The boy is approaching the end of his second official year of homeschooling. We enrolled in a home learners' distributed learning program for his kindergarten year, then stepped away from that and registered as independent homeschoolers for this 2013/14 year. Oh, the blessed relief! It has been truly perfect for us.
The preschooler, meanwhile, is learning right along with us. He sits beside us as we read our math stories. He has finished writing out the dwarves' song and moved onto other Hobbit lines during our dictation time together. We read all the same books and do all the same activities. It has been working well, and his eagerness and enthusiasm is encouraging.
Throughout it all, however, I think of him as being two years younger than the boy. The boy could do this two years ago; it should be about his level now. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't, but I've been finding myself feeling quietly frustrated at times. Why can't he do this? His brother could do it two years ago.
But he's not two years younger than his brother. He's two years and eight months younger - and, it turns out, eight months is a lot of months. His brother is about to turn seven while he's still quite newly four.
Eight months is a lot of months.
But there's an even bigger issue at play here. One of our primary reasons for homeschooling was to give our children the gift of an individualized education. They could run ahead with their passions. They could take the time they need to master their challenges. So even if those eight months didn't exist, I have no right to expect that one child should do what another child was able to do at that age. There's no one-size-fits-all requirement with homeschooling. And I know this - I know it, I share it, I'm passionate about it - and yet I forgot to practice it for a little while.
I've remembered now.
There are these lessons that I need to be reminded of over and over. Give it time. Don't rush. Don't try to do everything at once. Provide a learning rich environment and then trust that they will learn.
And perhaps most of all, relax.