Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Staying Sane in the Homeschooling-Small-Children Game

So we're at the end of September. Our fourth week of getting back in the grind of school and it hasn't been completely terrible.

It's had rough moments, moments of chaos, moments of terror (like when someone cut several inches off Nora's hair), moments when everyone needed to have a nap -- including me. And really, it's basically what I've come to expect from September because September is just a tough month of transition from summer to school, and if you're homeschooling your kids a month where you've got to get things back on track in every direction. It can feel a bit like a giant wave is taking you far, far out to sea and you need to grab on to something or you're just going to throw in the towel. Just back float until someone finds you.

I've got some tips on making that transition, not that I'm an expert, but I feel like an expert on small children wrangling, the homeschooling bit gets a little hairy now and then but I feel like I'm making some strides. So if you're just starting out homeschooling, and have really little kids underfoot who you're trying to ward off from learning children then you might find something to agree with here. If you're not, you might enjoy the laugh.

Aim for routine, but know the routine will need to be adjusted.

I'm saying this mostly to myself because in my head I still want the day to go according to how I want it. 

Which means babies should nap when I want, kids should listen when I want, etc etc. Lots of dreams going on.

But in actuality, although we as the moms have to put the effort into making the routine happen consistently, we're dealing with unpredictable little people. Babies may need to nap at different times, or you may need to move your teaching time to when babies nap. You're going to have to wiggle and jiggle your daily routine until things flow as best as possible. 

Also; your kids who are learning are going to take time to adjust. A couple days, a couple weeks, may not have them settled into the routine of facing a school day and tackling school work with a happy attitude. They may need more time for things to settle in so try to stay as consistent as you can so they can learn from you that learning is happening every day.

It may never get perfect. Actually, if you've got small toddlers and kids you're trying to teach I can probably guarantee that it won't be perfect. Actually, homeschooling will never be perfect at any point. But that's ok, your kids are learning anyway, you're living your life as a family anyway. It's really a good thing. 

Give your kids and yourself time to settle into a curriculum. 

Sometimes different curriculum or subjects need to be tackled in different ways for them to work the best for you and your kids. 

Last year I was trying to cram in all the kids subjects in the morning, while trying to deal with two toddlers who were climbing the walls and screaming and generally driving me nuts. It didn't go well but somehow I thought I had to get everything done before the clock struck noon.

I then changed math time to right after lunch when the babies were usually happily playing downstairs or outside for a bit and had a lot more patience to deal with math with the three older kids.  The math program we use seems to need a bit of mom time to get them started and doing this after lunch when I was refreshed meant I taught better and the curriculum seemed less overwhelming. 

I know reading religion with my kids can be done one on one when someone is out of sorts and needs a refresher. Or maybe your kids like talking science in the afternoon during nap time. Whatever it may be if you feel stuck by a curriculum or subject try changing up when and how you fit it into the day before scrapping the curriculum completely. Although I totally understand needing to scrap curriculum entirely, it happens, no big deal.

Babies can enjoy "quiet time" by themselves and not be scarred for life.

I know, I'm probably the meanest mom on the block but every day my 2 year old goes down for quiet time in the morning for about 30 to 45 minutes while I do hands on phonics and reading with the older kids. She's been distracted and played with by this point for a good long while and just wants to cause a ruckus. She gets to sit and chill out with some books in her crib for a while and she comes out a much happier girl.

We've done this since the beginning and even when she stopped actually sleeping during these times I just kept putting her down. So far I think she's free from physiological problems and she's safe and out of my hair for a bit.

Do not feel bad about giving yourself some toddler-free time! Do not!

Trust me, I am considering having those two sentences tattooed on my body somewhere scandalous.

Wine and Mom-time are good too

Remember when I wrote about how I take a lot of little breaks in the midst of our school day? I do it to maintain a certain level of patience and it helps a lot. I think if I made myself plow through all work at one sitting I'd be completely ruined. It's just so hard to keep up with little kids from a mental point of view for that long myself, let alone their own attention spans. It helps.

But we've also got to take bigger breaks and more refreshing time. It just needs to happen especially if you've got a bunch of kids...or just one,who am I kidding?!

If you can fit in some time while the kids are at an activity: great! If you can get a babysitter or drop them off with the grandparents for a couple hours: awesome! If you need to lock yourself in your bedroom after your husband gets home with a glass of wine, Netflix, or a good book: wonderful!

You got to and need to.

Take the Long View

Life with little kids, including homeschooling small kids with smaller kids below that, changes quickly even if we can't tell. It's really easy to look at a couple days or a week and think it's all going terribly.

But take the long view -- working on your daily routine will pay off, your kids will learn much more than you realize even if they're not learning it all in a day, and you've got to take care of yourself every week if you want to homeschool for a whole school year, not just when you can fit it in.

These are really all common sense things --really, to remind myself when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Homeschooling isn't easy, it's not neat, and it has a lot of ups and downs.

But if you feel like you and your family are called to it, your children are learning and becoming better people for it, then you're on the right track even if the day has gotten away from you. You can do this, even with little kids.

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  1. Toddler quiet time! GENIUS!!!! Totally implementing that tomorrow!

  2. "I am considering having those two sentences tattooed on my body somewhere scandalous." HAHA! You're hilarious! :) Seriously though, I think you really hit the nail on the head there. Everyone, whether it be mom, siblings, or dad, needs some toddler-free time for everyone's health and happiness. I'm not an expert on child psychology by any means, but I can't imagine that stimulating a toddler constantly with attention would be that nice for the toddler; I'm sure many toddlers appreciate some quiet time to do their thing! :)

  3. you've got to take care of yourself every week if you want to homeschool for a whole school year, not just when you can fit it in. . .

    That line is genius. A long perspective is needed for me, too. If I'm in this for the long haul of a year, I need to take care of myself for the entire year.

  4. I like the idea of putting the 2 year old somewhere for 30 minutes I'm going to do it to the 4 year old too. And they're already in a "pen" sometimes!

  5. Totally instituting toddler quiet time for our next child, aka just never letting the morning nap die. Maggie will be two in a few weeks and hasn't napped in the morning for about a year, but every day around 9:00 am she just hits a wall (of course, as I'm scrambling to get us all out of the house). I often resort to 10 minutes of Peppa Pig while I finish getting dressed so she's not just whining at my feet. A habit of scooping her into her crib with some books sounds much better!

  6. I like the idea of mom breaks! And I just straight up shut my preschoolers outside all morning. Free-range kids: I got 'em.

  7. Trust me, I am considering having those two sentences tattooed on my body somewhere scandalous.

  8. I am dying laughing at that line!

  9. I love toddler quiet time and we're not even homeschooling yet!! :)


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