Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How Did I Do It?

Recently a homeschooling friend wrote me an email asking for advice. She's just had a baby and is worried she'll be overwhelmed trying to homeschool two kids and take care of an infant. She asked me, "How did you cope with all the responsibilities last year after Kate was born?" Here is my response:

Dear Friend,

First of all, let me just say that last year was a bare-minimum year. My boys did their Math and Reading or Language work and that was a good day. They did co-op so I felt like they were getting science and social studies from that. I pulled my expectations WAY down because I just had a baby. PLUS, Ben was laid off in December, so that really messed with our day too. He was always around, and I didn't have a definite start time to school. It never felt organized. So basically I waited 'til Kate went to sleep sometime before lunch and quickly did the lessons with the two school boys, one at a time. I had read aloud time a lot too, because if we read together at least once a day then I accomplished something.

Several old-school homeschoolers will tell you that there will be at least one year that is your "throw-away" year. It's the year that someone has a long-term illness, or a new baby is born, or you move cross-country, or there is a death in the family. It's just life. My "throw-away" year was this last one. Every day felt frazzled. Every day I worried that this was the worst job anyone could do at teaching. Every day I thought that my kids watched too many movies or had too much free time. But you know what? As I finally got around to writing my end of the year reports, and I listed all that we had studied* and how the kids handled everything that was thrown at us, I realized that it was a great year of homeschooling. We're closer as a family than ever, many character traits were developed in all of us, and we studied not a few very cool things as we also kept up with our basic math and reading. Plus, the boys had extra-curricular activities like theatre, piano, gymnastics, cubscouts, and Tae Kwon Do. Why would I want to throw that away?

So, friend, my plan THIS year as Kate gets older is to get back to more hands-on teaching, planning, organization, and projects. I plan to have a lot of reading, Bible, and discussion time all together, then break up and have one boy with me working, one working alone, and one playing with Kate. I hope to have more of a routine this year. But I know that if we just follow the routine even half of the time it will end up an amazing year of homeschooling and togetherness. This past year has taught me that if I don't stress out about meeting my expectations, but just relax and enjoy being with my children and have open discussions about what's going on and what I need from them in order to succeed, then God will fill in the gaps. And having a great homeschool support group with lots of activities for the kids helps a lot too!

Good luck, and give yourself a break,

*We learned all about several heroes of history, our government, and the Election process at co-op. We learned about Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, the orchestra, the Middle Ages, knights, horses, and horse racing at home through our KONOS unit studies. We studied all the biomes of the world in depth at co-op. We also studied the classification of rocks, the Solar System, and the human body during our unit studies at home.

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