Monday, September 20, 2010

Sometimes Parenting is Hard

I started out this morning thinking that homeschooling is wonderful. Small breezed through his reading today and allowed me to read three books to him without getting all squirmy. He was cute and cuddly, and now has an eagerness to become a fluent reader that he didn't have before. We've been waiting for that spark, holding off on instruction until he was ready to be instructed. Sparks are good things. Struggles are not.

Then I changed my thinking and realized that sometimes homeschooling is hard. Large and Medium were not getting along. Not getting along in a loud, angry, insulting kind of way. They could not agree on who would read the history chapter first. Why this led to an all out struggle is unclear, but it wasn't pretty.

We were going to Park Day, meeting a bunch of homeschooling families for a nice afternoon of play and parents chatting. Last week's Park Day ended with Large whining that we had not yet done history. In response to that, this brilliant parent decided we should do history first. We are on a survey course of history, the kids want to finish it to move on to more in depth study of periods that particularly interest them. I suppose we could just skip the step of finishing out the 19th and 20th centuries together, but they don't want to.

So, I decided that sometimes homeschooling is just hard. I waited for the storm to pass, they worked it out, ending in a few giggles. We read the history, discussed it and moved on with the day. Later, a friend helped me to see that this really was just a parenting issue, not a homeschooling issue. It could have been anything that set them off, they are siblings after all. And close siblings, just a bit over a year apart. They do nearly everything together and probably get sick of each other several times a day.

Sometimes families are hard. But as homeschoolers I think we tend to hold ourselves to higher standards. We aren't allowed to have bad days. We could, after all, just send the kids to school and get some time to ourselves in the middle of the day. I sometimes fantasize about the wonderful projects I could get done during the day if they weren't with me, if I wasn't driving all over the 5 county metro area to get them where they needed to be. But I would be just as unproductive if they were in school as I am with them out. And I'd miss the fights and the reconciliations. Those are some pretty important life skills.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


For the first time ever, I planned out our homeschooling schedule. I've been using the Homeschool Tracker for a while to capture attendance records. In the past I've had great intentions at the beginning of the year to plug in each and every activity for record keeping. But we never accomplished as much as I planned and it turned out to be a whole lot of work for me, with little benefit.

This year, though, we were faced with several time challenges. Our goals include finishing The Story of the World as our history overview for Large and Medium so they can focus on particularly interesting episodes and get into further details. They also wanted to try a more structured science program and chose Life Science from Plato learning. They want to continue reading literature together, perfect their cursive, learn to write articles and papers, build their vocabulary and progress in their math. Small, of course, wants to become a more confident reader, absorb the world around him and have fun.

With all our activities, dance and piano classes, homeschool group meetings and Roots&Shoots, it's hard to fit everything in. All three kids have a paying gig as dog walkers, Large has five hours of dance a week, Medium has three hours of dance, girl scouts and piano. Small has on hour of dance and piano.

Add to the mix my volunteer work with the wonderful InHome Conference, teaching science lab, facilitating Roots&Shoots, helping new homeschoolers find their way in our Westside House group and my need to earn significant money to pay for all this, and you get an idea of my sense of panic.

One final complication is that our login to Plato, made affordable through the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op, is active between the hours of 1 and 4 only. So, I carefully mapped the time we each could spend on each activity, overlapping where necessary, separating the kids when needed and put the schedules on nice colorful charts on the wall. It's been working for a couple days now, with some adjustments we might do OK. Most of all, the kids seem to have more play and daydream time now.

I, on the other hand, have no time. I can fit my conference work in when there is a computer free and if I can have access to my files. Our great idea is to sell books on Amazon, initially from our own stock and later from thrifting. This can be a good way to earn money, but I just don't know where I'm going to squeeze in trips to thrift stores and library sales, to the post office for shipping and computer time to track orders. I guess I'll know it when I see it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How We Started School

We began the school year with a vacation. It just seemed right, watching the neighborhood kids trudge off to school with their heavy backpacks while we were packing and preparing to go. I've never been much for following the school calendar, but do keep track of our learning days as the state requires. The August start rule seems harsh to me, and did as a child. August is still summer, schools are rarely air conditioned, the sun is shining!

We went to a YMCA family camp in the northwoods of Wisconsin. We learned and lived much more there than we would have at home with our usual schedule. It is a beautiful, quiet, secluded spot. The kids met up with old and new friends, were gone from the cabin except when hungry or at bedtime. They caught turtles, frogs, and snakes - or rather watched as other kids did the dirty work. They kayaked out on the lake and watched bald eagles soaring overhead, looking for a meal. The foraged for firewood and birch bark, learned archery, played group games, swam, jumped off the raft and got eaten alive by mosquitoes.

On the way home, we saw this handsome pink elephant not half a mile away from a similarly huge cow. Not sure what the lesson was supposed to be there, but we enjoyed it all the same.