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Cantaloupes and goals

Calvin and I have been talking a lot about units lately. It comes from some of the math he's been doing, most notably the word problems.

A measurement of anything requires definition of the unit being measured. If you plan on sending someone to the store to purchase 60 cantaloupes, it's imperative that the grocery list say "60 cantaloupes" because if it merely says "60" there's no telling what they'll come home with.

It follows that if you plan to measure your success it's imperative that you define the unit of such success. In homeschooling, at least in our state, setting the goals and declaring when they are met is entirely up to the discretion of the people at home. It's a wonderful freedom, but I have too often suffered from a lack of unit definition. I am a wishy-washy homeschooling parent, and by that I mean I'll mosey along thinking I'm doing okay, and then I'll happen upon another homeschooler's website where they're plowing through ten science projects a day, or twenty craft projects, or reading through both the Iliad and Odyssey at the ripe old age of five, and suddenly I feel rather like a failure.

The internet can be a lifeline, but it can also be dangerous. When we chose to homeschool we did so based on the belief that we could guide Calvin to a life of learning best at home, but we never had any grand plan in mind. No beloved curriculum to follow, not even a full-blown philosophy, and that has turned out to be a weak spot for me, because not knowing for sure what we are doing has left me vulnerable to a feeling of failure in the face of others' proclaimed successes; if I haven't defined a goal, then I cannot possibly declare a measurement of success.

Don't get me wrong—I'm not second guessing our choice, nor do I actually feel like I am failing on any deep level, it's just that I am chased by the constant, nagging feeling that I could be doing a whole lot better. Then today I found this article, a blog post that probably every homeschooling mom should read, the gist of it being that every homeschooling family has to decide what is right for them, that not every parent is going to love crafting, for example. She's right, of course, and it wasn't those words in particular that I needed to read, but they did remind me that in order to succeed, I have to be clear with myself about my goals, abut my units of success, so that when I see a family reading through all of Shakespeare's plays at the age of six, or the family traveling the world to study history, or the family doing thirty physics experiments a day, I will already know that these weren't my goals, and that I don't need to measure our days against theirs.

It sounds petty, it sounds simple, it sounds obvious, but the reminder is so welcome. So needed.

This afternoon, while Calvin and I sat in the driveway and tossed a football back and forth, he said to me "let's practice math!" (complete with exclamation point), so I started quizzing him on multiplication before I tossed the ball, and he asked me such hard questions as "what is 600 times 80,000?" before he tossed it back. He was cracking up, he was thinking, he was discovering (that the multiplication of numbers with lots of zeros wasn't harder just because of all those zeros). He was empowered in his own discoveries, and I thought, 'you know, this is what my goal really is: for him to be thrilled with learning, no matter the subect', and that definition will empower me until I realize how abstract it is, and then I'll obsess some more, but for now, things are all good.

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