January-February 2008 Selected Content
Winter Doldrums - Karen Vogel
Winter's here, and we all know what that means--days and days inside with the kids and their tired schoolbooks, with rotting science experiments (at least, that's what I call the stuff in the back of the refrigerator) and never-ending piles of laundry that mock my feeble efforts to keep up with both the house and the kids' schooling. The sun doesn't shine, the snow refuses to fall, and no one can remember the last time we had any fun. We've all experienced those February doldrums--I know I'm not the only homeschool mother who becomes suddenly sick of winter, sick of whining, sick of being sick of my own kids. By mid-February, the simplest household chores become almost unbearable, as does the whining pitch of the four-year-old's voice and the demands of the toddler who just does not understand that Big Brother needs to graduate from ninth grade and he isn't going to be able to if she doesn't let Mommy help him with his algebra.
Let's face it, the February doldrums make us do strange things. One February, I was so sick of serving three meals a day, every single day, that I attempted to cut back to just two. I had the kids do their clean-up chores and a little schoolwork and then I served a nice big breakfast at 10:00 AM. I gave them dinner around 4:00 or 4:30 and tried to distract them with baths and books afterward. My plan didn't work, of course--the little monsters were on to me in no time and complained to Daddy. Another time I decided we needed a winter picnic to liven things up (and to get the heck out of the house). The idea would have worked out fine if only the kids hadn't kept crying about the cold. I guess I'm just lucky the neighbors didn't call the police.
My point is that the grinding repetitiveness of being a mother at home with your children day after day after day, in the middle of a winter that is apparently not ever going to end, is probably one of the single biggest reasons for our at least fantasizing about putting them all in school. It's not that you chose the wrong curriculum (so put down those catalogs, ladies). It's not the fact that your neighbors keep treating you like a traitor because your kids aren't attending school with their hypersocialized little brats. No, it's that if you have to say one more time, "Put your dish in the sink" or "Pick your book up off the floor," you may start screaming and never, ever, stop. And that could frighten the children, now couldn't it? So you dream about putting them in school, where they can preserve for themselves the illusion that their mother still loves them. And they can come home at 3 o'clock to a woman who is able to smile and serve them milk and cookies in a clean(!) kitchen because she has had six blessed hours alone in which to get something done.
Somehow I have always made it through these February doldrums (aside from such brief flashes of insanity as detailed above); and with my 13-year-old actually in school this year, I've finally realized that my fantasies of being a non-homeschool mother are probably a bit off the mark. I don't have a daughter who comes home from school refreshed and ready to have a good chat with her mother about her day. Her thoughts and her life center on school, not home. I don't know her friends; I don't know what she does all day; we have absolutely nothing in common. I think most families (non-homeschooling) actually live like this and think it is normal.
Well, I don't think it's normal. In fact, I think it's downright barbaric. And I'll endure those February doldrums for another sixteen years, thank you, because--believe it or not--every year they do end. There comes a beautiful early spring day in March when the ground is dry and the temperature struggles up into the sixties; and suddenly the clouds lift, and life is good again, and--miracle of miracles--I love my children. The whiny one finally stops whining. The toddler starts amusing herself. And algebra suddenly doesn't seem so gosh-darned important. So I say, "Hey, kids, let's put the books away and walk to the playground and have a picnic." And you know what? They are excited about that idea. They are not too cool and they are not too jaded to want to run outside and frolic in the newly warm spring air. With their mother. Whom they love. And who loves them.
And that is why it is worth homeschooling through February. Just hang in there, you hear?
© 2008, Karen Vogel