And we’re off. We started the 2013-2014 school year on Labor Day. The kids got to pick breakfast as per our tradition and chose ice cream sundaes/banana splits. A short day of school was followed by a family mini-golf outing and play at a splash park.
I realized last week that this is our 6th year homeschooling, if you count John’s kindergarten year. I thought by this point that I’d have it all figured out. Of course I don’t but I have felt like that we’re hitting our stride earlier this year. Following are some random observations from the past two weeks.
1) For us to have a good day of school, I really can’t expect to do anything else. That might seem obvious but it’s taken awhile to accept that. I can’t plan on cleaning or doing needed projects around the house or prepping for a co-op class or blogging or checking my email. It’s not that I can’t do those things. I do think it’s possible to have a clean house and homeschool. I work outside the house, I read, I volunteer at church,I have other interests. I just can’t do them during school.
I like being efficient. I like multitasking. It’s hard for me to sit at a table while the kids are working and “do nothing”. However, I find that all too often if I get up to “just send one email” it either turns into 3 or 4 emails or one of the kids finishes up their task and needs help and then has to wait for me to finish to continue with school. It makes for fractured days and ultimately is inefficient. I’ve actually found that I end up getting more done if I treat school-time like school-time and devote myself to teaching during that time. More importantly, my kids deserve a teacher that is focused on them and not trying to fit in other tasks in the cracks. What this looks like in reality is that I do do other things during the day. I just do them during recess or before or after the school day or at night when everyone is in bed.
2) Kids often rise to the level of challenge. We’ve given John some new opportunities for independence and he’s responded by being more responsible and diligent with his work. He’s always been a good student and pretty self-motivated but I think by showing him that we see him that way he has responded in kind.
3) Kids grow up. Ok, that’s obvious but some weeks you realize it more than others. Along with John’s new independence, Ruth started ballet lessons last week. She is over the top excited along with the other 11 giggly pony-tailed girls in tutus in her class.
4) Homeschooling is a marathon not a sprint. That’s kind of a cliche and perhaps as obvious as #3 above. Maybe I just have running on the brain as John and I are both training for our first 5K using the Couch to 5K program. Although in my case, it’s more jogging very slowly for short amounts of time rather than running.
In these past few weeks, I’ve been reminded of the “marathon not a sprint” cliche in two different ways. The first is in working with John on his writing curriculum. Writing is not something he enjoys at all. We’re working through the book at an incredibly slow rate. It took him a week to do a “one day” assignment from the book. However, it wasn’t because he wasn’t working hard or was goofing off. It’s because we elected to go slowly and aim for quality over quantity. I could have either let him turn in a less perfect finished product or I could have pushed him to do more each day. But we seem to have found a sweet spot of working hard but not working too hard. And I’ve realized that it’s ok if we take two years to work through this one book. Some homeschoolers have been wise enough to realize this earlier in their journey, it’s taken me a little longer. (Yes, it’s a marathon for me too.)
Last night I spent some time reading through my posts from the past two Septembers. I would encourage anyone who is a homeschooler to do this from time to time. Better than any standardized test scores, it’s incredibly encouraging to be reminded as David complains about math being too hard that one year ago he was just cementing his basic math facts.
5) We homeschool for a lot of reasons but what I’ve been reminded of this week is that the main reason at this point is that we enjoy being with our kids. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think they were getting a good education or if I thought they were unhappy. If you are a new homeschooler let me tell you a secret….bad days will happen. It won’t be all poetry teas and nature walks like you see on blogs. Your kids will complain. And whine. They will seemingly forget everything you taught them Monday on Tuesday. They will fight and be lazy and not do their work. They will make a huge mess. They will, in short, be kids. When you have those bad days, it’s good to remember why you do this thing that you are doing.
Last week we had a day where I virtually didn’t see John from morning until bedtime. We had co-op where he goes off to his own classes. I saw him briefly at lunch so he could ask me if he could go to a friend’s house. He came home from the friend’s house just in time to be eat dinner quickly before going to baseball practice. Baseball lasted until after dark and he got home in time to shower quickly and head to bed. I was happy for him. It was a good day, full of good things. But I realized that I missed him and I’m really glad that most of our days offer lots of opportunities to be together. As he gets older in particular and more outside activities draw him away from the family I am even more grateful for the blessing of being able to homeschool.