Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Homeschooling Sucks (and your curriculum isn't working)

I have some confessions to make as a homeschooling mother.  Lately, homeschooling sucks!  Day after day, I either slog through the material like I'm swimming through molasses in January, and the children respond in kind, acting like a bratty three-year-old at the dentist with a toothache - or, we get next-to-nothing done that could be classified as schoolwork.  Meanwhile I am stuck appeasing my 2 and 3 year old with Sesame Street episodes to reduce the number of times they interrupt my grumpy, frustrated, caffeine-powered "teaching/yelling at them to cut-it-out" lessons.

Certainly, I should be cut some slack.  I have SIX kids, 12 and under!  And they seem to take after their father quite a bit... loud, sometimes obnoxious, energetic, always talking... oh, ya, and the good stuff too: highly intelligent and creative.   That being said, I used to picture my "Home-School" as a serene, loving, and somewhat quiet environment.  It would be much like that pretty picture on the cover of "Five In A Row", the popular preschool and elementary curriculum utilized by loving homeschool parents much like myself.  Children would take turns to make insightful comments or ask inquisitive questions.  They would snuggle up next to each other and we would spend half our day sipping tea and reading together and the other half exploring nature and visiting culturally stimulating venues.

Not so in my household.  It started with my early years, battling what some might call a "strong willed child"... make that several "strong willed children" and then my eldest struggled to learn to read.  So I felt at a loss from the very start, wondering if I was making the right choices and if I really was both patient enough and properly equipped to teach my own children!

Then there were the life-changing interupptions.  As in: moving overseas in my daughter's first year of school, then having another baby (making the total at that point 4 kids).  Then we bought ourselves a fixer-upper and moved mid-school year.  Then another baby...another fixer-upper and another baby... and then we had family move in with us for a year and a half, and we were still fixing up the house... And that brings us to this, my 7th year of homschooling which has already seen 2 major interupptions including a family trip to Arizona for nearly 3 weeks and my husband and I leaving the kids for 10 days to go on a mission trip to India.  Oh, and don't forget Christmas.

See?  My life has been overflowing with disruptions and interruptions, corrupting my ability to be a decent homeschool parent.

Now that life has settled down... Christmas is over and no-one is living with us and there are no huge trips in the near future... I still find myself floundering.  I lack the daily inspiration and creativity to make homeschooling a positive experience for both myself and my children.  And let me say that it is not for lack of a good quality curriculum.  On the contrary, I have what I would consider one of the best curriculums around.  It is literature-rich with a Christian world view and is filled with gobs of inspiration history.  I would have LOVED to have been taught with this very curriculum that I am now imposing upon my children!  However, it seems that the curriculum I carefully chose is no longer serving me and my children, but I have become a slave to the schedules and book lists and the high standards outlined. 

When the vibrant materials I possess fail to come alive under my tutelage, then it is quite obvious that I need to change my program and structure.  The glory of homeschooling, at least in my opinion, is a parent's ability to connect with the individual needs and particular interests of each child.  You don't have to sit in a desk all day, memorizing pointless facts and figures, but you can go out into the world and experience history and culture!  Homeschooling allows you to speed your way through the drudgery of the "required material" and spend your time leading your children in what really piques their interest or allowing them to pursue the areas in which they are gifted.  For one of my children, that area is science and for another it is everything related to homemaking: baking, sewing, childcare, etc.

Somewhere along the way, homeschooling ceased to be fun.  I want to have fun with my kids again, and not have to "manage" or push away my younger children because they are infringing upon the older children's learning time.

So what am I to do about my current situation?  I am fairly certain that my best option at this point in time is to change my methods altogether.  To lay down the curriculum which I've invested a good chunk of my homeschooling budget upon and laboriously chosen based on it's core values and functionality, is a difficult decision.  However, as they say, "desperate times call for desperate measures".  I cannot value my curriculum choice above my children's current levels of learning (and my aptitude to teach them!).

The best answer I have is as follows: to create learning experiences that are active and can involve all of my children (to varying degrees of participation).  For example, a while back we were learning a little about the human body.  Each child had their bodies traced, and day by day we would add in organs and bones and muscles that they had colored from photocopied tracings.  Even the youngest kids had fun with the cutting and pasting, and it didn't matter that they didn't color it "correctly" or even place the organ in the perfect position on their body.  What mattered most was that my 4 year old would exclaim proudly to friends and strangers alike: "I have a spleen!"

I'm going to return to my roots of doing fun projects with my kids instead of just directing supposedly amazing literature at them and hoping something sticks amid the potty training, interruptions from other kids and my own distraction as I try to instruct and clean and cook and care for 6 kids all at the same time.  It's not that I expect this shift will be a lot easier, per say, but I know that I can restore some of the joy to our family learning time.  There may be a lot more messes as we discover and explore together, but the shreds of cardboard and paint on the floor will be worth it when I see the look of amazement on my children's faces as we play "Kings and Queens" in our home-made castle.  Most of all, my youngest kids won't be shuffled to the side.  I won't have to treat them like they are "in the way" because they stop us from getting through the day's grammar list or "essential" historical timelines, facts and figures for the day.

I'm going out on a limb here... I've confessed my failings.  I haven't been able to keep up with the schedules and routines that would be fairly normal in a regular school system.  Yet I love my kids, I love having them home with me and I want to rediscover the joy of learning together.  Hopefully I'll have a good report to blog about in the near future...

1 comment:

vilanye said...
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