Thursday, January 8, 2009

Homeschooling Notes

I added my favorite blogs! Some of the writers are also homeschoolers: Arwen from Spors in the Desert, Angie from Bring the Rain, Jess from It's All About Family, and Molly from Mommy Coddle. Molly, Steph (from Footnotes), and Betsy (from Numbmum) are also professional writers.

If you have a homeschooling or Christian walk blog to share, please let me know.

Homeschooling Notes

We've been homeschooling for a year and a half now, having started in October 2007, during Daniel's kindergarten year. It has not been easy, by any means, and lately, due to Anna's arrival, we've reevaluated why we're doing it and what returns we ultimately expect from the investment of our time and energy.

Children, even the most well-behaved, are not going to work best for their parents. It feels safe at home, compared to a regular classroom, and tempers can fly and frustration abound. There are wonderful, memorable, endearing moments; it's more than worth it, but it's a huge undertaking. If you are contemplating doing it, or you are new at it, expect a whole lot of bad days in which you feel like throwing in the towel. Perhaps I say this because I'm schooling boys, one of whom has ADHD? Maybe. We'll see, but I don't think so.

I started out wanting it to help ensure a healthy, ongoing relationship between the Lord and my children, after reading that the vast majority of public-schooled children walk away from the faith they grew up with. Certainly, homeschooling is not for every Christian; God may have reasons for wanting certain Christian kids in public schools. Each Christian family has to pray and make a decision that works best and feels best for them.

As we got started it also became important to me that my children have a more well-rounded education that was rich in discovery, hands-on learning, with plenty of real reading and writing, rather than fill-in-the-blank worksheets, which are often given for crowd-control reasons in primary classrooms. I purchased hands-on curriculum for math and had all kinds of ideas for other curricular areas, and for enrichment. I signed up with a Christian homeschooling group, and with a homeschooling field trip group.

Reality set in this year, however, and my lofty ideas now seem so foolish. Why? Well, in public school there is a division of labor that works fairly well. The cafeteria workers prepare lunch and clean up after lunch. The playground aides babysit while teacher goes to the bathroom (finally) and gets a bite to eat. And the custodians clean the classrooms. See what I'm getting at here? As a homeschooling mom, you do EVERYTHING (with help from your husband, hopefully). It gets very, very complicated and there are no easy solutions, especially if you have primary children with siblings that are even younger.

This year alone, things got complicated during my morning sickness, pregnancy bedrest, and more recently, during Anna's nursing troubles. A few days after I returned home from the hospital with Anna, I told myself, and Don, that we were probably going to have to put Daniel in school when the district kids returned from Christmas break. We were overwhelmed, and Daniel was horribly behaved and uncooperative, to say the least. Routine happens to be a drug the ADHD brain can't live without, and we knew that with a baby around we couldn't count on predictability, at least for the first few months. It seemed hopeless during those first four weeks. We intended on taking two weeks off from homeschooling, but that ended up stretching to four weeks. Now we're forced to either school on weekends for awhile, or for two extra weeks in June to make up for this break.

Throughout the turmoil, we kept praying for direction, and kept reflecting on why we were homeschooling in the first place. My lofty ideas of desiring to provide a better education had to be revised. I had to come to terms with the fact that what I can provide right now, with the children being so young and needy, is not going to be outstanding. I have to aim at adequate and be happy with that. That was huge for me to swallow.

I ordered a new math curriculum, which we began today, to replace the heavily hands-on curriculum we had been using. It is more straightforward and structured, with less preparation on my part. As the children get older, we can do many, many wonderful things. We have a lot to look forward to, no doubt. But for now, we need to concentrate on the basics, using a streamlined, traditional approach that still emphasizes Daniel's auditory learning style. I do need to carve out time to prepare more art/craft lessons, as that is really important to both boys. They do crafts two days per week in church, so even if I skip it at home, they do get it weekly, and those projects can be submitted with our portfolio.

Ultimately, what is it I want for my kids? What return do I expect on my investment? It comes down to the fact that nothing predicts success more than a healthy, growing relationship with the Lord. Of course, our definition of success differs from the world's. I want them to earn enough income to support their families, but their hearts need to be in their homes, focused on the things of the Lord, rather than on the things of the world. I'm more certain than ever that public school would hinder that; continuing on with homeschooling is the answer for us. The Lord wants it for us, and he will cover over a multitude of sins, both on our part and on the part of the children. We will be successful because the Lord will school the children through us. He will be in charge, if we let him, and he will produce well-educated kids for us. All things are possible through Christ.

Jess had asked about what we do with Emily while we school. We have a good-sized playroom which was built from a one-car garage by the previous owners of this house. It is well stocked with age appropriate toys, and each boy has a turn in there with Emily, keeping her company and teaching her as much as possible. A gate goes up at the entrance to the playroom, blocking her exit. Also, Don is home until 2 pm, returning from work at 11:30 pm, so I have an advantage there. He is my full partner in homeschooling, doing all the science and social studies, and helping with Emily Rose and now the baby, as needed.

Emily does sit with us at times, doing puzzles or PlayDoh and learning about shapes and colors. She is very active and obviously not ready for any formal lessons. Just being able to join us makes her happy; she enjoys her family.

Daniel and I were doing math and reading in his bedroom, alone, but now with Anna Grace around I have to multi-task more; Daniel is getting used to working at the dining room table. Timothy just turned five and will not be kindergarten eligible until next fall. He is very bright and actually does better than Daniel on math and reading, without much formal instruction. He participates when he feels like it. We don't push him.

I can listen to Daniel read while Anna nurses, and I can hold her in my sling while we do modeled writing, journal writing, and just about anything else. Sometimes I have to keep moving to keep her from fussing, and that gets interesting, but for the most part she loves the sling and sleeps in it or looks around from it, contentedly. She will sleep on her own for fifteen to sixty minutes (in an infant seat), but there's no predictability yet. Like my others, she won't sleep flat on her back and spends the whole night in my arms, and will continue to until she can roll over and sleep on her tummy safely. Then, like Daniel and Emily, she will probably take to a crib just fine.

I'll include more in this blog about our homeschooling adventures as time goes on. Please do let me know if you have a homeschooling blog of your own. I would love to add it to my list! Thank you!


Evenspor said...

Thanks for the shout out. I have been trying to update Walk Beside Me more often again too.

Good luck figuring out what is best for your family. I am sure whatever you end up doing, they will be fine, because you are trying so hard to do what's best for them.

A couple other homeschooling/Christian blogs you might enjoy are:

They both aso happen to have large families, which I've noticed is something else you are interested in.

Steph said...

Thanks for the link, Pam!

I admire your perseverance with homeschooling. I don't think I would have the patience or discipline to do it!