Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Heaven Help Me

I'm thinking about homeschooling again.

I've always had the heart of a homeschooler, but never had the determination or organization to make it work for us.

I actually homeschooled Abby for the better part of her kindergarten year.  I've always viewed it as one of my epic parenting failures, and confess to breathing a sigh of relief the first time I sent her off on the school bus, but the girls still frequently talk about the fun things we did that year, so perhaps it wasn't the disaster I thought it was.

I really feel the education my kids are getting is sub-par.  I'm not sure if it's the district, the schools, the teachers or what, but it just doesn't seem like there's a lot of learning going on.  Ashlynn has gotten the raw end of the deal this year with a teacher who has been gone with health problems more than she's actually been in the classroom.  There's not much learning can actually get done when you're as familiar with the various substitutes as you are with her teacher. And Abby's class isn't much better.  The better part of the third grade year at the girls' school is devoted to putting together a Disney Program full of costumes, songs and dances from Disney movies.  Now, I support music and performing as much as anyone, but when days and weeks at a time are devoted to rehearsing "Kiss the Girl" from "The Little Mermaid," I start to wonder.

The school is constantly having assemblies.  More than once my girls have come home and told me they watched movies in PE.  I don't want to be the mean fun killing mom who insists on academics at all costs, and blames the terrible school system for everything without offering up any solutions, but come on!  Movies in PE?  Seriously?

But there are other factors too.  The more involved my kids get in their musical instruments, the more they both need me.  The sad truth is, there's just not enought time between 7:00 am when everyone is supposed to start their practicing and 8:25 when they're supposed to leave for school for me to spend adequate time and energy with my pianist, my violinist, the crying baby, and the demanding toddler, make the lunches and get everyone out the door on time when all I really want to do is go back to bed.  I hate being pulled in a million different directions and feelng like I'm short changing all four of my kids simultaneously.

We're also hoping to move sometime in the next few months.  Somehow, 4 kids and 2 bedrooms just isn't working, and we need a bigger place.  We'll be staying in the valley, but a lot of the homes we're looking at are in the boundaries of the school we had such terrible experiences with last year, and I will not send them back there.  There are, of course, ways I could send them to another school in the valley, but it just doesn't address the nagging feelings that both my husband and I have had that the girls might be better off at home.

I know it wouldn't be all sunshine, lollipops and fluffy bunnies.  In fact, I seriously wonder at my abilities to cope with all four of my children all day everyday, and be responsible for their education on top of that.  (Especially on days like today- we're only on the second day of spring break and the chorus of "I'm bored!" was deafening at times!)  But part of me wonders if things might move more smoothly if our family wasn't forced into an artificial school schedule. 

Yesterday was delightful.  By noon, all the chores had been done, Ashlynn had done nearly an hour of piano, Abby had done almost 2 hours of violin, and I'd been able to spend significant time with both of them. The girls practice so much better at any time but 7 am (and I can't say I blame them!) and practicing with both girls was so much more productive than it usually is.  I felt less rushed, and I'm sure that translated into a more casual environment for them. I think that bringing the girls home would create a better, less rushed, and more productive environment for all of us.  I think we could get the chores, practicing, and school part of our day all done in the time the girls are usually at school, leaving their afternoons free while I am teaching.

But then I wonder.  What do I do about doctor's appointments?  Grocery shopping?  I've mentioned several times how I would rather poke myself in the eye repeatedly with a toothpick than take all four kids grocery shopping, but if all four are home with me all day, I don't think I have much of a choice.  And I'd have to forget about those spontaneous mornings out with my mom friends and the quiet hours in the afternoon when the baby is sleeping and Max is watching his one movie for the day. 

I'm wondering if I'm really sane even thinking about this. But I'm also wondering if it's the best thing for them and for my family.

So I know I have a lot of homeschooling friends that are readers here.  How do you make it work for your family?  How do you balance everything?  Do you still find time for yourself and your own pursuits?


  1. I homeschooled all my kids until this year. Now I only homeschool my youngest while the boys go to school for sports reasons. Time for myself and my pursuits...what time? I read while waiting for one at wrestling practice or another at orchestra rehearsal. I get up earlier than everyone else some mornings for a run or quiet time. Other than that, there isn't much me time. I figure I'll have plenty of me time when the kids are grown and gone. : )

    Homeschooling is not like school. It doesn't take as much time. Your child doesn't have to wait for an entire class to learn what she learned in 5 min. There isn't all the wasted time lining up or going class to class. 3-4 hours a day is all it takes for us to cover a lot of information. Juggling 4 little ones will be a challenge but it can be done with some pre-planning...maybe a special bin of toys the littlest ones get to play with only while the older ones do school or schooling around nap times.

    We school 4 days a week leaving the extra weekday for appointments, shopping, or whatever comes up. We also catch up on weekends if we have a really busy week.

    Good Luck.

  2. I seriously think about home schooling on a weekly basis..... I have the same concerns you do. Let me know what you do. Maybe you can inspire me!

  3. One thing that can help with Max would be a "joy school" or something like that with some other little guys. When we did that for Kieran it was AWESOME. Really a kid swap at whatever time works, with any or all of your kids, would be worth looking into. I've only found one mom so far to do it with me, but we take turns babysitting once a month for dates. You and another mom could take turns with the kids during the day for Mom (you and then her) to have "quiet time."

    I absolutely agree that the outside schedule enforced by the school can be a pain. And here is a big thing to consider: It is not the life or death decision that it often seems like when we are considering schooling options for our kids. Go ahead a try it! If it doesn't work out, you just look at other options. We are sending Kieran to a charter school this fall for a "reality check" for him - he has gotten lazy and needs some lessons that he just won't listen to from me. But then, hopefully, he will come right back home. I love homeschooling, and there are so many wonderful ways to do it!!! I could go on and me if you want to talk. :)

  4. We need to talk more!!! :)
    I like what Marti said - it's not a life or death decision, and really even if you were largely relaxed and slow paced with your kids, they would still learn more than they do in public school.
    I'd REALLY encourage you to read "A Thomas Jefferson Education" ... it made Robert and I feel so much better about homeschooling.

  5. I don't know about home school at all, but to me it does seem like it could be overwhelming (especially with 4 kids), but at the same time, if my kids weren't getting a good education there isn't anything I wouldn't do to change that. And by the way, how did you get your blog so freakin cute?? I LOVE it! I need some tips:)

  6. Okay, we need to get together again. Today was NOT enough time. We need to talk about it all without the constant threat (and reality on my part) of misplacing one (or two or three) of our children. Homeschool can be awesome. :)

  7. Dang... I had a whole response typed up and then lost internet. Maybe I'll just email you, or send you a long message on facebook. :)

  8. We're unschoolers and right now I only have two of my children with me. My eldest is off at college (and he unschooled his high school years).

    Yes, it does get a bit tiring some days being "on call" all the time.

    I still get quiet time, though.

    My youngest is 3 and her nap time is our quiet time. That means that my 6 year old knows to get down her art supplies or play quietly with her toys. I'm unavailable until the little one naps. Now, she's napping in my arms in the rocking chair, but it's still my time. I read then or watch movies.

    As for errands and grocery store trips, we've always gone as a family. This may or may not work for your family, but it helps to have my husband along. Sometimes, if the girls are particularly spirited, I might go alone or he might go alone and get the shopping done.

    I still pursue my own interests and that's actually an important part of our learning. It's really important to me that the girls learn that we all need a creative outlet and need time and opportunity to learn and grow.

  9. So interesting that you say "heart of a homeschooler". I have always felt that way. My siblings were homeschooled and I just assumed that I would do it when I had my own family. But the oldest was determined to go with her friends to school. A decision that as a senior in high school she is now re-thinking. The other kids just followed her.

    We have stayed with the spirit of homeschooling however. " Never letting school get the the way of education" as Mark Twain said. You know, supplementing their school education with our own delightful wanderings! The high school kids have even done some on-line classes; leaving campus early to come home to class. It has really been some of the best of both worlds.

  10. I homeschool, but I only have one child--so I admit that my situation isn't quite the same as yours. But when I was thinking about homeschooling, I read a lot of homeschooling blogs to see what their days were like--and I saw mothers who were making it work in all kinds of situations. That doesn't necessarily mean that everyone should homeschool, but nosing around the internet a bit really helped me see that I could make things work.

  11. Hello, I'm just stopping by from MMB. Nice blog!

    I am also a mother of four active children (although my youngest is now 8). I have homeschooled at least one (up to 3) of my children for the past three years and have really enjoyed it.

    A couple of my thoughts concerning your situation:
    *As a homeschool family, you can do things on your own schedule. Perhaps you could get up early, before your husband leaves for work, to do the grocery shopping? Or after work, after the kids are in bed?
    *You'll be surprised by how many families are out there that do homeschool. There are a ton of us! I would suggest finding a group, or at least other individuals, that you're compatible with. And as was mentioned by another posted, work out kid-swapping, of some kind. If you're strong in science, for example, you could have a couple hour science lesson at your house with both sets of children one day. Another day, she could have a social studies lesson with all of the children. It would give you both a bit of a break, and give your children some socializing, as well as a different perspective on a subject that might not be your strongest.
    *If you do decide to try homeschooling again, I would like to suggest you try it for at least two years in a row. The second year is SO much easier than the first year.

    Regardless of what you decide to do, I wish you the best! :-)

  12. The days I took Connor to his gym preschool were always more hectic then the ones where the schedule is flexible and we do our own thing. Now that he surpassed their preschool activities and didn't want to go anymore, he just has a gym class once a week with his sister. The rest of the days we learn and play and learn and play. It's much easier.

    My kids do the bulk of their learning on their own on their shared laptop. They both just really enjoy online games, even the educational ones. They have also learned the alphabet by looking up their favorite cartoon characters or maybe an animal they read about at story time. Connor now has the spelling of about a dozen words memorized so he can look them up quickly (the first being Lego). They like looking up things online - we even watch a youtube video about the circulatory system because they wanted to know why they had blue lines on their hands. Once you find which way they enjoy learning - by reading, by watching, by listening, by doing - the learning pretty much handles itself, and you don't have to be that hands on. A mama friend of mine here unschools her teenagers and her daughter took Japanese lessons and then went to Japan and her son likes to design graphics online. her philosophy is that if people aren't having fun or it's stressing you out, you're not doing it right. My kids are 5 and 3 and I'm embracing the same philosophy - if school becomes a chore or something to struggle through, I might as well just send them to public school.

    My 2 cents, perhaps even 3 cents.

  13. Well, I sometimes wish I had a homeschool heart. Luckily for my my kids have a great schooling situation, but when Russell was in a Kindergarten class of 30 kids I came so close to pulling him out. The only reason I kept him in was it was only half day....I could "homeschool" or rather just make sure he knew everything the other half of the day. I do cherish the quietness of the house when my kids are at school, but am slightly envious of the kids down the street who homeschool and do so much fun stuff during the day. OK- so no advice...just my thoughts. :)

  14. My little one will start kindergarten next year and I totally agree with you about mixed feelings about the quality of education. I think you're already giving your children a better education just by the music lessons that they are learning. They learn so many other skills by being able to read music, follow instructions, etc. etc. I think if you chose to home school, you would find a way to make it work and still have your needs met. Maybe you would just take the kids to your mom dates and they play or color for the hour or half hour. Or maybe you make new friends who also homeschool and do lunch dates at the park. Maybe you use grocery shopping as a lesson and have the children help you and they get a reward for how well they do. Good luck with your decision!


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