Saturday, September 22, 2007

Homeschool Open House Week in Review: Week 3

Homeschool Open House Week in Review
Week 3: September 17-23, 2007

Older son is aged 10 and in 5th grade.
Younger son is aged 7 and in 2nd grade.

I am sorry to report that the overall excitement about restarting homeschooling is over at this point. Real life intervened and problems have arisen and it just knocked the wind out of my sails.

I would say this week was a bit disappointing as we still have not found a nice rhythm to our days yet. When the homeschooling is getting done, the housework and laundry suffer. When I stop to do a laundry marathon, the lessons slack off. When I get the homeschooling done and the household stuff done, I have little time for my own self to take a breather. I would like to find a nice rhythm and have things flow nicely but that has not fallen into place yet. I am still trying to find a balance and a rhythm.

The best thing about this week is that we all really love the schedule, the fact that I did NOT over-schedule the kids. My boys have enough down time for free play at home, enough social time with friends for the homeschool park day and also for playdates with friends. We have breathing room in our days and it is NOT about rushing here and rushing there, worried about making it to the next appointment, which is what life was like for us last year.

My boys are really enjoying the outside classes and events that I’ve scheduled for them. They are elated about doing every single one of them and that is good. At some times in the past we were too busy and it got to a point where they took for granted the fun things they were doing. “Oh, time to go to that Audubon class again, ho hum”, was their attitude last year.

Bad news regarding the health of two elderly relatives was received this week. I will keep quiet about the major issue which has us all very upset. I will share the other big thing, that my grandmother (age 97) is now temporarily (or perhaps permanently) living with my uncle (which she is not happy about as she wants to remain in her own home and under her own control) while she recovers from an injury sustained after a fall. I fear she may be admitted to a nursing home which is something I really don’t want for her. This is the grandmother who lives 500 miles north of me, in the woods of Maine. On top of all of this my other grandmother who lives alone (age 88) is giving me the guilt trip that I am not spending enough time in my hometown, visiting her. Note that at the time she did that, we had just been to visit four days prior. I feel pushed and pulled by various people this week.

I have tried to stick to my homeschooling plans, to get done what I think is a reasonable amount of work. It is proving hard to do. Yesterday I thought a lot about whether or not my expectations are too high. I really don’t think they are too high. Actually I still feel that we are doing less than what I’d consider ideal. So I still feel a bit guilty as I think my kids should be doing more yet they are not keeping up with what they already have to do. After some slumping and laziness earlier in the week, yesterday was a big catch-up day. I don’t like ‘big catch-up days’, for one thing it goes against the philosophy of short lessons each day, a philosophy of Charlotte Mason, that I feel works nicely for retention of information and for prevention of ‘overkill’. I mean, what person really wants to do 90 minutes of math in one sitting or six pages of penmanship practice? My kids think it is torture but they brought it on themselves.

I think my kids are being lazy. They feel put out by being asked to do any amount of homeschooling work yet they are not on their own, doing ‘good stuff’ such as the tales the unschoolers often like to tell. They are not, in their spare time, doing educational pursuits or even reading anything I’d consider worthwhile or educational. (They like to read comic books, magazines, and catalogs in their spare time.) Actually they keep asking to watch TV to which I say no.

A local homeschooling friend just began her second year of homeschooling. Formerly her two children were in school. She says her kids are elated to be homeschooling and are so happy to not be in school dealing with numerous negative things they experienced that they are full of glee about homeschooling and are cheerfully doing their homeschooling work. She says she thinks my kids, since they have been homeschooled since birth, are not feeling gratitude for their situation because they don’t know what they are missing in school (not dealing with the negatives of school). She feels that if my kids had been to school like hers did, that mine would be happier to know they are doing things differently with homeschooling and they’d never complain about what I’m asking them to do. My kids don’t live with the pressure of testing, the pressure of the CMTs (Connecticut’s standardized test) nor do they have homework to do at night, so those are three big things they have no clue that they are blessed to not have to do.

I am disappointed to admit that my kids have gotten a bit rebellious about doing their work. Monday morning my older son started right off with back talk and a bad tone of voice regarding starting to do his homeschooling lessons. He ended up with a warning, then later punished with no television for the day. He was not ready to knock it off yet, and so he received a warning for the next day (and he finally chose to stop complaining at that point). Also on Monday morning my younger son lied about how many pages he read in the Bible (a NIV version in graphic format/comic book style). He claimed to have read 50 pages in 15 minutes. Of all things to lie about, to lie about reading the Bible, it really was too much for me to even grasp, and he instantly was given a punishment of no television that day. I told him that if he was going to try to pull stuff like that I’d mandate a narration for every single reading not just occasional narrations. I feel like I’m giving them an inch and they are taking a mile.

Then yesterday my younger son was punished as well for sneaking to watch television and for refusing to come downstairs to begin homeschooling.

We did spend some time on history this week. I read aloud “Viking Adventure” by Clyde Robert Bulla which took me a full two hours. After the first 90 minutes I was getting hoarse so I stopped reading aloud for the day and we finished it the next day. I really want to ramp up the history and get down to business with history. I wish we were reading great books like this every single day.

The use of the paper schedule, with one week on one page is really working out well. At a glance we can see if we are ‘behind’ or ‘on time’ or ‘ahead’. I will say I feel I’m a bit of a taskmaster lately which stinks.

As far as the learning goes, things are going smoothly. Here are a few examples. My kids are grasping new math concepts easily. The math facts are getting memorized. They are both doing well with spelling. After struggling to memorize problematic spelling words, my older son had success with reading over the spelling words written with a dark marker on blank index cards. Hey, whatever works. When he doesn’t do that, he struggles day after day without mastering the word, yet after one time of studying the words on the flash cards for five minutes, he retains the proper spelling.

I am putting fiction books into my children’s hands to read for reading practice. Sometimes they balk or frown and say they won’t like the story, then they end up loving it. I fluctuate between giving them books I think are very good quality, to other times, letting them read some popular stuff that kids nowadays are reading, even if it would be labeled twaddle by me. My younger son at first refused to read the book I gave him to read, saying he thought, based on the cover illustration and the title, that he’d hate the story. Well he ended up loving the story and even stayed up late, reading in bed, as he didn’t want to put it down. And my older son read before bed also, staying up late to finish the story since “it was so good”.

Yesterday finally I sat down and finalized the plans for my homeschool support group for this year. I run a Charlotte Mason group. We have a small number of core members who attend a night meeting. For the first time we are going to start meeting in a coffee shop instead of in my home or someone else’s home. This year our focus will be to discuss living books. Each month we are going to have a topic and the main discussion will be to share titles of our favorite books to teach that topic, science or ancient history, for example. It should be interesting. To lighten my load I decided to not meet monthly but we’ll meet about five or six times over the entire year. This weekend I hope to get the email announcements for the meetings to the various homeschool support websites and circulate emails to the Connecticut homeschool email discussion groups.

The Cub Scout year is up and running. Both my husband and I are Den Leaders, for two different Dens. That work takes up some of my time now. And this week I need to get organized and make some arrangements to visit some Boy Scout Troop meetings so we can make a decision about which Troop our older son will cross into, in February. I don’t want to be thinking about that during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season!

By the way my older son’s Lyme Disease symptoms so far have stopped since he was put on the antibiotics. Hooray for that!

So, this last week for me has been more about real life, dealing with problems and dealing with emotions. All the while, even when feeling drained of emotional energy, or when I’m feeling sad or the condition of my suffering and sick or injured relatives, I’m juggling the responsibility of homeschooling my children, parenting them and running this household. I’m also trying to be there for my husband to help him through these rough times. Perhaps this is a good example of how we homeschooling mothers are not just all obsessed with our children’s homeschooling and maybe this is a good demonstration of how their education is not 100% of what we do with our mental energy or our time. We homeschooling mothers have full lives and other responsibilities to juggle as well. Keeping all the balls in the air and trying to fulfill all the obligations is sometimes a challenge. And life is not always perfect nor does it play out ‘as planned’ all the time.

General Information:
Homeschool Open House’s Weekly Reporter blog post project is a concept devised by Jessica of Trivium Academy. For more information, see the Trivium Academy blog entry dated 9/04/07.

Graphics which I am using in my Homeschool Open House and Weekly Reporter were designed by Jessica and are available on her blog, again in the same blog post dated 9/04/07.

For information about how you can become a Weekly Reporter or to view a list of other Weekly Reporters, read the information at Trivium Academy in the 9/04/07 blog post or see the information in her right sidebar.

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Marcy Muser said...


Can I make a suggestion? Your kids are still pretty young, and it sounds like you're requiring quite a bit of heavy-thinking work for their schoolwork. You might find things go better if you narrow down the heavy work to only what absolutely must be done.

With my girls, in the first few years of homeschooling, I prioritize very carefully. Some things were critical - reading, phonics, math. Some could be made easier - handwriting (I switched to Handwriting Without Tears - not my favorite style but it's quick and easy), writing (they dictate and we keep it easy and fun), science (read-aloud and experiments - no worksheets or narrations), Bible (read-aloud), and history (read-aloud - few or no narrations required). Some could be skipped altogether in these early years unless they ask for them - spelling, vocabulary, critical thinking, foreign language.

With the subjects I do require, I sit with my kids for most work until about third grade. Around that time, or when they show me they are ready, I begin leaving the room briefly - very briefly at first - until I see they can stay on task. Even after they are on their own, I still check their work every day so I can hold them accountable. Now that my older daughter is in middle school and has been independent for several years, I will let her go a week or so without checking - though I usually still find I have to call her back for some corrections. The more closely I monitor her work, the more likely she is to do it properly.

If the "couch time" is going well for you, I'd transfer as much as you possibly can to read-aloud. At this age - especially for boys - the less bookwork they have to do, the fewer problems you're likely to have. If you feel like you need to have them working for a longer period, have them make lapbooks or do crafts related to science, history, or literature - something that keeps them engaged in the subject but doesn't require such intense mental effort. It's hard to remember that even we adults have trouble concentrating on very intense thought work for very long.

Something else I do that has worked well for me is not allow television during the day. My kids usually watch movies with their dad when he comes home at night; I figure that's enough. We will occasionally watch a "school movie" at lunchtime - usually something I borrow from the library that's relevant to what we're studying in history or science. Other than that the girls know we don't turn on the TV until evening.

I don't know if these ideas will be helpful to you or not. When my older daughter was young, we had some really difficult weeks (in fact, a couple of years, actually). By following some of these suggestions, I've been able to reduce a lot of the stress with my younger daughter, and we have a lot more fun these days. Hope that helps!

christinemm said...

Thanks Marcy for your ideas and kind words.

I hope I didn't give the impression we are doing a lot of work. I still feel we are not doing a lot, especially when compared to 'school in a box' curriculums that take a long time to do lessons or fill the time with boring textbook use, dumb questions at the back of the chapter or even reading comprehension questions.

I am heavily influenced by the Charlotte Mason method, specifically in this case I am referring to short lesson times.

Spellling takes 15 minutes. Period. Penmanship takes 10-15 minutes, we use Italic, it is pretty easy if you ask me.

Math, my older son is now doing 30 minutes a day, not much for 5th grade if you ask me.

As I said with history we are slacking and that is bugging me. You see after slacking the last three years, we have gotten not very far with history. So the plan in "Story of the World" that is supposed to be using one book per year, well this is the start of our fifth year and we're just half way through book two. Pretty pathetic, I think!

Science, right now that is outsourced to an outside class.

Regarding history and anything else, my kids refuse to do craft projects and make recipes of the region, etc. They used to do a lot of that stuff but now they refuse and beg to please not do it. Our history focuses on read aloud's. They basically don't read anything to themeselves. And they like to color in coloring pages with colored pencils while I read aloud. Or else they play, if I'm reading for a longer time and their hands get tired.

My annoyance with their complaints is that I feel they are not doing a ton of work. They are not doing stupid busywork. They are not doing boring work. But the three R's as well as even social studies are required by law and they are also something I feel is important. And they complain about doing what they do.

They also want breaks. Like 10 minutes of penmanship with a 30 minute play break. Like groaning when doing 10-15 minutes of spelling, then they want a 45 minute break. Well take that and measure out the day and not much gets done. And meanwhile I resent the fact that I have to sit here and be ready to hand out their homeschooling lessons on THEIR WHIM and when they feel they are done with playing. Well that is not right.

In order to catch up from their slacking we did homeschooling until nearly 7pm on Friday night. I have other things I wanted to be doing at that time of the day. I resent the fact that my kids think they can force their way to play all day then they will dictate to me that now they FEEL like doing their work so I have to be available then to do the read-aloud or to correct the math page or to do their Spelling Power spelling test.

Some days I feel the tail is wagging the dog and that is not how it is supposed to be.

I'll get over my anger. I felt that it was important for me to tell the truth and to not always write of homeschooling like every minute of the day is perfect and easy and wonderful.

Thanks again for your ideas!

I still think it comes down to a respect issue, an issue of defying authority and that is something that is unacceptable to me.

LH said...

Yes, the novelty of homeschooling does wear off. I am never really motivated about it :-) It's just another obligation of mine for the most part. That's okay too. I understand about not being able to do it all. I never find a "balance" and gave up a long time ago. Now, I just "rotate my priorities" and do what I can, when I can, and assign tasks to certain days of the week or week of the month, etc and for the most part it works.
We also homeschool year-round, week-round, day-round and so we are either a year ahead or two years behind, depending on whose standards and which subject. . .. I don't even keep track of it anymore. Daily effort yield progress, even a litt :-) and over time (months, years) it adds up to some accomplishment.
So keep at it! It sounds like you are doing fine. sorry to hear about the elderly relatives. :(

Nice to see your weekly report!

Trivium Academy said...

I just wanted to let you know that you said "Trivium Pursuit" in the post above, I wasn't sure if you were trying to say Trivium Academy.

: ) Thanks for the shout-out though and I love your blog, but you knew that already.