I am totally relating to Aunt Polly, ready to "whip" them one moment for some infraction, and then they do or say something so sweet, and I just melt. This morning I could not get them through breakfast and davening and 9 yo misplaced his siddur yet again and I was fuming, as I was trying to get schoolwork done before the baby would wake up and they were just not complying. As I was getting dressed, I heard that they started on davening, and, for once, they put their individuality aside, and were rocking together, singing in unison. They were both grinning, having good time, and saying everything clearly. Ah, such a pleasure for an eye to behold! What was I even mad about?
I have been getting more and more desperate about how little writing they are producing, how, despite copious and constant reading, they are hesitant spellers, how 7 yo throws a fit over any writing that he has to do. Since 9 yo finished parshat Noach, for his siyum I asked him to come up with a d'var Torah. I was thinking more along the lines of an outline, from which to speak. He did not seem too eager, but all of a sudden, he is writing an elaborate biography of Noach, with illustrations in the margins. He is putting in details, like freshly-plowed field, and the surrounding generation of sinners. I do not know how long he will keep it up, but this is the kind of writing that I was hoping to see.
I wish I was "unenlightened", could just stick to a few textbooks, a curriculum, present it to my boys, and make them follow it, for their own good. I wish that I knew that we only have to cover this much material in this amount of time, and then I can check off that my job is done, and done well. I wish that I could just measure this, give them a test, waive the mark in the air like a flag of victory and proclaim to all: here, this is working! My kids are becoming educated!
However, it is my nature to ruminate, think things through, and question myself. I know that my boys are very different in their approach to learning. I know that what worked with 9 yo will not necessarily work with 7 yo, and some things that I am doing with 7 yo would not interest 9 yo in the least. I know that just being tough and single-minded and ignoring the child's input into learning backfires. So I cannot just enforce and enforce.
Maybe I am doing my kids a disservice by keeping them at home, yelling at them, not having a clear, planned approach and a lesson for each day. The thoughts of sending them to school, especially the oldest, having been flashing through my mind lately. Around lunch time today, after a particularly grueling Lashon HaTorah and more yelling and tears and redoing, when we were alone, I asked him: do you want to go back to school? He said, no. I asked, why not? First he said, then I will not have fresh lunch (he was having a PBJ). I pressed a bit, and then he said that he would not be able to attend homeschool zoo classes. I asked if there is anything else, and he said that he does not like finishing his work in five minutes and then sitting around, waiting for everyone. He also does not like how they daven so close to z'man kriat shema, while at home he can daven at netz. Funny, since this morning if I haven't pressed, he would have missed that z'man.
There are no easy answers. There are ups and downs. Just like Aunt Polly, I feel that my boys will go far, unless we screw up somewhere along the way....