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August 2011
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Fun Friday

The school week began on Tuesday. Homework began on Tuesday afternoon. Gleek and Patch are in an accelerated learning program. It picks up immediately and moves at a brisk pace, expecting the kids to keep up. This, combined with the new school starting a full hour later than the schools of my older two kids, has dictated some adjustments to our family schedule. Gleek and Patch have two homework times each day. The first arrives just after breakfast when they are expected to study spelling/math facts/recitations. The second arrives after dinner when they have to complete daily assignments. If they don’t study in the morning, then they have to do it right after school instead of getting to run off and play. This is a far-cry different from the relaxed schedule I ran for them last year. Then my focus was on helping Kiki weather the emotional storm which was entering high school and surviving Algebra 2. This year Kiki’s academic schedule is very relaxed and it is time for the younger ones to stretch a bit.

So far the kids seem to be taking the shift in stride. Patch and Gleek have had complaints, but I don’t sense any true tension in them. They are engaged and happy in a way that they weren’t at their old school. I, on the other hand, am slogging through. I am the builder of the routine and holding life in this unfamiliar shape makes me tired. The endless small confrontations necessary to require homework and chores, exhaust me. It will get better. I know that it will. The things which are difficult now will become habit. I can already see how good the new structure is going to be for everyone in the family. It is just hard this week.

Good systems have rewards built in to them. So I decided that if my kids arrive at Friday morning with all their study work done, they get to have Friday morning off. I call it Fun Friday. If they want to play a game, I’ll make myself available to play with them. If they want to watch a show, play a computer game, or read a book; those will all be allowed. The only caveat is that they need to be ready to stop when the time comes to go to school. I think it is likely that there will be some weeks when Fun Friday feels harder to justify. There will be times with looming projects when logic dictates that the Friday morning hour be spent working. I’m going to do my best to make sure that Fun Friday is sacrosanct so long as they earn it by doing their regular work all week. I do such a poor job of carving out relaxation spaces for myself, I hope I can model something better for my kids. The truth is, I need fun Friday as much as they do. They are upstairs reading quietly and I do not have to stand guard while reading off the same spelling list that I’ve been dictating all week. Instead I am able to spool my thoughts out through my fingers, hopefully unwinding some tension in the process. So far this week, Friday is my favorite.

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