Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pressing On... Middle of the year thoughts.

This week has been an unusual one.  It's one of those weeks that many homeschooled kids wish they weren't homeschooled around here because all of the public school kids have been out of school--ALL WEEK!  My kids did not complain much and I am thankful for that.  But, I tried not to keep them from missing out on all the fun.

It's tough when snow storms happen in the middle of the week.  We usually just press on and take some time off in the afternoon so they can play outside or go sledding at the school playground (which has a nice hill) near us.  I was thankful for this storm because we were able to go sledding on Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning rolled around and we... well, we did school work.  The tricky part about Monday and Tuesday was that my husband was home.  We didn't mind him being home, but it does change the dynamic of how things get done around our house and when they get done.  Instead of just juggling the kids, I'm juggling him too--making sure he has what he needs.  He happened to need to get a lot of work done for church, so he was working away at all of that on Monday and Tuesday.

It was different.  It's funny how the addition of a person in the house that isn't there during the normal school routine just makes things--different.

What I've noticed over the years is that every husband and wife interact differently when it comes to homeschooling.  In most families I've known (with a rare exception), the wife has been the primary teacher of the children.  In a few families I've known, the husband teaches a few subjects to the children.  The fathers in those situations all work from home.  Because of this, my next few statements are coming from the perspective of mom being the primary teacher.

It's interesting having my husband come in for a few days and see how things are going.  I remember him telling me once that he was impressed with the patience I had in teaching them.  But, our expectations of noise aren't always the same.  He's a very schedule, time oriented person.  I tend to be more routine oriented person--moving on to the next thing when we're done with the first.  I've learned a lot from homeschooling for ten years.  My husband has, too.  Our expectations of our children have changed.  We are both focused on learning rather than "getting ahead" and "keeping up with the rest of the world".  But, I remember ten years ago when we started out... we felt so much pressure to accelerate our kids from people he talked to at work and the ideas we'd both been raised with.  

Amidst the storm and my husband being home so many days, the questions that always crop up in my mind around the middle of the year came unbidden.  They always do when I stop to ponder.  It's the middle of the year.  I began with...What's working? What's not?  How's my heart?  Am I engaged?  Does my husband feel comfortable with our homeschooling? Are we getting work done?  Are my children learning?  What are they enjoying?  What are they not? These questions were flitting around in my head all week.  Some have been answered and some are still waiting in the wings...

Teaching is a journey in which both children and teacher have to press on every single day.  You put one foot in front of the other and hope that you'll be where you need to be at the end of the year.  I remember having the same feeling when I was a classroom teacher--"How are we going to cover everything by the end of the year?  Will my students get where they need to be?"  Each year is like an enormous mountain.  You can't run up a mountain, but you can climb up it slowly.  If you persist and persevere on, you will ultimately reach the top.

So, how do I make make sure I get to the top by the end of the year?  (I want to get there and I need a break in the summer.  I know lots of moms who are able to school year round, but I crave my summer break!)  Well, one of the things I do is that I check where my kids are at when each quarter ends.  Today is the end of second quarter for us (18 weeks by the school calendar).  A few weeks before the end of the quarter, I make a quick check of where my kids are at in their books (dividing their books into 4 equal parts) to see if they need to do a little more in one book than another before the end of the quarter.  I do this for math, literature, health, social studies, and science.  For some of their books:  Explode the Code, Vocabulary, Spelling (Megawords or Spelling Power), Handwriting, writing journal, dictionary skills--they have a set number of pages to do each day.  I don't check those books.  They just press on and when they finish one book in that series, they go on to the next.

I also discovered two years ago that I wasn't good at keeping track of a teacher planner.  I used one for preschool with all of my children, but then switched them over to their own planner pages by first grade that they use to keep track of the subjects they need to do each day.  This helps them and me feel like we got something done by the end of the day and of the week.  It also helps me keep on track better.  Math is okay two or three times a week in preschool, but by kindergarten it needs to be a daily subject.  But, beware of cheating!  My middle daughter last year started marking off things she hadn't done--until I caught her!  This year, she's grown up and matured--and thankfully, doesn't do that anymore.  The planner is also something I can show my husband if he ever wants to know how much each of the children have done.

My conclusions to some of my questions...
Yes, we're getting our work done.  We lost a lot of time in December because of a myriad (!!!) of doctors appointments.  We didn't lose much to my dental surgery this month and I am thankful for that.
How's my heart?  Okay.  It's been a busy year.  Co-op takes a lot of energy and thought from me.  Plus the college refresher teaching course I'm taking has occupied space in my brain.  I'm engaged, but I wish I was more engaged.  I find that staying engaged with homeschooling is a daily battle--a daily effort.  There's so much to take care of and keep track of that some days can be really tough in this regard.
How does my husband feel about our homeschooling?
My husband does feel good about what we're doing.  We added French lessons, gym time, and private art lessons this year which have all been great additions to our school weeks.
Are my children learning?  What's working? What's not?
I discovered when I reflected on this question that a few things weren't working well.
1.  Science wasn't happening.  So, I've designated an hour on Wednesdays with my son to get his done and Thursday evenings with my middle daughter to get hers done while my husband teaches an evening class.
2.  Literature discussions weren't happening regularly.  I started off well at the beginning of the year, but then tapered off when things got tight.  Now, I meet with my oldest daughter for an hour on Tuesdays, my son for an hour on Wednesdays, and my middle daughter for an hour on Thursdays. They do a lesson from Evan Moor's Understand poetry on their own on Monday and then work through book studies on the days I don't meet with them.  This is working better.
3.  Social studies.  My middle daughter is my hands on child, so I switched from the social studies we were supposed to start in January with her to a new approach.  She is using a book: Kids' Guide to American History (Highlighting important details) and then working through the Evan Moor History Pockets that go with the periods of history they correspond to.  (Teacher Created Materials also has some similar books for topics Evan Moor doesn't cover.)
4.  Math has been slow for us.  Pre-Algebra has been more challenging to my oldest daughter while adjusting to co-op classes and deadlines.  She's working away at it, but I'm taking more time with the beginning chapters because I believe the foundation of pre-algebra is very important.  My son is almost done with his grade level math book (2nd grade) and I'll let him move on to the third grade book so that he'll have a time buffer for when he gets stuck on concepts in the future.
What's working, though?
Lots.  The kids are more focused this year.  I noticed that there's less spacing off and daydreaming than there used to be.  All three of my children now want to write and I'm thankful for that!  My son got over the hump of not wanting to read chapter books and now says he likes to read!  A box of 15 Roald Dahl books that I got at Ollie's for $10 helped with that jump!  My oldest daughter is working towards the deadlines she has and being responsible about it.  All three kids are enjoying learning French.

So, those are my answers.  I'm thankful.  We keep pressing on...

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