5 Things I Learned in January

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The first month is in the books, for better or for worse. Just like every other January before, the habits and streaks did not happen. But nevertheless, we persist, killing our perfectionism and not giving up in doing both good and well.

#1. Laundry is relentless.

Just FYI: laundry waits for no mom. And, recall, that life is like laundry. It just keeps going. It will increase, yet seldom does it decrease.

In the last 3 years I’ve tried 5 or 6 different laundry routines: kids doing their own on their day, kids helping with the sorting and putting away while I run the loads, folding on my bed, folding on the couch, tossing laundry straight from the dryer into individual baskets for kids.

Guess what? Each of these works, but none of them changes the relentless nature of laundry. There is no magic bullet routine that keeps the laundry from getting out of control beyond doing it relentlessly.

The workable laundry routine is the one you work. End of story.

#2. A friendly math tutor needs a friendly math student.

So, this year my FJ daughter initiated a term we needed in our homeschool: friendly math tutor.

Instead of asking for math help, she asks for a friendly math tutor. It’s a little reminder to me that I need to come to the table with a smile and a cheerful teacher voice not with “let’s get this done” mode, which sounds like aggressive, mean mom to several of my kids.

However, friendly math tutor has a new requirement before she shows up. Friendly math tutor needs to be met by friendly math student – and that is not only friendly to the tutor, but also friendly to the math.

It’s neither friendly nor tutoring to tell the student the answers. If the student isn’t in friendly, wanting-to-engage-and-learn mode, there’s no point in the tutor being there.

Laps, walks, bike rides, cups of tea or water, piano practice – often the friendly math tutor must send a non-friendly math student to another task before they can meet over the math page.

A, twelve-year-olds.

#3. Plato is entertaining

So, I have a reading assignment. Brandy and I will be recording a Scholé Sisters episode with another friend as a followup to our previous conversation on Socratic Discussion. This friend sent us a message after that episode and said we should read and discuss an actual Socratic dialog as a followup, and we said, “Great idea! We’d love to! What do you recommend?”

The answer: Gorgias (I’m saying “gorgeous,” but I’m probably wrong), wherein Plato shows that rhetoric is flattery and not the way to wisdom or understanding.

So the recommended edition arrived in the mail and sat on my stack and I have avoided it for 2 months. Finally, deadline approaching, I picked it up. And promptly read 15 pages in a sitting (and it’s a thin book!), laughing out loud as I did.

It’s funny, engaging, clear, and interesting.

Honestly, friendly math tutor really needs to pick up some tips and tactics from the master here – and I suppose that was our friend’s point.

Socrates keeps the learning environment and conversation light and amusing and convivial, even while he pulls the rug out from people’s opinions and arguments (or, rather, makes them do it to themselves).

So, pass the word: Read some Plato. It’s not scary.

#4. I enjoy being on the receiving end of reading aloud.

For my Scholé Sisters 5×5 challenge, I would have happily chosen all non-fiction categories. But the point is to keep our reading wide and broad, and that means literature is needed as an anchor.

So, I knew P.G. Wodehouse had to be one of my fiction picks, because we own 3-4 titles I’ve never read (I only allowed myself to pick books we already own) and because I need the laughs.

Picking randomly, I chose “Heart of a Goof” from our shelf. My husband saw my choices on the 5×5 sheet and said, “Hey, that book is actually just some excerpts from The Golf Omnibus. You should read The Golf Omnibus.” Cringing a little only at having to “mess up” my already-written-in-purple-ink list, I accepted what I knew was a solid piece of advice and recommendation. Then, he sealed the deal. He said, “What if I read you a chapter in the evenings?”

My first experience of PG Wodehouse was Matt reading it aloud to me before we were married. We don’t always read aloud together, but when we do, it’s him reading Wodehouse to me. I love it. The only thing better than reading Wodehouse is reading with someone else so you can legitimately laugh out loud together instead of snickering under your breath.

#5. We don’t need clear tables to homeschool.

I, of course, prefer beginning our homeschool days with clear tables and counters and all our supplies where they should be.

This January, that wasn’t possible because our prime working area was also the prime working area for the master bathroom remodel project my husband has underway. Due to weather and temperature and those sorts of things, he couldn’t leave the pieces in progress in the garage. So, we homeschooled around them for a week.

Many of you put up with much more construction chaos or space limitations, but this was ours this month. It was a visible, strong reminder that the situation doesn’t have to be perfect or under my control for us to all keep doing our work faithfully and cheerfully.

Bonus: Read in January

Continued reading:

  • Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Entire Bible (lifetime read)
  • Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (philosophy)
  • Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (school reading)
  • A Short History of the World by Roberts (history)
  • Foundations, R.C. Sproul (audio, theology – finishing from last year)

Finished reading:

  • Kenilworth, Sir Walter Scott (novel)

Started reading:

  • Mere Discipleship (whim)
  • True Spirituality (reread, theology – for our Bible study)
  • Gorgias, Plato (philosophy)
  • The Golf Omnibus, Wodehouse (novel)

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