The new school year is upon us and there are all sorts of school posts flying around. Around here we are going into our second year of officially homeschooling, as opposed to just doing whatever the heck we all want with a stack of library books and some crayons. Last year went well on the whole, but because Nora was practically a newborn, still breastfeeding, and Max was under 2 for half the year I had a very minimal schedule, curriculum and expectations for the year. Some things went really well and other things drove me kinda crazy.
Sidebar: I'm fairly committed to homeschooling. I believe in it strongly from a educational, familial, religious, mothering, everything standpoint. You know how the catchy thing to say about homeschooling lately is "It's not the hill I'm going to die on"? Well, it's not the hill I want to die on but it's the hill I'm going to put the most work into working, especially while my kids are young. That being said, if things radically changed and a great Catholic school began to exist 5 minutes down the road I'd be seriously tempted, but as things stand now schools in my town, Alberta, Canada...not my cup of tea for small, beautiful, people. So I hope that helps in case you think I'm just a glutton for punishment homeschooling with 5 kids age 7 and under -- as some strangers have been kind enough to point out!
But it is really difficult to homeschool with only little children. It's hard to do anything and everything with only little children, ammiright? So it can be really discouraging reading a lot of homeschooling blogs because they seem so wildly unrealistic for those of us who have a majority of under-the-age-of-reason kids.
There are no laid in stone schedules around here. There are not copious amounts of activities and curriculum that involve a lot of mom cutting, pasting, gluing, creating. There are constant needs to be attended to that get in the way of concrete schedules and lessons. There are babies crying to be fed, babies needing to be washed and changed, fights to be broken up, food to be given out, fights broken up, babies to be washed and repeat. There's also a copious amount of whining. Choruses of "Maamm, where's my blankity-blank toy??" and "Can I have more raisins/cereal/apples/food?" every 4.3 minutes. People just need, need, need around here. That is the majority of my day and time.
Add to this barrage of appeals the fact I can't guarantee a full night's sleep yet or when the babies will awake, and that my husband leaves for work before 6 am everyday, I pretty much need a break by 9 am. Just a couple minutes of no asking or whining really. Just a little recharge. Of course, this is a pretty idea, a pie-in-the-sky idea. But it's necessary in some form or else I'm on the fast train to meltdown by 10:30 am.
Basically I need a break before I even start the homeschooling.
I've kept our daily curriculum that requires my devoted attention to Gemma and Dom (who are both working together through the same reading and math) to a sacred 45 minutes in baby's nap time each morning. That leaves Luke who usually can entertain himself with Legos, stickers, books, activities very well and Max, who usually likes to scream, break things, and cause general disruption. I know, I know, Pinterest. But there are not enough "little kid play boxes for school time" to give me enough patience some days to deal with 2 year old crazy. It's a fact, Jack.
So I need breaks. I don't have the patience of Job. It is hard to deal with little kids constantly without a little phone time, reading some blogs, locking myself in the bathroom, even falling face down on my bed for several minutes every hour, or half hour some days. I'm admitting it.
Which brings me to my main difficulty that I'm trying to combat this year for a better school year: giving myself breaks to refresh my patience levels! I think I've got to be 100% more intentional about giving myself some time to get back on track before making the kids go through another lesson, read another book, get-everything-done-right now! I'm hoping it doesn't come to a Daniel Tiger every 50 minutes, but I'm going to make myself take breaks where I give myself a little time to not respond to every superfluous toddler demand, or explain another question about the atmosphere to the 5 year old. It will just look like ten minutes of me not accomplishing anything. It will look to the hard and fast homeschool scheduler like I'm going off-track, derailing the school day, allowing precious time to be further exploring the intricacies of Ancient Egypt evaporate.
This is all to support the fact I believe my kids are having a pretty great time at home. They're learning like little intelligence-sponges. They love books, asking questions, trying new things. They maintain creative and imaginative play the rest of the day outside of book learning. There is no busy-work or being forced to be around people that could be rotten influences. There is time for nap time, they don't have to awoken at a God-forsaken hour to get on the bus.
It's not perfect. But there is no perfect.
I'm going to take a lot of breaks this year if that's what it's going to take to make everything work, because I've gotta lot of little kids. Making it all for work you is what homeschooling is all about.
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