Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Homeschooling

I LOVE homeschooling my kids.

That doesn't always make it easy, though. Or cheaper, necessarily. But for us the benefits definitely out-way the sacrifices.

I have been known to comment that homeschooling is both a blessing and a curse...I get to be with my kids all the time! But that also means I'm with my kids all-the-time. 

Most of the time I love this. My kids are awesome people to hang out with. Not a day goes by without at least one of them making me completely crack up. In so many ways it's better than I expected.

But it does make me think of some truths that very few, if any, research or curriculum write ups will tell you. So I thought I'd share them here.

Keep in mind every family's experience will differ significantly, so these are by no means hard and fast guarantees. They are just a few jewels from our family's collective experience over the last six plus years (I did "preschool" at home too).

Top Ten Things They Never Told Me About Homeschooling...

10.) You can combine everything.

We regularly pack 3-4 subjects into one assignment. You can explore a science question, look up it's impact on history, and then write a paragraph or two describing the findings along with illustrations. Certain subjects so naturally lend themselves to combined learning that my kids don't even realize that they are doing "school".

And you can incorporate your most important goals and priorities in general as well. For several years, Zak's daily reading assignment was an excerpt from our weekly Bible reading that is discussed each week at our congregation meeting. Starting this week, Grace will be starting a similar routine. 

Combining subjects can make the mundane fun and the boring exciting. Plus it saves time and energy for everyone! Especially over the last several years has this taken on a much more important roll in our process, and I love it!

9.) You can really set your own schedule.

In some states attendance must be regulated for homeschoolers, and records must be kept and submitted for approval.

In others it is not strictly regulated however. Ours is not strict. And we love it that way.

Our first few years we very much stuck to a school-at-home approach.  And it worked well for those years. But as life got busier, our school routine became more fluid and flexible.

We have gone through periods where we have done school six days a week. Other times four days a week. For two years our days off were Tuesdays and Sundays. We've done school in the morning, afternoons, and evenings. Even during their bedtime reading time. And we almost always work through the summer, taking days and weeks off as we make plans.

I now think of ourselves as primarily interest driven learners, with a routine of blocks of time each day set aside to investigate these interests.  We also have blocks for math, and for Grace still, reading and writing practice.

8.) Your kids might still "hate" school.

As much as we might try to be creative, clever and fun, it's very likely that at some point one child or another is going to utter that word regarding their school responsibilities.

It's meaning can be significantly different however in the home setting, especially if you are not following a school-at-home routine.

It usually just means that they are annoyed at being asked to do anything but what they are currently doing. 

I'm still looking for a way to make multiplying and dividing fractions fun. Sometimes, even in homeschool, we just have to muck through the yuck! when we haven't found any other way around it.

I'm sorry, my son, I hate fractions too.

7.) Your kids are probably going to fight more.

It's simply a fact, the more time people spend in each others company, the more opportunities they will have to rub each other the wrong way. This is likely even truer for siblings who have been cast together without any say so in the matter. And this may be especially true where vastly different personalities mingle.

Making sure that everybody has a clearly defined work space, and environment suited to their learning needs can be challenging (and exhausting!), but can help a lot toward peaceful relations between feuding nations. 

6.) Your kids might learn to get along better.

This is not a counter statement to the above point. Actually it's a complementary one. Where there is conflict, there is the opportunity for resolve. Many kids, granted, over what can seem like a verrrrrrry long time, often gain some ability to work certain issues out on their own. Not every issue, but many.

As many times as I hear my kiddos bickering with each other, I also, and usually more often, hear them giggling together, or entertaining themselves in their own spaces. It helps that I remind them often that I do not want to hear about it unless someone is bleeding, broken, on fire or at risk of becoming one of these things. 

We are still very much a work in progress in this department. But I firmly believe that without the constant stresses that are associated with the demands of school and peer pressure, siblings can more freely tolerate and gradually appreciate each other.  

5.) Your kids are going to drive you crazy!

You know how families count down the days until summer vacation and then by the end of the summer they are counting down the days until school starts again? Yeah, well, we don't really have the whole back to school countdown, because ours don't actually go anywhere. It's not the same, anyway.

But we do count down until your kids are out for summer vacation! Yay! Extra playmates to keep mine busy and entertained. Sometimes a few brave and generous parents even offer to take mine for a day, giving us homeschooling parents the one most elusive gift...silence!

It's awesome that they have the freedom to explore, and move around, and be chill and casual. It's also incredible how loud kids can be when they are trying to be quiet. And it is mind boggling how many questions each child asks in the average day, all the more so if your kids are home ALL day, and seem to ask a gazillion more questions than the average child anyway.

But crazy isn't all that bad a place to be. Especially when the questions your kids ask lead to amazing searches and intriguing answers. And helps them become compassionate, observant and inquisitive people. And they have time and space to follow through on their great ideas, or figure out that they were maybe not such great ideas, and to really explore and experience things, not just read the textbook facts.

4.) You will find science experiments in their closet.

I'm not talking about pulling the long lost half sandwich out from under the bed.

I mean full on, completely intentional, covert experiments that they didn't ask to conduct because they thought the answer would be no, so they thought the best place to do it is in the closet/bed/dresser drawer.

Obviously not every child is going to do this to the extent that mine have, such as trying to dissolve an eggshell in vinegar in an open glass jar, in...the closet!

But there is a good chance for most families that there will be at least one memorable "experiment" conducted without parental consent or knowledge. So, homeschooling parents, beware. And it never hurts to keep a running tally of your eggs.

3.) Your house will be messy all the time a lot.

I have read about homeschoolers who manage to keep their home neat and organized all the while bestowing the knowledge of the world upon their calm and cooperative offspring.

In theory, and on paper, it looks possible! But for many families, especially ones with large age gaps and littles still at large, the average day looks more like a scene from Cheaper by the Dozen, and feels like it too. Somehow it really feels and looks like your children have multiplied and no matter what you have just cleaned and finished, there are now triple the number of messes when you turn around.

And, yes, you will try very hard to enlist and teach your kids to contribute. And, yes for many years, it will feel like teaching them to "help" takes far greater energy and work and frustration than just doing it yourself. But someday, when you feel like nothing you are doing is getting through, your son will actually clean the bathroom. He will blow your mind at how well he can do it that you will nearly faint. And you will not care at all that he didn't sweep the corners because you will be so ecstatic that you didn't have to "remind" him a thousand times during the process that you practically loose your voice, and he is looking at you like a crazy person for crying over a clean bathroom. (It's marginally possible that this may have recently happened locally with only slight exaggeration about the crying part.)

2.) You will never have enough towels.

Let me just put it this way. Not counting Grandpa's, we have 14 bath towels, 14 hand towels, at least two dozen washcloths, at least two dozen kitchen towels, and an equal number of dishcloths.

I wash ALL of these at least once a week. The only exception is the kitchen towels which can sometimes stretch into the second week. The bathroom towels rarely make it a whole week. We go through at least two, but often three hand towels a day. And that is just with normal hand washing. When there are spills, which is practically everyday, then two loads of towels or more a week is often a concrete reality.

On the upside, at least it's proof that they are in fact washing their hands! That and the liter of hand soap we go through every month!

1.) There are never enough pencils.

I can't even believe it took me this long to finally just accept this as a reality.

I have tried to sharpen them all myself. Attempted dozens of different storage techniques. Countless different sharpeners of all different types and color possible.

Yet inevitably, at the start of each assignment, the dreaded words, "Moooooom! I can't find my pencil!"

Finally, I wised up. I fired up the computer and ordered 288 count, assorted geometric and farm animal number 2 pencils, and a good old fashioned counter-mounted hand-cranked pencil sharpener.

When they arrived, I divided the order in half, put half in a box in the closet and the rest in an empty coffee can, and BAM! Don't involve me in your pencil issues until the can is empty and you have checked under all the couch cushions!

Well, there you have it. Just a peek at some of the nearly daily adventures that go on around here while everyone else is busy doing "real school". And truly, at the end of every day, I'm still so glad to be here. To get to have these adventures with these amazing people who teach and stretch me and my mind in directions I never imagined were possible. And I feel ever more sure...

I LOVE homeschooling, no...educating and enlightening and invigorating... my kids

1 comment:

  1. Very Funny Top ten list!
    loved 4&5 the most.