Monday, February 2, 2015
Checking In From The Home(School) Front
It's February! (Yay!/Oh, still February...whomp, whomp...) And as we all know, or at least people with small children and any mother at all who homeschools, February is the time where everything feels as if it's never going to end...like winter, or whether your child will ever figure out the concept of counting by tens, or conjugating those pesky Latin verbs of the 4th declension, or the alphabet. It's the time of discontent.
February is the winter of homeschooling discontent.
We all sorta feel like packing it in, throwing the kids in play school, or any other institution -we're not picky at this point - and burning a bunch of workbooks. It's a real angst. And I'm not here to gloss over that real angst because I will be the first to admit that homeschooling at any point and during any month isn't easy. But then again, nothing about raising human people is easy no matter what type of education you're choosing so I'm under no illusions, or delusions.
I think I meant to write about homeschooling in the midst of a lot of little kids before I got distracted with the discontent. So this will probably just apply to you if you've got little kids since I know of nothing else. But I thought I'd just do a little mid-season look at what's been going on around here with the school business since I get asked about it a couple times...or once...a year.
Firstly, it's still fairly hectic and crazy. It's like trying to do a focused activity while you have 5 people under 8 in the house. So it's loud, and distracting, and chaotic. School around here doesn't look like a classroom it looks like normal life with a bunch of little kids.
And that's the whole point.
I'm still a firm believer that kid's learn naturally through the development of their imaginations, and that can take place just about anywhere. I'm also a big believer in the importance of attachment, connection, and the beauty of home especially when children are so young. These ideals I need to remind myself of repeatedly, and often during the course of each and every day because yes, things can get a bit hairy. I think this is something that's really intimidating to us who have just small children when it comes to homeschooling, because it is chaotic and involves a bit of juggling and discipline and it is a big sacrifice to have your kids in your personal space all. day. long. I totally get all these things because I think them all the time. I get it. But what helps is letting go of the idea that when you're homeschooling with only littles in the house that the day and your school time needs to look exactly like a classroom when really it looks much more like cuddling on the couch and reading a story. Phew. That made me feel better just writing it.
We are still very much in the season where most of the "subjects" of our curriculum are covered in read-aloud time and mostly through really good picture books. Sure, I'm trying to incorporate the Charlotte Mason book list for the first couple years, but this looks a lot different than the list most days. Some days we read fairy tales, other days picture books about saints or historical figures, other days science picture books about whatever the kids seem to be interested in, and a weekly dose of good bible and catechism reading. It all sort of evens out, and I don't do anything that resembles a lesson plan or a concise list when it comes to all this. We just read at a regular time most school days. This usually happens around 9-9:30 in the morning while all the babies are still awake. The babies sometimes still throw an almighty fit to sit on my lap or scream at what we're reading, but I just try to take it in stride/fume about it silently until the tantrum-er gets bored and goes after some toy.
When Nora has her morning nap (she may or may not sleep and I definitely do not care either way but it helps to have her corralled for a set period of time) we work on the main curriculum that requires my one-on-one time with the kids and for us that's reading and writing. We're still using the IEW The Primary Arts of Language program for writing and reading, but we're almost finished and I think we're going to move on to level 2 or 3 of All About Reading. I think for the early grades its most important to focus on the reading/writing basics as well as math every day and let the other things be covered in read-aloud time. We can usually work through a good writing/spelling/reading time in about 30-45 minutes.
This year after lunch we tackle math and we're still using the A Beka workbooks which aren't perfect, but require just the right amount of mom time and kid attention. It's a tricky bit to figure out how much attention/time you need to give to something or if the curriculum is a bit overboard for you or your child. There are so many resources out there if one of those things are off for you, honestly just try something else and find something that works for you, because it's out there I promise! That's another 20-45 minutes for us. In the grand scheme of things that isn't a lot of time, but in a household of 5 kids+1 mom it feels pretty epic working it into each and everyday while also juggling everything else. Like feeding, clothing, washing them and maybe, occasionally cleaning something in the house.
I'm sure the million dollar question in your minds is what to do with the babies while working with the big kids? I'm here to tell you there is no answer to that question. I don't care how many bleeping busy bins, activities, Pinterest ideas, etc. etc. etc. you come up with there will always, always be a base level of baby/toddler craziness that you're just going to have to grit your teeth and get through. Unless you're a supermom, in which case you're probably not reading my blog anyway. In Canada the past 3 months have been way too cold to throw the toddler outdoors by himself without going through exponentially more work and effort to get him dressed than just suffering/occupying him indoors.
I don't have many secrets but just wanted to share what's really going down on the homeschool front. There are also the great things like slow mornings where I don't have to wake my kids up at obscene hours, where we linger over breakfast, where they get to play with their own toys and siblings to their heart's content, where I don't have to get out of my pyjamas until noon if I'm not leaving the house, where my baby's naps don't get disturbed to be hauled out of the house to pick up someone else, there's the hours of time spent one on one with each child cuddled on the couch, there's hearing their questions as their minds open up and begin to ask great questions about the world around them, there's witnessing them read their first book on their own. So many great things.
I was homeschooled myself, and I remember the years where I would mostly do all my schoolwork on my own in the hours I wanted to do it in while pursuing my interests to the full and readings tons of books. The little years of homeschooling are pretty much the same as the little years of child-rearing; a whole lot of work and noise, and at times, frustration, but they'll pay off. Hope, dear hearts!
I might do a post just devoted to books we use one day...soon!
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