Fun or Reason?

Before we left for our 9-week trip back in May, I had made a deal with our daughter: when she finished the three workbooks I was bringing along, she would be promoted to 2nd grade. I calculated that she needed to complete only three pages a day to make it happen. Since we were traveling to six different destinations, with flight times of up to 11 hours each, I had imposed we do our homeschool as soon as we boarded a plane and BEFORE any screens were allowed to be turned on. Less than a week before our flight back to Hawaii, she did the last exercise of the last page of the last workbook.
Mission accomplished. I was now the mom of a second grader.

Once home, I proclaimed an official summer break. I had sales tax reports to file, a 9-week backlog of mail to sort out and process, phone calls to return and naps to take (let’s not underestimate the disruptive powers of jetlag).
Two weeks have passed and I want to resume our schooling in a few days. It’s planning time.

My order of 33 books has arrived from Amazon France. Everything we used last year is on my bedroom floor so I can evaluate what makes it back into our daily basket. I’ve downloaded more than enough resources to keep us going until graduation, yet I still don’t actually know what we’re going to do. Before I get down to the nitty-gritty details, I need to be clear on the overarching philosophy that will guide our homeschool this year. At this point, I am anything but… I feel torn.

Photo of Sarah Badat Richardson with daughter

As a parent, I tend to fall into the “authoritarian” category. I am definitely not my kid’s friend. I have high expectations and defined consequences for not meeting my expectations. For the most part, this parenting style works for all of us and has benefited our mother daughter relationship. I am strict but fair. I enforce rigorous discipline but I can be flexible. I am not her friend but I am a very loving mother. My daughter and I are close.

In my role as a teacher however, the authoritarian style may not be best. After all, beyond teaching her to read and write, I want to teach her that learning is exciting and worth pursuing for the rest of her life; that asking the right questions is more important than having all the answers; that a fascinating world awaits in books and online with resources she can tap into to acquire any skills she desires to master.
Try selling this to a 7 year old! Seeing the big picture is not a kid’s strength.

There are two very distinct voices in my head that pull me in very different directions.

One voice (I’ll call it the fun voice) tells me to take this year and just enjoy my little girl because she won’t be little much longer. She grew an inch in two months, lost her two front teeth and is generally transforming inside and out in front of our eyes. The fun voice wants me to focus on our relationship this year; to play games and read books for hours; to forget requiring anything, to remove any source of friction and just go with the flow. She can learn to write in cursive when she’s 8, 9 or 10. She can master her math facts in a little while longer. She can read or not: phonics are not more important than the enjoyment of books and stories.
The fun voice urges me to craft a passion driven homeschool, a laid back homeschool, where we mostly explore her interests, read all day and don’t worry too much about anything else. There’s always later for that.

The other voice (I’ll call it the voice of reason), reminds me that Life is not all fun and games; that following our passion also requires that we do some tedious work at times. Reason wants me to empower her for life, with good habits and an impeccable work ethic.

Is it ever too young to learn to forge ahead and not quit, especially when something is hard?

Reason warns me that a routine solely based on fun may very well backfire in the short term and surely cannot serve her well in the long term.
Phonics may be mind-numbing but they are the key that unlock the magic of the written word.
Math facts may be boring but extremely useful for almost everything else.

So what will it be? Fun or Reason?
It seems obvious that it should be both but not so simple to achieve. That is my challenge as I scour the internet in search of the perfect solution, as I scribble feverishly in my notebook in hopes of crafting an elusive perfect homeschool.
A homeschool, where both the comfort of home and the rigors of school complement each other harmoniously.
A homeschool where my roles as mother and teacher complete rather than compete with each other.
A homeschool where, day by day, book by book, conversation by conversation, our ultimate goal of raising a competent, kind and fulfilled adult becomes a reality.

Wish me luck!

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