Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don't Give Up

I think I was more tired yesterday than I have been since we started school. This is about the stage where my enthusiasm wanes and my desire to crawl into bed and read a good book by myself gets overwhelming. I’m not the most consistent homeschool mom, but I’m not the most consistent anything.  I can do most things for about 6 to 8 weeks, and then I want to do something else. It can be another project in the same general area, but I need a break.

To break this trend, I feel that if I can make it through to the end of the first nine weeks without breaking, I can make it through the rest of the year.  How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I’m taking this day by day.

We didn’t get everything done yesterday that I had planned. Jojo, Meme and Ebby did fine and got all of their work done within a reasonable time frame. I think Ebby was done by 1:00.

Bobo now, he’s a different story. He changed tactics. Rather than the slightly jovial defiance of Monday, yesterday he was outright defiant. “I’m not doing that and you can’t make me!” was repeated quite a few times.

Math was a particularly tough lesson to get through. We started the lesson at 11:00, broke for lunch, and didn’t end the lesson until after 4. Not including the hour lunch, it took 4 hours to get through that one lesson, and the lesson only had about 20 problems and a couple of online quizzes.
We were supposed to do language arts after that, but I was so exhausted from that massive battle of wills, I declared we were done. I admitted fully that he won that battle (not to him though), but I’m still fighting in this war.

This morning my tactic is changing. We're doing the least favorite lessons first so that we can  have something to look forward to at the end of the day.  Also, I need to remember that little dudes get hungry and we should break for snacks often.

I may be an old dog at homeschooling, but we all have things to learn no matter how old or experienced we are.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The First Monday After School Starts Blues

I don’t know if other homeschool parents experience this phenomenon, but I do every year. It’s a specific way the kids behave the first Monday after the week we start homeschooling. I could describe it in detail, but it’s pretty much outright rebellion.

It starts off with “I don’t want to do that subject, but can I do this subject twice instead?” “That subject” is usually math or language arts, while “this subject” is generally art or something like that. 

It’s best to nip it in the bud and say no, but there is always that temptation of letting them continue to draw random lines in their sketch book while you do something else, like printing out their worksheets. Yet, every year I have to learn that the hard way.

By mid afternoon, it’s grown into outright refusal to do anything, or at least do anything correctly.

Ebby’s lessons so far have been ridiculously easy. Not that I mind because it allows the rest of us a couple of weeks to find our groove, and I’m hoping they’ll get a bit more difficult. But yesterday’s lesson was the names of our body parts, and I’m not talking about the spleen.

“Point to your feet.” So he points to his nose.

“Is this my feet?” Normally I would giggle with him, give him a hug and encourage humor, but today is “Monday after the week school starts.” It’s been a long day, and this isn’t the first time Ebby or Bobo have with refused to do something or purposefully done it wrong.

So we enter this staring contest, which I eventually win, and he finishes his lesson within about 2 minutes.

Then, just a few minutes later, we have Bobo’s reading lesson.

“I’m just going to sit here and do nothing. You can’t make me read.”

“Okay. I’m going to forward the laundry, and you sit there . . . and do absolutely nothing. When you’re bored of just sitting there, come and get me.” I haven’t even finished loading the washer when he pipes up that he’s ready to read.

Well, I’m glad it’s Tuesday.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

One Week Down and About 39 More to Go

We had a wonderful first week! I may sound overly positive, but I’ve never used the words “wonderful” and “first week” together before. Usually it’s “good,” “survived,” or “somewhat productive.” But we actually had a wonderful first week.

With the exception of Thursday, which in itself was a lesson learned, we accomplished everything we set out to accomplish each day. The first two days we the boys did half of their lessons, Meme did nearly a whole day of school, and we figured out what Jojo can and can’t do in the morning. She can’t read in bed, because she simply falls asleep, but she’s not yet awake enough to do math.

Wednesday and Friday we did even more. The boys completed a full day’s worth of lessons, and Meme started stepping up and getting more done.

Jojo is still finding her own pace. She hasn’t been feeling well for months and months, with non-specific symptoms. The doctors haven’t managed to find anything, although she’s had a great many tests run on her. She’s starting to feel better, but neither her appetite nor her energy level has returned to normal. She’s a hard worker, but during the last few months, she gets overwhelmed easily.

It was a big accomplishment for her that she stayed awake during school hours all week, eat something at each mealtime, and actually get some schoolwork done. It’s a start, and I’m confident that she’ll return back to her normal, energetic self.

Jojo is technically my only homeschooler. By using K12, the other three are technically public school students. Only technically though. Believe me when I say that I have more interaction in their day to day studies while on K12 than I did when they were “homeschoolers.” Especially with the younger grades, K12 is very parent involved.

Other people have said this about me, but I don’t see how some families with multiple young children can do it. Mine are spaced perfectly apart for using K12. Meme is pretty much self-directed.  The only thing I do is look over her progress and push her back on the path with the subjects she tries to avoid. With Bobo and Ebby, it’s all ME.

Bobo is not reading fluently enough to understand the directions, and Ebby doesn’t read. We’re working out a good system. Most of Ebby’s classes take a few minutes for him to do.  We alternate between a Bobo class and an Ebby class. Bobo will generally do his off-line worksheets while Ebby does his on-line classes.

Then in the late afternoon, when Ebby is done, I have Jojo read to him or sit with him, while Bobo and I get 45 minutes to an hour by ourselves to do language arts.  My hope is that by the time Ebby’s work is actually challenging to him, Bobo will be reading well enough to do some things without my direct help.

My biggest worry right now is that my enthusiasm and dedication will fail.  It’s not a worry ungrounded in reality. Most years start off great, and then I get frustrated at the stubbornness of the children to do their schoolwork, the time it takes and everything else.  Once I’m frustrated, it’s only a matter of time before I start slowing down and letting things slide.

I’m determined not to have this happen this year. Part of that plan is being realistic in what we can do during the day.  I need to remember that homeschooling my children is my job. It’s okay if I can’t clean house, do laundry or cook during school hours. And if something has to slide, those things should be first.

For class planning: Meme and the boys have their classes planned and laid out for them – that’s the benefit of using the system.

Jojo, however, we’re still working on this year’s “class schedule.” She gets the flexibility that a system like K12 or Connections Academy won’t have, but we have to do all the planning.

We sat down yesterday to look through the curricula I have for high school, and of course I’m like a kid in a candy store. “You should do this class.” “Oh and this class is really important.”

She just sits back quietly; after all she knows me well. After I’ve filled a page with a long list of classes I want her to work on, I turn to her and say, “I’ve gone overboard again, haven’t I?”

“Yes, Mom,” she replies in her patient tone, “you have.” We sat the project aside so that I can clear my head, and we’re working on it this weekend.

Literature she has in the bag. She is one of the most well read kids that I know for her age. Only Algernon had read more books by this time, and Algernon is a prodigy with literature and reading.

I have the writing program that I used. It’s old, but it’s good. She started it about a month ago, and it’s working really well. So we’ll stick with that.

For math, we have a good solid plan for. Our plan: do it everyday. It may not seem like much, but it should do the trick.

Now here’s where I get overly enthusiastic.

Social studies. She really should have civics; as an adult I see the importance of it. Then world geography is important. We are more global now than we have ever been, so it is more important for emerging adults to know about the world and cultures. And economics. Seriously, how many of us would have benefited greatly if we had gone into adulthood knowing a bit more about personal economics. Then I found this great curriculum that teaches basic life skills. It’s actually called Discovering Life Skills. It teaches all those little things that most of us had to learn the hard way.

You see why it is wonderful that Jojo is so patient with me. I get like this every year. She let it run its course, and that’s about when we put things away.

We settled on:
·         Finding a science curriculum that she can work with. She hates science, and I think it’s only because it’s never been presented to her in the right way.
·         Limit social studies to one at a time. She may be able to do multiple ones this year, but not all at once.
·         Start some sort of test prep. Her eligibility to get TOPS (Louisiana’s general scholarship) is based solely on her ACT scores. The better she does, the more she gets.
·         Pick a foreign language and find a systematic curriculum to use. I think we’re about settled on German.
I have my homework for this weekend laid out. By Monday, I’m hoping we have a solid plan of action and that I still have the enthusiasm to push through until it’s not as exhausting.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Errands? NO!

Errands are not feasible on school days! The morning started out very nice. We all woke up early. Since I had been putting off going to the grocery since last week, Meme informed me that we were out of cat food as of this morning.  That leads to the question of going now, this afternoon or sending my husband to do it.
My husband is a great shopper, but the last time I sent him to the store for milk, he came back with 6 half gallons of ice cream. So, I thought, “Let’s just get it out the way.” 

We made a quick stop at the thrift store near the shopping place. We were in and out in under 45 minutes, which for us is super speedy. Then there was Walmart. It was still fairly early when we started, so I was hopeful of getting home before lunch and diving in to lessons.

I guess local schools are starting within the next week, because it was jammed with people buying school supplies. Between the crowds, wrangling Ebby who wanted to look at and touch everything, and the lack of open cashiers, it was after 1pm when we finally got home.

Meme, thankfully and brightly, stayed home to get some schoolwork done – she had a wry grin on her face as we left. but Jojo and I were exhausted by the time we got home, the van unloaded and groceries put away. By the time we got lunch and a load of laundry started, it was almost 3:00.  I managed to work on phonics with Bobo, but that was it.

I did however find all I needed for school supplies. I admit, the trip would have been much faster if I had avoided those aisles, but I did that last year. By the time I got back to purchase my things, the shops were out of everything that was on sale. With homeschooling 4 children, we try to get everything on sale!
So, no more running errands during the school day for us.  I remember sometime last year when waking up at 6 am on a Saturday to do grocery shopping seemed like a good idea. And I did it for several months. Now I remember why it was so appealing even to me, who is not a morning person. You just have to do things when the need to get done.