February 10, 2015

The Winter Slump of Homeschool

It seems there is a common thread among homeschool families about how this time of year is especially difficult.  I know it is for me.  I've seen a recent blog post about it, and my homeschooling friends on Facebook have also mentioned it.  We're either feeling the fatigue of the long-term responsibility of completing the school year, or our children are struggling with it.  I think it's also compounded by the time of year - winter, so it's cold, we're not spending as much time outside, so we feel cooped up together.  Or maybe sometimes we're too busy with activities and life that we're burnt out with everything together.

I thought it would be helpful to brainstorm some ideas to change things up that might help us get through this slump.  Here's what I came up with.

- Bundle up and go outside anyway.  (Mom too!)  Race, kick a ball around, anything active.
- Rearrange the schoolroom a little, or a lot.
- Come up with a new incentive program for finishing assignments - have a bucket of little prizes ready to earn.
- Skip a particularly arduous subject for a day or a week.  Come back at it later with a renewed perspective.
- Try an educational game or website, or find some movies to watch that pertain to what you're learning.
- Look at what you're doing as a mom, as a family, and what your kids are doing.  Are you overbooked?  Are there things you can cancel or remove from your schedule to give you more freedom?
- Set a goal for everyone that when everyone's school is done for the day, we'll all go shopping, or to the library, or bowling, or some other get-out-of-the-house activity.
- Find a friend who can come in and give a "school assembly" on an area of expertise of theirs, whether it pertains to what you're learning, or is an art form, or just something really interesting.  If you're ambitious, you might invite another homeschool family or two to join you.
- Amid it all, give yourself and your children an extra measure of grace.

What ideas do you have?  Have you noticed this same time of year is difficult for you?  I welcome your suggestions, so please share!

February 08, 2015

My Unique Life - Ramblings

I have found that in the community we currently find ourselves, both in our church, and in our military community, I seem to be unique.  I seem to be a part of a small group, a minority, in several categories.

I am a stay-at-home mother with four (going on five) children who range from age 1-12.  Would you say a large family is a family of 5 or more?  We'll soon be a family of 7.

I also home school, which means I choose to be around them ALL DAY LONG.  So, rather than take time for myself while they are being taught by someone else, or rather than get a job to increase my income or utilize my education and skills, I teach them and I am not increasing our income.  I suppose I am utilizing my education and skills, though not necessarily the same set I might choose a career in.

I'm not socially outgoing.  I'm also not a complete introvert.  I can lead, but right now, choose not to.  In a group, I tend to listen more than talk.  I tend to hang back rather than put myself out there.  In a group discussion, I will pay attention to all that is being said for awhile, and unless I find there is something very different from what is being said that needs to be said, I would rather hear others' perspectives rather than share my own.

Today in a Sunday morning class my husband and I are in at the church, called "Simplify" by Bill Hybels, we were challenged to assess how we spend our time and money, and simplify those to fit our passions and the culture (fast paced and challenging, or laid back and free) we are most comfortable with, to best utilize our God-given talents and abilities in a way that really motivates us (and benefits others).  I recognized once again that I was one of two stay-at-home mothers there, and the only home school mom.  This means I have a unique situation.  In order to participate in a discussion with the rest of the group, I would have to explain my unique circumstances first, and expect that no one would relate to me.

I think being related to is one of the deepest desires of the human heart.  Knowing someone else knows what it's like to go through what you're going through puts our minds at ease, gives us hope, and helps us know that we are doing alright, or we will be okay.

I have resolved, with the blessing and support of my husband, to home school our children.  Because of this, it is my job, 24/7, to care for our children's needs, including their education.  (Thankfully they sleep at night.)  It has some similarities to being self-employed, except my clients don't pay me for my services, and I set my own deadlines (within the requirements of the home school laws of our state).  Add to this that I am not by nature a self-starter, self-motivator, or a self-disciplined person.  I can be for short periods of time, but I burn out quickly with rigid schedules and guidelines that I set for myself.  New Years' resolutions, for example, are not appealing to me.  Rather, they are a burdensome idea.  I really need daily, or at least weekly resolutions.  Sometimes hourly, when one of my children is trying my patience or constantly bickering with her sister.  But I don't really bother with resolutions at all, because they usually just invade my freedom to do what I feel like when I have a spare moment.

In class this morning, we were encouraged to ask ourselves what our passions were, and whether we were pursuing them either with our profession or with our volunteering.  I always come up blank on this sort of thing, because it doesn't seem to matter what my passions are if they aren't being a mother and a home school teacher.  That is what I do.  Am I passionate about it?  Occasionally.  Do I thrive with motivation on a daily basis as I do it?  No.  Especially in February when it's cold outside, we're confined indoors for at least 6 hours of schoolwork time, and there are exactly 15 weeks of school left in the year.  I can't wait until Summer break.

I am passionate about learning.  I also love to hear the discussion from my children when they are learning too, and I get excited to see them understanding new things.  But I am not passionate about the constant reminders to stop chatting and get back on task.  I'm also not passionate about the number of hours of our day that is consumed by completing all the prescribed tasks of our curriculum.  I have no problem with the curriculum - I think it has wonderful content.  I only wish it didn't take so long into the day.  My brain hurts by 2 p.m., and I get to wondering when everyone is going to finally complete their work for the day.

I am passionate about giving our children a good childhood, preparing them for a good adulthood, and giving them the training in character that will help them relate respectfully and productively to others in the world around them.  I want them to know and understand the truths of God and His Word, and how all that relates to the school subjects and life and eternity.  But I get bogged down with discipline issues:  Why does she have such a pattern of disobedience?  Am I handling this right as a Mom?  Am I being too hard on her or too easy on her?  How do I get through to her about the importance of making the right choices?

I am passionate about other things too, but those things don't fit into my life right now.  I think about them sometimes.  But I don't see how I could carve out time to pursue or enjoy those things.  In another future season of life, I hope to have time for that.  It'll be a time when my brain won't be so bogged down with home school responsibility or raising children.  My thoughts will hopefully be more complete, less interrupted, and creativity and vision can flow freely.

I paint such a glamorous picture of what I do, don't I?  Only 18 1/2 more years.

I do love my "job".  Sometimes.  I'm told that I'm good at it.  My children make a good impression on others.  They are well behaved for others most of the time, and they are well educated for their ages.  That is rewarding to hear.

But I do have passions, interests, ambitions, beyond the joy and struggle of raising and teaching our children.

There are so many women who don't home school and who enjoy a career.  Working a paying job while my children are growing doesn't appeal to me.  I feel I would miss out on their lives, and that I would be too tired to be a good mom to them.  Putting my children in public school doesn't appeal to me either.  We did that for a couple years.  It wasn't awful.  In fact, the school itself was very well-run.  But there were a number of drawbacks.  And the number of benefits I see in our home school is truly worth my efforts.

Perhaps there are a few things I can do to enjoy the journey more.  It'll be food for thought and exploration.  I'm always a fan of trying new things, so more of that to come.

I don't mind being unique, especially if I think it works best for our family.  But I do hope I can find a way to relate to others, whether finding local people who share my uniqueness (does that make me no longer unique?), or finding ways to relate to others in different situations than my own.