Mothering Forum banner

1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
241 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

I'm a mom of two, aged 3 and 6, and from the very beginning DH and I have decided to homeschool. That decision hasn't changed, but right now I find I'm getting bogged down in the challenges of these early years of educating our children. I've gone more or less with an unschooling philosophy, as it suits my sort of free-spirited mentality, and our rather inconsistent lifestyle. Not sure if inconsistent is the word to use there... it would take an awful lot to explain.

But I'm concerned right now that it's a little too free-spirited and inconsistent, and that I'm going to run into problems if I can't find more structure and consistency for DS. He just turned 6, and has not been in many structured educational environments. We go to an HS group at the library once a week, another HS "gym" another day of the week. He's had some swim lessons, plays music with his dad and gets stories read to him daily by me, but that's about it.

Whenever I try to get him to sit down to, say, practise numbers or handwriting skills, he yells and screams and cries. He can read many words, count to 20 and do some simple addition and subtraction, so I should not be concerned that he isn't learning anything. In fact, my concerns seem so vague and hard to define, I don't know how to express them here.

I think I am worried that somehow I am responsible for his lack of self-discipline. If he is interested in a project, I end up doing most of the work for him. I'm worried that he's not developing the fine motor skills to form letters and numbers, and that as time goes on, it's going to get harder and harder to get him to sit down and develop his skills.

I am also frustrated that whenever I do try to create a consistent routine, he protests so vigorously and stubbornly that it becomes a battle of wills-- which is NOT what homeschooling is all about.

And, the fact of the matter is, I can't develop a consistent routine because our lives are not consistent. We have just spent three years building a home, which in its design is far more suited to home educating than anything we've had up until now. But it's unfinished, our belongings are in boxes and bags, there are no shelves for our mountains of books, not even proper cooking facilities yet... chaos all around. Right now we're dividing our time between there and my elderly parents. I try to help them out too, which I am glad to do, but it all leaves even less room for developing a consistent routine. My son's experience with learning is not, like, from 9 to 10:00 we do a learning activity, then an hour of outside time, then lunch, then quiet time, then go somewhere, etc etc. Not sure if anyone HAS a routine like that. What I'm saying is that he doesn't have the expectation of a daily structured time to practise a skill.

I tell myself that this isn't important. In the unschooling philosophy, learning is organic, based on real-life experience, curiosity, fun, and so on. Questions are answered as they arise, practical skills such as reading, writing and math are developed through these real-life experiences, facilitated by loved ones.

But then I see other HS families who are doing more curriculum-based educating, talking amongst themselves about what "systems" they are using. I ask them questions, such as how much do their kids do in a day, and try to figure out what they are doing differently. One girl in our group is reading chapter books and writing cursive at 7. Her mother tells me she has had a few years of Montessori. I start to wonder if I should have been putting my children in Montessori. Another friend of mine has her 3-year-old in music, dance and gymnastic lessons, and she is even more free-spirited than I am. I wonder why I don't have my children enrolled in any lessons.

Then I think of how our lives are different than theirs. We had decided years ago to not leave our children's education to classes and schools, even Montessori schools. We do not live in a city, where my friend's LO's lessons are accessible by foot, bike or transit, and many programs are paid for by the government. Our home is deep in the countryside, where the library is only open for a few hours at a time, a few days a week. Our car is in poor condition; I don't know if it will get us through the winter, so daily trips to educational activities will be out of the question, especially when winter sets in.

I have not even addressed the fact that DS has a little sister, who is sweet and helpful, but often when I try to give DS some one-on-one learning experience, is literally clambering for attention, and creating a huge distraction for us.

I don't mean to complain. Our lives are awesome in many ways. What may be getting to me right now is that there are many people around who see education as a structured entity, and I don't see how to create structure out of a rather chaotic lifestyle right now. I've run out of time to go further into this, so I'll stop here.

Can anyone relate, or advise?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,143 Posts
I guess the first thing to do is decide whether you want to unschool or do a curriculum-based homeschooling. If you want to unschool then you don't need to be trying to get him to sit down and do maths for an hour. On the other hand he probably isn't going to be reading chapter books at seven unless he suddenly develops a strong interest in reading and becomes highly motivated to learn how. So you will also need to find a way to be comfortable with his progress without comparing him to other children. Maybe you could keep a journal of his activities, interests, new skills etc.

What is he interested in? It sounds like a wonderful environment for him to just be able to spend lots of time playing outside. Which at his age is one of the best things he could do. My DD is six. We do not homeschool (although I was homeschooled until high school) but she attends a steiner school. They do no academic work. Instead they have free play inside and out, they do drawing and painting, beeswax modelling, French knitting, help with food preparation, do gardening and go for bushwalks.

At home they ride bikes, swim, help me make household cleaners/cook/do housework, play with their toys, do various very unstructured craft projects which mainly involve sticking stuff to other stuff and throwing glitter everywhere. DD1 is interested in origami and sewing and colouring in so we have provided resources for her to pursue those activities. Steiner is very into "daily rhythm" so maybe reading about that could help create some structure without rigidity.

Is there anything he can do with your parents? Listen to stories about their younger years? Look at photo albums? Do jigsaw puzzles?

The classes/activities you do will help him learn the expectations of behaviour in a class setting. I wouldn't worry about doing anymore at the moment unless you all want to. In the future, he may have interests which he can pursue in a class setting. You could just keep in touch with what is available in your area for his age group and participate as you both desire.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,127 Posts
But then I see other HS families who are doing more curriculum-based educating, talking amongst themselves about what "systems" they are using. I ask them questions, such as how much do their kids do in a day, and try to figure out what they are doing differently. One girl in our group is reading chapter books and writing cursive at 7. Her mother tells me she has had a few years of Montessori. I start to wonder if I should have been putting my children in Montessori. Another friend of mine has her 3-year-old in music, dance and gymnastic lessons, and she is even more free-spirited than I am. I wonder why I don't have my children enrolled in any lessons.
The one thing that I really like about Homeschooling is not looking at other families OR what the schools kids are doing. I know we have time to learn and grow. My kids are not signed up for lots of classes. Matter of fact my oldest is 10 and has only now started doing more stuff. I never had a second thought about it.

I go with what works for us. That is my goal. We read lots of books. Listen to a ton of audio books in the car. Learning is life in my home. :nerd: That is us.

Take a look at what you are doing. It might surprise you how much real learning is going on. :hs
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,554 Posts
You don't necessarily need structure. But you have to be okay with your kids not being as good at structure, at a young age, as other kids.

My friend who's an environmental educator recently told me how frustrated she was leading a group of homeschool kids where she normally takes school groups. The kids were all over the place, didn't raise their hands, all talked at once, etc... Crowd control and smooth and efficient behavior in crowds is something school kids spend a tremendous amount of time focusing on, so the homeschool kids appear bratty and immature in that setting.

On the flip side, when I lead kids on hikes, I'm struck by how whiny and difficult the typical school kids are, compared to mine, who hike all the time when most of the kids are in school. In that setting, my kids seem awesome and the others seem bratty and immature.

It's impossible for everyone to develop all of the skills super fast at 6 years old. No family focuses on everything. Focus on structure if you find it to be an important value for your family right now, not because everybody else thinks it's a good idea.

I have a 7yo and a 5yo. Neither reads chapter books, and my 7yo's writing is slow block print with backwards Ss. We do not have a structure. I could tell you things they do that make them sound impressive, but that's not the point. All the impressive and the unimpressive stuff is really part of the same package, because left to their own devices they are rather unbalanced and quirky people.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,681 Posts
I completely agree with the previous posters. As someone who went through very much what you're describing, and now has older children (13 through 22), I can add this perspective to what mckittre wrote above:
But you have to be okay with your kids not being as good at structure, at a young age, as other kids.
She wrote "at a young age," and this is spot-on in my experience, because I've seen that kids who are not subjected to external structure do learn to find and/or create the level of structure that works well for them, but only as they get older. My kids started experimenting with self-structuring around age 9 or 10. Their early efforts were often ambivalent or laughably over-ambitious, and mostly unsuccessful. But over the years they found what worked for them. They all ended up entering high school at some point (by choice) and despite the chaos of their early learning and their resistance to all structure that came from me when they were young, they ended up somehow knowing how to behave perfectly in a classroom and never needed any reminders from me about homework, studying or assignments.

Miranda
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,976 Posts
This'll be short and random because I'm supposed to be working right now. ;)
My best advice would be to stop looking so much at what other people are doing, partly because comparing your everyday life to the highlight reels (because I guarantee you that no one brings up their own chaos during these things!) that you hear from the Moms at homeschool group. If you want to have more structure for it's own sake because you think your lives would be better right now by all means go for it, but I don't see the need to impose it on what sounds to me like a good childhood out of fear that they'll never learn it later.

We've never led very structured lives (it's not really my nature) and I don't think our kids are any worse for wear. ;) Dd1 reacted just like your son when we tried to formally teach anything so we backed off and just let both kids learn in whatever way had meaning to them.

Both kids have taken classes over the years starting at about 7 and never had any problem dealing with group classroom dynamics or demands....I think kids are pretty good at picking up on how to act in situations like that without much trouble when their maturity level is right for it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
608 Posts
Hi All,
But I'm concerned right now that it's a little too free-spirited and inconsistent, and that I'm going to run into problems if I can't find more structure and consistency for DS.

...

But then I see other HS families who are doing more curriculum-based educating, talking amongst themselves about what "systems" they are using. I ask them questions, such as how much do their kids do in a day, and try to figure out what they are doing differently. One girl in our group is reading chapter books and writing cursive at 7. Her mother tells me she has had a few years of Montessori. I start to wonder if I should have been putting my children in Montessori. Another friend of mine has her 3-year-old in music, dance and gymnastic lessons, and she is even more free-spirited than I am. I wonder why I don't have my children enrolled in any lessons.

"I don't mean to complain. Our lives are awesome in many ways. What may be getting to me right now is that there are many people around who see education as a structured entity, and I don't see how to create structure out of a rather chaotic lifestyle right now. I've run out of time to go further into this, so I'll stop here.

Can anyone relate, or advise?
Oh yeah, totally. And as the mom of grown homeschoolers (one more structured, who went to a public high school) and two unschooled, both pretty radically actually...sometimes when I see the academically precocious and engaged learners in my violin school (almost all homeschoolers or atendees at the private Christian school), I have a twinge for What Might Have Been. (My son's child, my granddaughter, is thriving at a Montessori, and she is SO social that I think it would have been hard to meet her social needs as a homeschooler. My youngest was very lonely for part of her teen years because we moved to a remote place where she had little in common with anyone, until she finally clicked with the homeschooler's Ultimate (frisbee) team.

But...I do not think my daughters would have ever flourished in traditional school: each found her own way. The Middle (22) is in her last year of college; the youngest (18) has lived on her own for almost a year now, works for the Humane Society, and is considering college. The middle spent about two years in her bedroom with only the internet for company, when she wasn't being sneaked into music and art classes at the nearby college by the professors (auditing of studio courses was not allowed); the youngest spent the same time in her life borrowing horses to train and ride, learning to drive, buying a car, and adopting an unnecessary number of pets! How could these two people have even come from the same family?

What I did was facilitate their interests. When they were younger, it meant signing them up for soccer and scouts and junior high band, skiing across the lake and a lot of other stuff like that, and reading aloud a lot a lot a lot, and saying YES to everything that I could; when they got older, they showed ME the way.

So, yeah, I guess I'm on the Chaos side of the equation, and not very controlled!

Deborah

p.s. The thing is, they will likely "turn out" okay no matter WHAT you do, as long as you do SOMETHING. Is it a good night for a bonfire? ;)

p.p.s. One day Middle's best friend from next door knocked on our door at 4 p.m., and Middle told him she hadn't finished her work. He reported to his mom, who said, "Work? They do no work!" (Of course he had to tell her this; he was a very literal minded child.)

Deborah
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
241 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for your responses, everyone! I think you're right, they'll probably turn out okay, regardless. So I should relax and go with the flow.

I can't decided if it's the HS that's chaos, or just our home environment right now. No doubt, living in an unfinished home feels very chaotic, since it's so hard to organize our stuff when there's nowhere to put anything. Also, I'm wondering if I'm judging my family according to other people's standards and expectations. People expect education to involve "lessons", and for those lessons to be presented in an organized manner. If I try to do lessons and DS responds with fierce resistance, it is because I've failed to instill consistency and discipline in him. A big part of me doesn't believe that's true, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he would not be much more inclined to sit down and "get to work" in a school environment. But who can say for sure?

Out of time to write more. We did have some excellent days of unschooling this past week; pretty much exactly what I picture it should be like. Hiking, gathering leaves, exploring our new environment. So, for now it's all good. I can only assume it will get even better.

It's great to hear about your experiences. Please keep 'em coming, if you have something you'd like to share!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
608 Posts
Just a brief comment too your last: I think discipline grows from within (not "instilled"), and I'm not all that hot on consistency. (I was often told, when my kids were little, how much children like "consistency". My kids seemed to find it boring, actually.)

Deborah

p.s. I think that being in a new home, or new surroundings, or old surroundings in an evolving shape, is a wonderful growth opportunity for all. We always noticed that our kids made big developmental leaps when we went on camping trips, when we moved, when we took up new activities. I think the proper approach to "chaos" is to a) revel in it, and b) decide what one wants to do next, how to move the state closer to what you want your lives to embrace.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,554 Posts
Also, I'm wondering if I'm judging my family according to other people's standards and expectations.
Probably. It's incredibly hard not to do this. Especially when they're young, like yours and mine. I'd love it if my children went out in public as perfectly polite ambassadors for unschooling. But they don't. And when they're bratty or defiant or mean and a good friend looks askance with her much more docile same-aged kid and says she thinks I'm "too patient" with mine, it's hard not to question everything I ever do. In much the same way I question everything when that same other kid rushes off after school to bury himself in a book while mine says he hates learning to read.

Fierce resistance is quite possible even in school kids. Some love going along with expectations and receiving the praise for it. Others will resist no matter what. In some, you can "instill discipline" by making it clear that the consequences of overt resistance are dire, and it's worth it to go along. You can decide whether that sort of following is worth it to you.

As for consistency, I don't think it's a general requirement, unless it ends up making your family feel calmer and run more smoothly. For example, I try to make dinner at the same time every night, since we have many different adults with many different schedules, and it really helps cut down on the chaos I would otherwise feel. I do nothing else at the same time each day. Do what works.

Kids vary a lot. My second is a more social, more age-typical, usually more compliant kid. She'd probably be happy in school, or with more school-at-home style lessons. If she'd been my first, I may have ended up on a different educational path entirely. My first is very much himself, and even his pro-school relatives tend to admit that typical school would probably not be good for him, or for the poor teacher stuck with him.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,487 Posts
Whenever I try to get him to sit down to, say, practise numbers or handwriting skills, he yells and screams and cries.
What do you think he's resisting? My boys simply don't have the well-channeled energy to sit down for lessons. A huge reason why parents choose to homeschool is because it enables us to tailor the learning to our children's unique needs.

Some of the wisest homeschooling advice I ever received is to develop a routine but not a schedule. A schedule is rigid, while I routine balances structure with flexibility. In our household, there's not "wake-up" time, but there is a general idea of the order in which we do things-- eating breakfast, clearing the table, doing a fun activity, working on lessons, (full disclosure--we do not unschool), lunch, nature walk, afternoon classes/activities, etc.

I often start the day with what they love best in order to warm them up. For example, I'll wake up early and lay out the craft supplies on the dining room table. Another thing we sometimes do is drag some blankets and pillows into the living room to start the day off with story time and hot cocoa. While I strive for some consistency, there's no actual schedule, so I don't have to beat myself up with guilt-punches if none of this happens.

As for lessons, I do make lesson plans, (I need them for my own sanity), but the goal is simply to make sure that somehow or another, everything on them is checked off by the end of the day.

Also, is there any chance that you have a kinesthetic learner? If so, you can research some ideas on how to tailor your lessons and activities to your little guy's need to move! As an example, I can give one my kids an oral spelling "quiz." But with another, we do "spelling basketball," where he gets to toss a ball or beanbag into a bucket every time he spells a word correctly. You could also try addition and subtraction by building a hopscotch course with sidewalk chalk, (weather-permitting--too much rain here lately!), and having him hop forward and backwards to solve the problems. We've identified letter sounds by running around the house scavenger hunting for items that start with a given letter. Dig around on a search engine or Pinterest for some fun, hands-on science experiments, too.

Without knowing you or your kids, I don't have easy answers. But hopefully you're getting ideas by reading this thread. That's the beauty of homeschooling and why so many of us choose to do it; you can work with your individual children's needs, learning styles, and interests. It can be hard when our laid-out plans clash with reality, but I'm confident that you'll eventually work out a rhythm. :thumb
 
  • Like
Reactions: Nazsmum

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,127 Posts
Some of the wisest homeschooling advice I ever received is to develop a routine but not a schedule. A schedule is rigid, while I routine balances structure with flexibility. In our household, there's not "wake-up" time, but there is a general idea of the order in which we do things-- eating breakfast, clearing the table, doing a fun activity, working on lessons, (full disclosure--we do not unschool), lunch, nature walk, afternoon classes/activities, etc.
This is so true :nerd::grin:
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
4,686 Posts
<3

I wanna come back to this when I really have focus, but the 'comparing yourself to others' bit caught me. When I was homeschooling DS2 I really felt that. I felt like... somehow were werent the right class to HS, that I couldn't but the blahblahblah to be 'good' homeschoolers. THAT WAS FAR FROM TRUE. Don't compare yourself to others.

I'll come back. love.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
880 Posts
If someone in your household would benefit from more structure, identify who it is.

My eldest always gravitated to environments I thought were hideously over structured...ballet, for example. I have a lifetime total of about 40 minutes if tolerance for being yelled at in French or Russian...then I go for a walk. He thrived on it.

My second is the queen of checking off boxes. To do lists. She looks too busy to me, but she seems to enjoy it.

Now, they wouldn't really have enjoyed being with me as older people, and there were certainly days they found me challenging, when they were children. But that evolves.

If you're feeling that the children would like to...go to story time at the library, for example, and it's not happening because you're concerned about the car, I'd say, get the car fixed. However, if the thing that worries you is ""A GOOD homeschooler would..." You can probably let that go.

Listen to them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
241 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I love all this advice! Sadly, I'm having one of those moments when I feel everything is against me...or I'm not doing what's best for them...or our environment just isn't set up right... or I'm too selfish to give them a good education at home. It's just a passing feeling, probably can be chalked up to hormones or end-of-day, darkest-time-of-the-year blues. Currently the problem I'm having with structure is that our environment doesn't feel stable or settled enough for me. Yes, it's probably me who would benefit from more structure. We can't even be in our own home full-time right now because the interior is under construction, and it's a huge mess. We're lucky enough to be able to stay with my parents, but they don't really buy into the homeschooling idea. When DS is running around and being noisy, and he runs around and is noisy for about 14 hours a day, they have little patience for it and say that he needs to be in school. I take DS and DD to homeschooling group activities three times a week, including a gym group where they get to play actively with other kids. I take them outside as much as I can so they can run around, and we play games together. We socialize with friends, not every day, but as much as I can manage. We drive up to our house on weekends so we can spend time together with DH as a family. I'd like to enroll DS in sports or swimming, but really don't want to do any more driving around than I'm currently doing, and we can't afford it right now anyways. But when we're at "home", my mother starts asking DS when he's going to do his school work. He starts arguing with her, saying that he's not a "school kid". Then I start feeling bad, because I'm not seen sitting him down to lessons or doing some kind of learning activity. And if I try to do some kind of activity with them that is fun and educational, it doesn't seem to work out. I tried making Christmas cards and crafts with them this week, but they soon lost interest and went to see what my father was watching on TV. I wound up doing most of the crafting myself. There are so many distractions happening at home all day long, that there is no way DS would be able to concentrate on any school type of activity for long. My sister came to visit the other day, and also suggested that active boys like mine do just fine in school. It just bothers me that I don't seem to be measuring up in other people's eyes, as an educator of my own children. And I have such little confidence in myself that I feel easily crushed by these comments by my own family. I'd rather be in my own home, where there is no TV and where no one is bothered by the loudness of young children. But I'd like it to be a home in a reasonable state of completion, so I have places to put things, and at least one table at which we can sit and do projects without being in the way. I'm probably being very unfair to my parents in this post... My mother is very good with DS, and talks to him about all kinds of things. She's teaching him to count by 10's, showing him how her sewing machine works. But I feel like we are in the way, and it hurts to think that kids who aren't in school are just in the way and a nuisance. Like I said, this is probably just a temporary feeling. I just want to vent, that's all.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
962 Posts
I haven't read all of the posts, but first decide do you really want to unschool or not? Not unschooling does not means school at home either, there are as many varieties of learning at home as there are families. Homeschooling whichever way its cut is a life style.

Your children are very young and there are many things to learn of more importance than reading, writing and maths in this age group, such as social skills, creativity, problem solving, fine motor control. Schools place way too much importance on those 3R's at this age, often stressing children and causing life long dislike of reading and writing, and for what? So they can pass them onto the next class, so they can all be the same, to make the teachers job easier. Not for the children's benefit. Give them another year or two and all of them could learn those skills easily ( learning issues aside)

Comparing your child to others is always a bad idea. Either you will be worried that yours don't measure up or you might become overly confident that something you did achieved it all which can turn into judgment of others. That seven year old that can read chapter books, great I hope she enjoys them, but it's also perfectly normal to just be learning to read at 7. No doubt the non reading child is doing other things of more interest to them. Given a rich enviroment and not a diet of all day video games all young children will learn.

Right now I would focus on getting some kind of rhythm to your life but I would not worry over lack of structure. If you feel uncomfortable with things start making slow changes, probably first to get things more organized. Don't let others make you feel uncomfortable with your choices.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
8,487 Posts
It just bothers me that I don't seem to be measuring up in other people's eyes, as an educator of my own children. And I have such little confidence in myself that I feel easily crushed by these comments by my own family.
It sounds like this right here is your core issue. What's the saying? Other peoples' perceptions of you don't have to become your reality. How much longer are you living with your parents?

One thing I find interesting is that while they place these grand expectations on you, they are not creating a supportive environment. This is a double standard. As just one example, if your mom wants them to learn like the school kids, she needs a gentle reminder that school kids can focus better because they don't have a television blaring in the background all day.

If you're having trouble unschooling with any routine or structure, you could consider a philosophy of homeschooling that provides a little more structure but still incorporates what you love about unschooling. (No flames, please, unschoolers!) Montessori and Charlotte Mason might be considerations. With this quiz, you may still come out with a result of unschooling, but it enables you to see some other methods, as well. There's a mistaken notion that all alternatives to unschooling are somehow "school at home," and I can assure you that's false. :)

Finally, remember that your kids are probably as stressed out as you are about the living arrangements. I'm sure that they're just as eager as you are to get back home.

Be gentle on yourself. :hug
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top