Actually, it's not as bad as all that.
By close of business today, we should be almost finished with Week 14 of our 32 week curriculum. This is where I planned to be before we took our Christmas break. And that's not too bad, since I think Christmas break was to continue through last week. That's only one week behind.
I felt some guilt not doing much in the way of formal schooling that second half of December. There was no drilling of states and capitals, no struggling to remember that A-N-N was the same name all six times it appears in the same extremely short story, no recitation of poetry, and precious little solving for x.
On the other hand, we did manage to focus on other subjects. One thing I struggle to include in my kids' school day is art and music. Kat wrote about this recently, and I feel much the same way. Art involves messes made by little fingers - not those of the students, but of the toddler. Art is work - and requires creativity that I just don't feel I can summon from the depths of my exhausted being. As for music, I feel that Fritz's piano instruction covers it for him. Everybody else is left to watch Little Einsteins. That counts, right?
But in December, we had the time and I made the energy to step away from the checklist of school subjects and do more creative endeavors. We listened to music more during the day than usual. Before Christmas, it was mainly carols, and the kids sang along. Then everyone got some great CDs for Christmas: Sousa, Handel....the soundtrack to Happy Feet...and we listened to this good stuff all day long and even in the car while running errands. And with music and children, you also get dance. And that means everyone is having a good time.
For art, I still didn't include the dreaded medium: paint. But they did make some crafts from the Oriental Trading Company that required glue and glitter, which is bad enough. I and my kitchen survived. There was also lots and lots of coloring of Christmas cards for different people. Katie attended a craft co-op for Little Flowers where she went from station to station making different things. Billy spent days making cookies that looked like elves (very tedious). And Fritz used beads to make snowflake ornaments (also very tedious). On their own, with no TV, cold or rainy weather, and loads of free time, my kids often opt for drawing and coloring (when they're not perfecting sibling torture techniques). And so, these worthy pursuits were what filled those fantastic weeks surrounding Christmas.
Ideally, I envision school on a beautiful spring morning. We are outdoors in the shade of an old oak tree. One child is sitting at an easel capturing the bucolic view with watercolors. Another is reading aloud from a book of poetry, while two others rehearse a flute and violin duet. Someone is lying on their stomach with a math book pondering geometric theorems. The younger ones are studiously observing the local invertebrate population and discussing various schemes to track a single ant with a yet-to-be-invented microscopic GPS system. Doesn't that sound lovely?
We are a far cry from this vision. Not only are there no verdant pastures to be seen, we don't own an easel or a flute! I realize, though, that the children in that vision are many years older than my current brood. Perhaps someday we'll come closer to this picture in my head, and art and music will be naturally incorporated in our everyday school day. Even if my artist is painting a still-life instead of our tiny, muddy backyard.