Today was day 8 of homeschooling. I realize this is a little early to declare the whole thing a failure, but boy do I feel that way right now. DD is 7 in the second grade. All last year she begged to be homeschooled, my DH was very in favor of it, and truthfully there are a lot of reasons why it should be a good fit for our family, except - I hate it. There, I've said it. I have felt stressed to my limit this past week and I am just unhappy right now. The stress is primarily due to feeling like I'm not doing enough, and realizing that my plan to just put my own curriculum together was not a good idea - even with all the research I've done when I sit down to plan I can't come up with enough to keep her busy, and I'm just not creative enough to come up with lessons that really engage her. I so wanted to be a relaxed, interest led unschool-ish homeschooler, but i can't. Trying to be that person is giving me panic attacks. And really, after a year at a very structured, rigorous school DD can't be that kind of learner right now. We both obviously need more structure and routine, at least to begin with.
So to try to improve this situation, I decided to order a curriculum - Moving Beyond the Page. To be honest, the only thing that is keeping me going right now is knowing that soon it will arrive and I will have something telling me what to do. I have to believe this will enable me to relax a little and learn to enjoy homeschooling, because right now my stress and unhappiness are making that impossible. I am horrible to live with right now, I have no patience with my kids - and I only have 2! - my DH is getting irritated with my perpetual bad mood, and worst of all, I cannot stand having people in my face all day long!!!! DH works from home most of the time, mother's day out hasn't started yet for my 2yo and my 7yo's attitude could use some improvement. I need time by myself, and I do get some, but it never seems like enough. I feel like I've made a huge mistake, like I have the wrong personality for this and that I was talked into it against my better judgement (this is completely untrue, btw, and unfair to my DD and DH - but it's how I feel right now.)
Somebody please tell me it gets better, that this level of doubt can be overcome. I really have no other schooling options for this year, I have to make it work and I will do whatever it takes. Did anyone out there start out miserable but grow to love homeschooling? Is it just a matter of finding what works for us? Anyone using MBtP and liking (or not liking) it?
What did the summer look like for your family? Why is this week different? Does your daughter read? I think you could call it a success to read aloud to her from a good book (Little House books are my daughter's favorite right now!), help her write a letter to a friend or family member, and watch the birds out the window, or on your walk. What kind are they? Look them up? Find recordings of their calls online?
I've tried two curriculums and trashed them both. We unschooled for a few years, and as they get older, we've introduced some regular practice with music instruments, Right Start math (which I LOVE), read aloud history, and writing. We also have out of the house activities, but we all seem to thrive with less to do--more time to pursue long projects at home. I require some things of my kids, but the magic really happens when the learning is born out of their own interest and passion. For instance, lately, my sons have been reading the Percy Jackson books (modern story with Greek mythology mixed in), and regularly reference our mythology book, or read it out of curiosity for long periods. The other day, they began building Mt. Olympus out of Legos with a throne for each major god. And my son chimed in during an adult conversation about birth with the complete and interesting story of Zeus' daughter Athena's birth. I could never "require" enough study of Greek mythology for them to have it so completely memorized. It's fun to watch, and it will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Mind you, they spend plenty of time reading goofy graphic novels and playing Legos with no academic overtones!
Homeschooling is a process for the whole family. You will all grow and be enriched. There is absolutely no pressure for your child to "learn something" today, although she will if you step back and keep your eyes open! Best wishes!
Many days it's just work that you both need to get through, I find. Some subjects are more enjoyable. I could not go without a book and pre made worksheets for most subjects. To change it up we also use an audiobook for history and go outside for nature study and outdoor skills, and take lots of breaks for drawing and running around or legos. We're on the first week of second grade (and introducing some kindy work for the middle child).
I like what I FLY said. I would just add..
I can understand wanting "me" time. For me I go outside or the park and just let my kids run run run. Also I read the newspaper in the morning. So that is the 1st thing that I do. Then I start the day.
You need to find what works for your family. When do you feel your best? When can you get the best work form DD? (this may change as the fall/winter/spring set in.)
Life happens. Tomorrow is a new day.
Whether you unschool or not, homeschooling shouldn't feel like something you enact upon your child in order to fill up the day and tick things off a list. Homeschooling is a way of living. I love what I Fly said. Concentrate on that way of living now ... of doing enjoyable things together, of learning and being together. Choose one to start the day, and one later in the day: that would be plenty. That can be your structure: two enjoyable activities a day. Go for a walk. Take a camera, photograph things that are weird, or beautiful, or interesting, or exciting, or ugly. Talk about what you see. Collect neat rocks, or pick up litter. Bake muffins. Go to a park and read aloud to her from a book. Take a picnic. Learn how to make home-made marshmallows. Plan a family meal to cook together, make a grocery list, go shopping. Go to the library and sign out some DVDs or an audiobook. Have a home movie festival. Go through the upstairs closet together for items to donate to charity, clean and refurbish them, drop them off. If you both feel lost without something to show for your learning experiences, make a blog or scrapbook where you put photos and descriptions of what you did for your morning and afternoon activities each day. (I can pretty much guarantee that within a week you'll be so impressed by all the learning experiences you've logged.)
For the next few weeks I would focus simply on building a happy way of living together that will [eventually] support the growth of interests, motivation and a natural learning rhythm and routine. Live your life as if it's a string of Saturdays, and let go of the stress of whatever you think Monday should look like. Build the foundation on which any school-like learning will rest. Then, as the days and weeks roll by, you can gradually start slotting in any intentional learning you want. Gradually. One little bit at a time, making sure it feels right and fits into your day nicely before stressing about adding the next. It'll take a few months to find your stride, but that process need only be painful if you continue to expect yourself to already be there. First priority: an enjoyable flow and rhythm to your days.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
I totally agree with the other good advice you have been given. There are things you can do.
The other thing I'd say is that , yes, odds are in time it will get better. You've identified what the problem is for you, that you need more recharge time (or possibly, better recharge strategies?). There is NO shame in needing time alone, time to recharge. Kudos to the mothers blissed out on spending 24/7 with their kids; that would drive me up the wall and I would not be a good parent.
So one thing probably is to find a way to get your space. I think its reasonable to explain the difficulty to your 7 year old, that homeschooling is something you are finding hard, that you need space. I've always felt it good to model to my kids that parents have needs and that its ok to want time alone, and that there are good, respectful ways of sharing this. I wonder if the issue might be, in part, your 2 year old?
TBH, awful as this might sound, I think there are worse things than sticking the tv on or whatever to get yourself some space. I think some days, some weeks, its a case of one foot in front of the other for as long as need be, until you are done. And yes, it gets better.Your kids will get older and more able to entertain themselves. You will find a rhythm. Don't forget, particularly with the quite structured path you have gone for, you are almost certainly learning how to teach. You have a learning curve going on in all this, and that;s hard too.
I don't know how much you've researched about homeschooling, but it sounds to me like both you and your DD need some time to "de-school". Homeschooling (usually) doesn't look like classroom school. If you expect yourself to be a classroom teacher and your DD to be a classroom student, that's hard.
Also, even for very rigorous homeschoolers, the day for a child is usually only as many hours as their grade +1. So, you'd be done with "school" before lunch. It's not like a classroom where you need to manage lots of kids. It's not like a classroom where the kids need to take turns reading a passage, and you need them to write what they read about so you know they understood it. You can talk to your child briefly and know they understand the story and discuss interesting aspects of it. You can have her read to you some and you read to her lots.
If your child is coming from a busy, programmed day, she'll need time to learn how to keep herself busy. Maybe buy her some Snap Circuits or something, and send her to her room. :) Find fun things, she can enjoy and learn while using.
I agree with what everyone else is saying. You don't have to come up with enough school work to keep your daughter busy all day. She just needs to do enough school work to reach whatever learning goals you have for her - and for a second grader, that should be pretty minimal. Like, an hour a day would probably be more than enough. (It doesn't have to be traditional school work, either. You could give her math challenges verbally in the car, or play Yahtzee, or play around with magnetic poetry, or observe insects in your yard.) If you need more stuff to keep her busy, it doesn't have to be deliberately educational at all. If I were you I would just set some minimal goals for the year - probably just in reading, writing, and math - and plan to set aside a little time to work towards those goals. That doesn't have to be an every day thing, but it could be if you think that would help give you the structure you want. Then fill up the rest of your time with things that are fun and interesting for your kids, or relaxing for you, or both.
Will the 2 year old play independently if you take him to a park or beach? If so, this time of year you could spend several hours every day outside somewhere - you sitting and reading or knitting or whatever you enjoy while your kids play nearby. If I take mine to a creek they can entertain themselves for a long time. Giving them nets to catch things adds to the fun. It's even educational. Going to the library can be another nice way to spend time. Often there are toys or puzzles for little kids, or you could go during toddler story time. If the 2 year old likes riding in the stroller, you could go to a bike path and let the 7 year old ride her bike or skate while you push the toddler. You could also take the kids to a children's museum or fast food restaurant play area and sit and read while they play.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that if your daughter isn't spending the same amount of time doing educational activities as she would spend at school you aren't doing enough with her. School time isn't all valuable learning time. You can teach her what she would be learning at school in a fraction of the time it takes at school. Yeah, you can think about all the extra learning she could be doing at home if only you had the energy and creativity to plan a full day's worth of engaging learning activities and then beat yourself up if you're not doing that. But I don't recommend it. There's a lot of value in giving her the chance to move through the day at her own pace, choosing her own activities. Even letting her get bored so she has to figure out her own entertainment is valuable.
Oh yes, school activities only need to make up a small portion of the day. That's part of the reason for all the breaks I allow my kids. State laws about 6 hours a day were made to keep child labor down, not because kids always need that much schooling. Provide self directed tasks if you need something else to keep her busy, like the other day it was raining and I wanted to do something outdoor/survival skills, no sense in hiding inside and giving up so I challenged DS to collect as much rainwater as he could for drinking. Any time I don't keep after them my boys run off and play anyhow, it fills up the day just fine.
Six hours a day is the norm for institutional schooling partly for historical reasons, and partly because parents who work need their kids occupied for long hours during the day, but also because in a large-group institutional learning environment, only a fraction of the time is spent on actual learning that is relevant and appropriate to a particular child. The rest is spent on organizational, behavioral and administrative tasks like passing out papers, waiting for kids to finish, taking attendance, lining up, waiting for kids to be quiet, making sure every child has their questions answered, disciplining disruptive children, redirecting behavior that is distracting. And on repetition and reinforcement of learning that many children do not need to review but a few do, on using multiple learning strategies designed to cover all possible learning styles represented in the classroom, on making each child feel valued and respected within the group, and on assessments that need to be done individually while others engage in busy work.
In homeschooling we can do away with most of the group-management and administrative stuff. There are other efficiencies we have at our disposal too: the efficiency of doing learning work that is inspired by interests and the child's internally-motivated desire for mastery, and the efficiency of awaiting optimal readiness for skills and concepts that require certain developmental shifts to be easily learned.
Mountain mama to two great kids and two great grown-ups
Everyone - THANK YOU for talking me off the ledge! (And sorry it took so long to reply). I posted this at the end of a bad day, and the last two days have definitely been better. I completely agree with everything about her not needing to do 6 or 7 straight hours of school. It's funny, though - even though I'm in complete philosophical agreement with the idea that kids her age don't need a lot of formal instruction, it's harder than I thought to put that into practice and be okay with the different rhythm of learning at home. I keep feeling like I'm getting away with something, or doing something that I'm going to get in trouble for - crazy!
I'm finding that having a general list of what we want to do each day is helpful, and I've even relaxed about not getting it all done - sometimes we do completely different stuff that SHE comes up with, which is what I think it should be all about. What I'm finding is that I'm seeing glimpses of the creative, imaginative stuff she used to do before regular school completely took over our lives. This alone is encouraging enough to keep me going right now.
Thanks so much for the kind replies. I feel a lot more encouraged this week - I'm sure there will be more bad days, but I feel like I can do it...mostly!!
glad you're feeling happier about it all.
These hard days are hard, aren't they? I know that feeling well, when it all seems overwhelming and irrevocable. But when HSing is working, it is so great.
I think unschooling is great and that broad approach seems to work well for my family right now. But it hasn't always been the right way for all my kids. I've had to insist on one of them in particular learning to read (complex...it wasn't just about simply not reading by a certain age). My experience is that sometimes unschooling is not the best approach for the whole child, and/or that its something you have to move toward. Some kids are shattered by being unable to read or spell or whatever and I personally think sometimes the kindest thing for an adult to do there is take charge and sort it out. Sometimes family dynamics and personal interests are such that having older non-reader can be an issue. Its good to look at our own kids and think for ourselves.
I haven't even started hs'ing yet but your post really hit me in the center of my gut. I "thrived" in a structure environment as a child/adolescent only now realizing that I really just did well at memorizing for tests and following directions. I am so excited to give my kids a different experience but I know it's going to require serious adjustments for my brain to allow my children to take the lead. I really understand where you are coming from and appreciate the honesty in your struggle. Sometimes the posts here are intimidating coming from amazing hs parents who seem to have it all figured out and appear to be so relaxed about how they do things. But they are also inspiring and make me feel like hs'ing will be a re-birth for me. I hope things keep getting better for you, give yourself a break and some compassion. You are doing your best!
Mom to DS 9/18/09 and DS 3/28/13
Laugh it up, fuzzball
Good to hear you're slowly getting used to the homeschool routine. Don't worry you'll get used to it soon enough. For me I had sort of the opposite problem. For the first two years of HS I used structured curricula with my kids (Calvert the first year, Laurel Springs the next). Using them stressed me out because it was pretty much like a school-in-the-box curriculum, where it was the same type of work you would get from a real school, except it was done at home. What I didn't like about them was that teaching with them took up too much of my time (almost 6-7 hours like a regular school)! This year I've decided to go eclectic (meaning come up with my own curriculum) and I feel much more relaxed and at ease about homeschooling. So while I believe that there's nothing wrong with new homeschoolers using structured curricula for the first year or two of homeschooling, I would advise that they research carefully how good the structured curriculum is by reading the reviews about them online. If they're nothing more than a school-in-the-box type curriculum, then most likely they'll add nothing but stress into your life re: homeschooling!
BTW here's an interesting article I read about homeschool burnout: http://school.familyeducation.com/home-schooling/stress/38363.html