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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Teaching the Kids You Have---Musings on Our 1st Quarter

Teaching the Kids You Have---Musings on our 1st 9 weeks at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsWe just finished our 9th week of the homeschool year and it looks a little a lot different from the first few weeks.  And the reason is simply this:  my plans slammed into this brick wall called reality.  After 10 years, you would think I would have this home education gig all figured out and I wouldn’t keep expecting my children to be people they are not.  Or that I’d at least figure out who I am and would not expect myself to be someone I am not.

But here’s the thing---people grow and change over time.  Sometimes there’s a steady, barely perceptible development over several years.  And sometimes there’s a quick and painful metamorphosis that happens right before your eyes. 

There have been times that I planned for the fall on the basis of where my kids were at the end of the previous school year, only to find that they’ve changed enough in a couple of months that my plans were too easy for them.

And then there have been times that I’ve planned for a slight increase in workload and difficulty only to find that one or more of my children was just not up to that challenge yet.

So, what went wrong this fall?

Nothing.  Really.  Nothing went horribly, irrevocably wrong.  Everyone was progressing in their learning.  We were getting most of the stuff done. 

However, we were all feeling burnt out and just not looking forward to our days of learning.  Part of the reason I homeschool is because I don’t think learning should be a slog, but something to look forward to.  So it was time to take a closer look at what was going on.

It turned out that there were a few things we were doing that didn’t fit quite right or were made the wrong way---it was a bit like putting on and wearing a pretty new sweater only to find out that over time the seams were a bit scratchy in sensitive areas and the fiber it was made of was hot and stuffy.  At the end of the day, you were so happy to get out of that sweater, but it was so pretty that you didn’t want to get rid of it.  So, you  tried to fix it, but after a while you just buried it at the back of your closet, because you couldn’t get it to work for you.

Five in a Row was  Emma’s pretty, but uncomfortable, sweater.  She loved the books, she loved some of the hands on activities we did, but she didn’t love Five in a Row.  Part of that has to do with reading the same book multiple times and some of it has to do with the analytical nature of the language arts and art activities suggested in the guide.  So, we tried only reading the books once or twice and only doing a few of the more engaging activities each week. 

I felt like I had gutted the program and yet she still didn’t really look forward to our FIAR time.  It’s hard for a 7-year-old to explain what she doesn’t like about something when the reason is really abstract.  It comes down to feelings.  What I figured out was that Emma doesn’t like the “unit study” approach.  She would rather make her own connections instead of having things connected for her.

This means I’m 4 for 4---none of my kids love unit studies! 

They are ok with doing one for a week or even a month for a change of pace, but not long-term. And yet, I love unit studies.  I’m drawn to them.  I have a whole slew of them that want to be used with a kid. 

That thing I want?  It isn’t going to happen with the kids I have.  I need to accept that and teach the kids I actually have.

So, I jettisoned FIAR and folded Emma into the content subjects with my two middle kids.  This past week I also removed All About Spelling and the easy readers I had her using for reading.  I’ve started her on level 1 of English Lessons Through Literature and she has been reading some of the reading selections for reading.  She has been enjoying reading “real” books like Beatrix Potter’s animal stories.

The funny thing is that having Emma just do history, science, and literature with Mary and Peter was my original plan this year, but then I thought better of it, thinking that she needed something more for just her

Live and learn, right? 

She is participating in activities, mapping, and the things we read aloud.  The two older children have additional readings that they do on their own---this allows me to differentiate their work such that each child is being properly challenged and learning at his or her own level. 

I have also added these free notebooking pages for our Story of the World readings.  While notebooking went swimmingly for the first 4-5 weeks, the two middle kids started getting bogged down---they had too many things to choose for to create a notebooking page.  While I like to give my kids options, knowing that they were notebooking about SOTW made it more manageable by being less open-ended.

I needed to make some additional changes for my middle schooler also.

Mary was having trouble keeping up with her assignments and was becoming overwhelmed.  I realized that the overwhelm was doing her in and decided to simplify some things.  I dropped Famous Men of the Middle Ages for her.  She is now participating in the Story of the World readings and activities.  I also dropped her from Adventures in Fantasy (Peter is still doing this) and replaced it with a more traditional (but relaxed) approach to English.  She will continue working on spelling, but will also be doing some grammar and letter writing, with possibly some poetry memorization (by her choice). 

I may add a writing assignment here and there as we progress through the year, but right now I need to make sure that things are manageable and not at all overwhelming for her. 

There’s this thing that happens right around age 12 or so when suddenly a child who was very self-sufficient needs more support and attention than ever before---this is my 2nd trip through this phenomenon and I’m hoping I’m better equipped to deal with it than I was last time.  If you have a tween or a teen, I bet you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve also made a change in our routine. 

Awhile back I talked about how I organize our homeschool days.  What we are doing now is very similar to that, with the exception that we are trying to complete all of our together lessons/activities first thing, before breaking up to do independent and Mom & Me work.  To simplify things, I changed up our assignment sheets.  I’m not ready to share those yet, because I might change them again (it’s more fun to design assignment sheets than it is to actually assign and grade things, don’t you know).

So far, I’m liking the new arrangement as there is less back and forth.  We do have the tiny problem of one of our number (not naming names) who has trouble finishing up projects, but that’s something we are working on.


What changes have you made in your homeschool this year?

You might also like:

Our 2016-2017 Curriculum

How We Organize Our Learning Time

Last Year’s Fizzles & Successes

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