining room. They had a grand time perfecting the shine. Until someone (nobody’s telling who, but I can narrow it down considerably by the size of the hole) got going too fast and collided knee-first with the wall. The oldest were quick to point out the durability of our fine home; a mobile home would’ve let them out into the yard, Mom! The following day, we had a lesson on proper repairs of drywall…. and I’ve never found another hole! Hmmm; wonder if I just instructed them on proper coverage of indiscretions?
Today, though, took the cake. It’s getting hot in Texas. My oldest son loves the heat, but humidity is too much. He has been following current events and devouring commentaries trying to develop his debate skills. He’s probably the most outspoken of my children, and nothing escapes his quick wit. He walked in and casually mentioned we need to send a letter to the weather controllers up in Washington. “This is just unacceptable for early May. It was never this hot and humid under Bush!” Uh, yeah… but for once, I’m at a loss for words.