As I've mentioned, this year my children are on opposite preschool schedules, which leaves me with one morning a week alone with each boy. Since I work a couple days a week and am an over scheduler by nature, I was really looking forward to the time to spend unstructured quiet time with each one of the boys. My husband, hyper competitive overachiever that he is, suggested that I use the time to "work" with each boy. He has been noting of late that several friends of ours with children Cade's age are more advanced in certain areas, such as World Geography, Spelling, and Spanish. He worries that because our boys are so close and age and life with them has been so hectic, we have somehow stunted their academic progress for life because we haven't adequately drilled them on the names of all 7 continents (there are 7, right?). The truth is, it is impossible to impart any sort of structured learning when they are around each other. The presence of a flashcard, workbook, or map just becomes another item to fight over. However, I reluctantly agreed that we probably COULD be doing more to encourage development in the area of phonics and counting at the least. And so, I added the job description of Director of Instruction to my resume (along with Chauffer, Laundress, Housekeeper, Social Secretary, Accountant, and Short Order Cook). With some skepticism, I might add, because my oldest has not the longest attention span in the world. In fact, it may be the shortest.
We're now our second week into school and the home schooling program is coming along nicely. In a shocking turn of events, Cade not only tolerates the learning but relishes it! When Drew and Aaron pull out of the driveway, the first thing he asks to do is the workbook. So we usually tackle the workbook for 15 minutes, the Counting Bears game for another 10-15, and call it a day. No need for dad to know that we aren't exactly earning the 3 hour course credits we were supposed to rack up this semester, right?
After "workbook" time, it's on to the fun stuff. Today Cade asked to go on a walk, which means he wants to push the stroller to the fountain in the town square and goof off there. I was sorely tempted to tell him no and tackle the breakfast dishes and a load of laundry instead, but I really wanted to stick to my promise of enjoying time alone with each kid. So off we went. I noticed that since he was pushing the stroller and controlling the pace, we were walking slower than we usually do (I treat all walking, everywhere, anytime, as an opportunity for aerobic exercise). We checked out bugs on the sidewalk. We met the new neighbor, Beverly (who's actually not new - she's lived around the corner from us for 49 years and we've lived here for 6 yet we've never met each other before). We talked about Beverly's barking dog. We surveyed the "for sale" flyers in all our neighbor's yards. We watched a train pass. We flicked water on each other at the fountain. And we moseyed home. And I realized that Cade, who has always been my "wild" one, isn't really that wild when you really pay attention and listen to him. He's a sweet, thoughtful, and smart boy who sees the world through different eyes than I do. And today I was grateful to see it through his eyes.
The lesson learned for me was that although we all KNOW we should take time to be alone with each of our children, it doesn't always happen. Especially if they are close in age. Let's face it - if you can score a babysitter and rustle up the money to pay her, the last thing you want to do is leave one kid with her while you watch your other child drive his own stroller into every tree between your house and the neighborhood park. But I'm becoming rapidly convinced that maybe that's NOT the last thing I want to do. Whether we're doing workbooks or taking nature walks, Cade's a better home schooling teacher than I am.