Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Homeschooling IS Getting Harder For Me

One common comment from people who don’t homeschool, which is sometimes stated as a statement and other times is posed as a question is, “Wow, homeschooling, that must take a lot of work” or “it must be hard”.

When my children were just a bit younger I would immediately proclaim, “no” and would smile and say something to indicate it was great fun and games and really not all that hard. Most people didn’t believe me. Well, it was true for me at that time; I was being honest, although I was not usually believed I was still telling my truth.

Not too long ago we were homeschooling in a relaxed manner, and before that, with learner-driven learning aka unschooling. It seemed that my children had a long time ahead of them to grow up in and plenty of time to learn certain things. Back then they were happy playing with homemade salt dough or painting and drawing.

Something shifted this year though. And I am no longer dealing with the above comment from non-homeschoolers in the same way.

Before I say any more I will state for the purposes of your understanding that my now 6.5 year old (first grader) is precocious and also he acts more like a nine year old. In fact he behaves better and is more verbally expressive than some ten year old’s I know. So whatever you have in your mind as a typical “first grader”—that is not what I have here. I basically have two children of different ages doing the same grade level work, and that in and of itself is not always easy.

It is getting harder to homeschool my children. I imagined they’d be teaching themselves more when they got older, but they still need things explained to them. I mean, the way we homeschool is not set up with textbooks or materials that have the curriculum teaching directly to the child—that is not how we do it.

Last year, I was horrified to realize that when my older son was in third grade he was not automatically spelling everything right (as he did in his spelling lesson) or that he wasn’t using proper capitalization or punctuation. I thought that since he did well on his spelling lesson that forever after that the words would be spelled correctly, I was wrong. After all that independent reading and looking on as I read aloud to him, I thought he’d have learned it on his own, simple stuff like that the first word in a sentence is upper case. Additionally working with grammar/language arts things in a Classical/Charlotte Mason style did not work for that child. The lessons went great, it is true, he knows what a proper noun is and how to write one out, but when it comes to actual writing disconnected from that lesson, it was not happening. Then I tried regular workbooks such as are used in schools, those were done easily but the “real life” application was still not there. Something was amiss. I ended up buckling down more and pushing MORE academics on both of my kids this year. (The poor younger one deals with the syndrome of “being lax on grammar didn’t work for the earlier grades for your older brother so now you’ll learn it starting in Kindergarten!”.

And now that my older son’s fourth grade year is nearly over, it suddenly seems that we don’t have forever left until he leaves for college. Suddenly instead of that time seeming very far away---like looking for the end of the Earth while gazing at the sea from the beach, it now looks to me like an eight year countdown is just about to begin—like a short set of stairs with just eight steps and the top doorway is the college campus.

I take this new vision to mean that I have to teach more than before and cram it all in, in time. And not just that, he must actually learn the material not just passively sit by while I ‘teach’ it. Yes, he is expected to know it, to learn it, and to master it.

As well my older son’s hormones are changing. He is getting more testy and masculine. The increasing levels of testosterone are showing themselves. This makes parenting a little more difficult. I have now moved from the mother who is perfect and can do no wrong to one that makes her son to terrible things like brush his teeth and put his dirty clothes in the hamper. How terrible am I?

Additionally it is true that I do spent time thinking about our homeschooling and planning and designing our curriculum. This is taking more and more of my personal time. What I do is just not the same as what the families do who order a school-in-a-box (like Calvert). Perhaps what I do would be viewed by some homeschoolers as “over thinking things” or putting myself though a lot of analysis and prep work instead of just following some list or buying some big curriculum and not worrying what else is on the market or what other different things we could do.

We are doing things the way I want and the way I like, believe me, but I am not going to be dishonest---this takes time and energy.

So lately if people make a statement to me that homeschooling must be hard or time consuming I don’t even respond. If they ask it as a question I now reply that yes, it does take my time and energy and yes, sometimes it is hard. Sometimes, if I’m allowed the opportunity to continue I will also say that the work is rewarding and enjoyable, in addition to being hard work and time-consuming.

And in the midst of this homeschooling, real life is happening. I am still not in physical shape and am trying to exercise regularly and eat right. Close relatives are sick with Cancer, my two grandmothers health is ailing. Birthdays come and parties have to be planned and celebrations take place. The holidays creep up on me faster and faster, it does seem that as I am getting older time is going by more quickly. The seasons go on, the birds migrate back from their winter down south, and the world is still spinning. And all the while, we react to and cope with little things like the death of a pet, or a leaking fish tank that needs immediate tending, the car battery dies, and other such typical everyday things happen…

I’m just being honest when I say that homeschooling does take work and time and energy and no, it is not always easy, and yes, sometimes is can be quite difficult.

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Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Like anything else worth having, it is true that homeschooling takes work. Sometimes the work goes along nicely and everything seems to work. Then something changes and the work is more noticible. And sometimes adjustments take some time and effort. And sometimes, life really does get in the way.

Just keep blogging. You keep me honest!

JaneMarple said...

What I like to point out to those asking this type of question or making this type of comment, is twofold:

#1, the time and effort do not come on top of the time and effort they are putting out for school, it is instead of (or it is for most, some do combine this and I'm sure it is incredibly hard!).

#2, they are putting out time and effort toward their schooling that seems equally "hard" to me! I would much rather put in thinking and research on homeschool planning, and spend focused time with my kids, than have to whip two kids out the door every morning 180 days a year...

Kaber said...

homeschooling is actualy a lot easier for me. the first few years of homeschooling Ihad non rederd. two of mine didn't read until end of 4th grade (which is where the youngest is at now- just starting to really read and end of fourth grade) .. now they all read, and their asthma is better - no more treatments 4 times a day!)

The older two can do almost all their school on their own if they don;t need help. They can read and comprehend and ;earn it all independantly. My youngest still needs one on one, but now that he has started to read, he is really blossoming. I actually feel amost useless to them..LOL

Sherry said...

It can be hard, but it's so worth the effort. :-)

FatcatPaulanne said...

If you train them now, later on, they will be able to work on their own and it will get easier. My 14-year-old just goes in his room and gets it done, my almost-11-year-old checks off everything on a list and my 8-year-old needs a lot of help.

The worst thing for me about homeschooling is the multiplied housework and clutter. Otherwise, it's easier than the public school daily grind of getting up early, catching the bus, uniforms, homework (TONS) etc.

christinemm said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

One explanation is that with the style of homeschooling we use the lessons can't just be handed to the children to teach themselves. I know certain types of curriculum are geared toward that but it is not what we are using. For now I think it is better for us to use certain curriculums (i.e. Spelling Power, Math-U-See) that do require parental involvement to some extent.

One thing I slacked on for a while was correcting work such as the Math-U-See and a language arts workbook we use. Then when I caught up I realized errors had been made and we had to go back and revisit those things to make sure that my children really knew them.

Last week my son jumped ahead to a Math-U-See lesson which I didn't teach him. He started double digit mulitplication with NO instruction. The program is not set up to teach the child within the pages of the student's workbook. What a disaster, I'm glad I found him on the third page and stopped him. The way he made up to do double digit multiplication was wrong and wacky.

So anyway we just don't use systems or methods that would allow me to make a check list and send the kids off by themselves to teach themselves. Maybe over time we will move to those other systems but for now we're sticking with a basic classical style in which I design our own curriculum (as outlined well in The Well Trained Mind) and modifying it to use Charlotte Mason methods.

We do read-aloud's and we talk about what is read as well. That all takes my time.