I have been homeschooling for four years, most of which have been enjoyable. I have four children, 14 months to 11 years old. This year the children complained of mother’s “grumpies” and not having the one-on-one time they were used to before the baby. Lately, rather than being a joy, the day seems more of a struggle to get everything done (school work, practice, etc) around the baby’s schedule.
I loved your goal of setting limits to children’s demands. It sounds wonderful. How do you limit your teaching from 9:00 – noon? I feel like I’m wearing this hat from morning ’til night. Perhaps I need more organization to my day, but how does this work in a practical sense?
Oh dear, it happens to all of us at one time or another, and I do firmly believe it is a balance problem. Everything has to be kept in a good balance and when Mom is wearing the hat from sun up to sun down, you better believe she is not feeling refreshed and happy to get up and do another day of homeschooling!
Keeping school from 9 to noon means just that. You start at 9:00, even if it means you didn’t get a shower, and you just threw on a your clothes at 8:55 AM and gathered your kids together. Kids come on time with their binders (student planners). And you start. Forget the phone, the laundry, the dishes, the appointments. and all. School’s gotta be priority.
I start by leading the children in some quick stretching exercises, running in place, chin-ups on the chin-up bar hanging in the doorway, and even having the kids run around the house once or twice (even on snow with bare feet!) so there is some fun and energy to start with and quickly draws them in. That takes a total of 5 minutes. Then we have the pledge, song, calendar, and “what’s up today” discussion, which takes another 5-10 minutes. Then I begin right off with read aloud in whatever spellbinding adventure book we are reading, usually related to our history studies. So far, we are having fun, fun, fun! Everyone is enjoying, including myself. Dump some quiet type toys, stacking pegs, etc. for the baby nearby (but not right in the middle of the family circle) so baby is next to you but not the focus of attention. When you finish your chapter, the children will beg for more. You can read some more if they all came on time and were ready, because you really do have more time if you start promptly. They’ll get the message very soon that they want to come on time, especially if the book is wonderful!
Then I move into the subject of the day which I do as a unit study. On Science day, for example, I read aloud to all ages from the same science textbook, we watch a science video or do some experiment or hands-on things all together. This takes an hour. If you have a baby in your home, take “baby duty” turns when needed. In other words, rotate between the children the job of getting down on the floor and playing with the baby for 15 minutes while they listen to the read aloud or participate in the family discussion as much as possible. Do the best you can. It is not perfect, but it still works well. A lot of the time, baby just wants you to hold him or nurse him, so you get your share of “baby duty”. Keep a couple of bins of attention-keeping toys that are not available everyday, so you can pull out another “bag of tricks” when the baby needs something new to occupy him. A healthy snack helps too.
After your unit study, split the kids into areas where they can quietly focus on their school work and do “rotations”. You rotate around and work with each child individually on things they get stuck on, rotating from child to child, keeping order so they all get a turn for you once or twice before the school day is done. They are to do their math, journal writing, piano practice, memory work, quiet literature reading, spelling practice, vocabulary books, or whatever else you have assigned in their student planner binders. They can do this. Even the youngest ones can have a picture check off list and go through their work independently. They are not allowed to interrupt, but are taught to set aside anything they get stuck on and work on something else until it is their turn. I keep a notebook with a section divider for each child, and jot down reminders while I work with each child. No, things don’t get done that day or even that week, but eventually they do. If baby needs to be nursed to sleep, or changed or has other needs, the children know they are to keep working quietly until you return to the room. Yes, this takes some training, but the children learn quickly! And it keeps order.
When noon arrives, whether or not you got done what you want to do–quit. It is over. School’s out. Time for kids to run and play for 15 min while you make lunch, or they can rotate in, one each day, to help you prepare lunch (a duty they come to look forward to) while another has “baby duty”. After lunch, you and baby nap, you read your scriptures, or do something else that uplifts and refreshes and replenishes you while the children do their quiet reading in individual spots or finish up their math or whatever. When my kids were young and prone to squabbling, I assigned a place that they had to stay (living room couch, family room chair, your bedroom, etc.) where they could not interact. Without my “renewal time”, I wasn’t a very good mom. With it, I felt refreshed and happy.
Then, afternoons, I am mom and homemaker, but not teacher. I tell my children to do what they can on their own to finish up their school work, but the teacher won’t be back to help them until tomorrow. Even still, on only 3 hours of “mom time” per day, my children exceed their public school peers in academic excellence. It takes some time for you to know just how much to assign them so they are challenged but not overwhelmed. Each child works at different levels, and you can’t expect the same from each. You’ll get that figured out before too long. So they work independently if need be to finish up, but at about 3 PM, no matter if they have lollygagged all day long or diligently worked, school is over. Period. Time to do chores, go out and play, have free time, play with the baby, day dream, work on their own project or do whatever they want, but not school work. Children need balance too.
I feel sure that once you get in a good steady pattern, and when your children know there is a start and a finish to it each day, your children will look forward to school. I know I do. It is very fun to read books aloud and discuss them. It is fun to do art projects and learn about history and watch educational videos about amazing animals and learn Spanish and find places on the map. I love home school and enjoy being with my children so very much. They think it is fun. I overhear them answer skeptical adults’ questions of “How do you like homeschooling? Wouldn’t you rather go to school? with answers of “Oh, I love homeschooling! We have a lot of fun!” And that always makes my heart warm!
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