Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to Stay Sane While Homeschooling Many

This fall we will have 4 children officially in school and one I am trying to keep busy!

In comparison to my traditional teaching years this ought to seem easy. However, I am fairly sure that those days were the easy ones. I got to send them home at 2:30 each day. In our school at home, many days we are just getting going at 2:30! Daily I struggle to maintain order, keep up with home and ministry responsibilities and ensure that my kids are learning to the best of their capacities. 

To accomplish schooling at home I also need to be committed to personally "staying sane" and setting realistic expectations as I manage my life and our school. In most things it all comes down to my perspective.

How Do I Stay Sane?
A few years ago when we brought home our 2nd and 5th children I got some good advice from a few others “mom’s of many”.  Here is what they told me and what I have done and the lessons I have learned the last two school years…

Start the Day with Focus on the Baby
If baby isn’t happy, no one is happy! Isn’t it the truth? Often our youngest people are the easiest to forget in school and also the ones who make our days most chaotic. A friend wisely told me, “The baby IS homeschool.” We can learn about many things while caring for and playing with the baby… or toddler in our case. That is why I am planning for each of my bigger kids to have a block of time to play one-on-one with Thea each day. I am also going to try to spend time with her on my lap more this year and provide more learning times for her.

Do School as a Family
This method revolutionized our school a few years ago. The family we school with wisely shared that in their school everyone does school… together… baby to teen! I got this advice when I had Addie in Kindergarten and 2 very active toddlers. They were running amok! To stay sane I started having us all do “school.” The toddlers were kept busy and Addie and I got work done. I know, it seems crazy, counterintuitive and insane… but it isn’t, it is brilliant! 

Here is how this looks in our home: If Addie is doing Math everyone else should be doing math at that time. For us, “math” or our first work period often looks like; Thea playing with manipulatives (blocks or bear counters), Cora playing a math sorting game or practicing writing her numbers,  Addie, Allan and Elias each do their own level of math curriculum. I float around between them all. That way I am not having to keep people busy or out of trouble or out of my hair… I just solve the problems or stop and instruct as people are very happily learning!

Don’t Over Do It With Curriculum or Different Levels
This is my downfall… I have a secret obsession with curriculum! As a traditional school teacher I almost taught a 4th, 5th and 6th grade combo class, (luckily a dodged that bullet, and got to teach kindergarten instead) but when I was contemplating it another teacher recommended I not try to have different lessons for each grade level, but teach them all the same thing and just make accommodations for reading levels or abilities. While I know many homeschoolers have desks in lines and have each child doing their own work we take a different approach curricularly. 

Each child is on their own track for math and phonics/writing, naturally I group my 3 who are with in 20 months of each other together as much as possible. However, everything else we do is done under the same curriculums. We have one history/core and are studying the same science, Bible, and art. I don’t need to have separate curricula for my Pre-Ker, Kindergarteners, and 2nd grader because they can and will learn what is appropriate for them on one core, science, Bible, and art. Homeschool shouldn’t look like traditional school because the benefit is that everyone will learn at their own level and your time and involvement will be maximized. It also has a wonderful unifying effect! 

Check out my Curricula Scope and Sequence Plan… it was my way of making sure I covered “all the bases” for each child over the scope of their education.

Focus on the Basics
This is always something I forget.
Our school should only (really) be about 4 subjects RIGHT NOW…

Everything else will naturally fall into place if I maintain consistency with instructing those 4 things. I have a tendency to want to gloss over the 4 Basics and delve right into our Core and History because that I what I personally love the most… but, it isn’t the most important thing for my children at this place and time. Sad truth for mom! Make the 4 basics your daily priority and you will naturally find time for the other things you love.

School is about Instructing Hearts, Not Just Minds
When I spend a whole day disciplining and correcting and managing I need to not give in to feeling defeated but remember this is why we homeschool… to disciple our children. This is a whole-hearted school intent on bringing up wholly educated children. One of our main reasons for starting to homeschool is to teach our children what public schools can’t/won’t teach them. It is also because (humbly) I am my child’s best teacher. I have more vested interest in their personal success than any other person on the earth. Luke 6:40 says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” When they learn how to love others or see me learning how to do that, they grow into a more whole and mature person.

Moms Need Encouragement
A few weeks ago I went out to meet up with my local homeschool mom’s support group. I do this about monthly, and also plan a few day a month to meet up just 1:1 or 1:2 with other moms or in our independent school groups. During this last meeting something that another mom said made me realize a truth about the condition of my heart toward one of my children and some learning issues they were having… I broke. It was the ugly cry at Durango Joes… snot and tears in public. But it was good! I left with peace, a new outlook and encouraged to keep going and loving my child. 

ALL moms need this, introvert, extrovert, something in between, we need each other! Find friends who are walking this road and be honest with them about where you are. Take a break on a regular basis. 

This is a marathon, not a sprint… pace yourself, keep yourself replenished and trained for the journey ahead!

Why do you Homeschool?
At a mom’s meeting a few months back we talked about “burnout”… the reality of it and how to avoid it. One thing that was talked about is that most often our original reason “why” we started homeschooling is what will keep us schooling when things get insane and we start to question it.

What is your “why” for wanting to start homeschooling?

Remember it, write it down and come back to it when things are hard!

Sane is Relative
Everyone’s lives look different. How my school functions may be different than others, but it works for us both! Seek finding that out for yourself, enjoy what your school and life is! Most of all, make LOVE and thriving the focus of your home and school.

That is how I stay sane.
(Writing this has been me preaching to myself).


mike dreiske said...

Hey Marci, it's Tammy! I love your writing and your is so much like mine! I wish we lived closer because we have SO much in common! Keep on keeping on ;-).

Tara Schatz said...

Just browsing the web for some homeschooling encouragement and I came across this post. I was looking for a reminder of all that is beautiful about the path I am walking and I found it in your words. I just wanted to say thank you for the reminder of why we do what we do. Beautiful.