January 23, 2015

Your Kids Will Complain about Homeschool

If you are a homeschool mom you've probably already discovered that there will be times when your kids complain about doing school work. Maybe they only complain on occasion because you are a homeschool rock star and make every lesson impressively engaging. On the flip side, maybe your kids complain every. single. day when it's time to begin school. It could be one subject that causes all the whining (hello, math!) or they could simply complain about every little thing.

Do you have a complainer in your homeschool?

Oh, you do?

So then, are you in despair, thinking that somehow you as the homeschool teacher are the blame? Or maybe you've blamed the curriculum, or the schedule, or the subject matter?

It might just possibly be the child. (Of course, it can be any combination of all these reasons).

Step out from under the weight of all that guilt and know that sometimes kids will complain about homeschooling. Why? Quite simply, because learning can be challenging. Admit it. You've complained about difficult tasks. Your kids will too.

Maybe you somehow thought that homeschool was the ultimate answer and your kids would never complain about doing school work. For some reason, I did not consider that my children might argue with me, refuse to do school, complain for hours on end, or lie on the floor in a puddle of tears. And all this over the answer to "6x7=?" or the spelling of the word "where."

You've researched curriculum, spent hours planning, ordered books, prepared notebooks, set up a work space, and started your homeschool year. Just a few days in to the year you have students threatening to mutiny and you're wondering where you went wrong.

It happens to all of us.

We wonder what happened to our adorable, eager little scholars.

Before you stress about attitudes and how to reclaim the joy in learning, know that we are all fighting the same battle. We've all had to face-off with little people who stubbornly refuse to do school or who have a personal mission to make everyone dislike the school day as much as they do.

This isn't failure on your part. Your homeschool dreams have not gone up in smoke before your very eyes. There will probably be lots of complaining during your homeschooling days. This ugly little truth is a secret of many homeschool moms. We silently bear the frustrations of our kids while feeling guilty that somehow we are the cause.

There are things you can do to try to combat some of the complaining. However, embrace the reality that there will be complaints, bad attitudes, whining, tears, arguing, and frustration in the homeschool journey. Learning is a challenging process. Give your kids some grace. And give yourself just as much grace; you are learning too!

What can you do about it?
Allow them to voice their complaints at designated times - Teach them to voice their complaints in a respectful way and make sure that you set aside time to actively listen to their struggles. Screaming, whining, and tantrums are not allowed but respectful discussion is always acceptable. Allow them to talk about their frustrations and discouragement. Share with them the times that you feel less than enthusiastic about homeschooling.

Have weekly meetings to discuss school with them - Sit down with your kids weekly or monthly and have a time to evaluate their progress, but from their perspective. What are their challenges, their struggles, and their biggest accomplishments? Allow each child to brainstorm ways that school time can be more productive, more fun, and less stressful. Give your kids the time to share their input.

Let them start making choices about subjects, curriculum, and schedules - As they are older, allow them to choose one elective per year or per semester. For younger kids, give them little choices during the school day such as the order that subjects are completed or where they want to work on their homework. Find ways that they can make choices about their own education and what they are learning.

Give them more responsibility - Some kids might need to work more independently or have more responsibility for their own education. They may be a complainer because they feel they should have more input into the decisions surrounding their education or they might prefer to do more subjects without your direct oversight. It's important to recognize when kids need some independent learning opportunities.

Utilize outside classes for accountability - Sometimes kids might do better answering to someone other than mom for a change. I've found that an outside class on occasion gives my kids a new perspective. When they answer to someone other than me they realize that deadlines are universal and that learning expectations might even be higher. My kids do sometimes need a break from me and they are often more motivated when working on classes taught by someone other than me for a change of pace.

Empathize with them - The most important response is to empathize with their struggles. It's true, I don't have many memories of my hard-fought battle with phonics in 3rd grade or my struggles with math in 5th grade. However, I do know that there were many times that learning felt overwhelming and like an impossible task. Make it a point to be sympathetic and encouraging.

My kids do complain about homeschooling sometimes. It's important that I don't take their gripe sessions personally. Most of the time, the heart of their complaint is simply about the difficulty in learning something new or facing a new challenge that seems overwhelming at first. When I change my perspective on their whining I can remind them to voice their frustrations in a respectful way and they know that I will listen and empathize while giving them the space to brainstorm ways to address and overcome their frustrations.

It's ok that your kids complain about homeschool. But when they do complain, take the time to truly listen and then find ways to give them the responsibility for solving the problem themselves. And if all else fails, don't be afraid to impose some limits.

Hip Homeschool Moms

January 21, 2015

What People Must Think About Us Homeschoolers

So, we've had a super fun problem at our house lately. We've had a major ant infestation. Everywhere I look in my master bathroom there are ants. I'm about to move into one of the kids' rooms to get away from them. I'm blaming the next door neighbors and the new pool that they put in their backyard. Every ant that had a home in their now-demolished backyard is currently in my bathroom.

I've been doing everything to get rid of these little pests. I finally had a company come out and spray our house. I scheduled them for their next available appointment which was nearly a week later. It was a long time to wait!

The day arrived for the "bug guy" to come to our house and I made sure that I was somewhat dressed and that a few of the kids had clothes on. Half of them may have been in pj's though.......

I explained our problem to the man and showed him our scary bathroom. He was very serious the whole time and told me I had a huge problem. But I was having a huge problem taking this man seriously. Every inch of him was covered in soot except for his eyes and forehead. I kept expecting him to break into Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Poppins. And in fact, he had been cleaning chimneys that morning.

As he worked, he chatted with me about the kids and the house. Then he asked about my husband and what he did. I mentioned that he had just graduated and immediately he glanced up at me and said, "From highschool?" I was still having a hard time taking him seriously on account of the Mary Poppins thing, so I had to take a deep breath before answering. I wasn't quite sure if he was serious. I responded that my husband had finished graduate school. He congratulated me which I thought was very fitting since I had to endure the five years of doctoral studies along with my husband.

Then we went outside to check the yard. The kids were all playing outside because I had sent them out the house while the man worked. They had set up beach towels and soccer goals into some type of fort and were digging in the yard while using magnifying glasses to study the dirt. The man stood for a long time staring at them trying to figure out what they were doing. The kids stopped working and Curly yelled to the man, "I'm a meteorologist studying the clouds, Tiger is a geologist studying rocks, and Bee is a botanist studying the grass! I'm sorry we can't talk but we are busy doing research now!"

My little chimney sweep/bug guy was incredulous. Finally he looked at me and smiled and said, "Well, you have a group of scientists here! They will be just like your husband!"

Giggle......apparently a graduate degree means that my hubby is a scientist and my kids will follow in his footsteps. (For the record, my husband's degree is in financial planning, and while he does do research, it doesn't qualify him as a scientist).

I'm sitting here watching ants curl up and die in my bathroom and wondering what on earth that man thought of our family. I'm thankful my kids kept the craziness to a minimum during his visit but I'd still like to know what is running through his mind after he left our outdoor laboratory.

Hip Homeschool Moms

January 16, 2015

Daddies Do Things Differently

When we were expecting our oldest (Curly, now age 9), I read all the parenting books and blogs. I knew exactly what you were *supposed* to do. I was slightly horrified that my husband seemed content to just "wing it" when it came to bringing our baby home from the hospital.

My labor and deliver did not go at all like anyone anticipated. I had severe complications and was taken to the ER. After lots of tests and labwork, the doctors made a scary diagnosis and little Curly girl was born that very day - a full month early.

I spent the entire hospital stay on anti-seizure medications and was extremely sick. I slept through every visitor who came to see our sweet new baby. I was too sick to sit up and hold Curly and too tired to think about parenting. My sweet husband stepped right in and changed every single diaper, rocked her to sleep, and held her while she fussed. He became super dad overnight while I miserably wished I was able to be the mother I had dreamed of being.

After we were released from the hospital my husband jumped right into the daily tasks of taking care of our newborn while also taking care of me. He seemed to have no fear of this tiny 5 pound infant. He soothed and rocked her with confidence as I watched in worried silence. After all, he wasn't doing things quite how the parenting books recommended. However, I saw that my newborn was happy and content and my husband had bonded deeply with her.

That's when I realized: Daddies do it differently but that in no way makes it wrong. 

To this day, he and Curly have a strong bond and she has always been a Daddy's girl. I'm so thankful that I encouraged my husband to be involved without criticizing his efforts. He didn't read all the parenting books but he was unafraid to love, care, and be involved.

Daily I'm reminded that my husband handles things differently. While I usually applaud his efforts, sometimes I have to stop and laugh.

Case in point: A few months ago I had an evening out with some other homeschool moms. We talked for hours about our homeschools and our children. We left our time together feeling encouraged and uplifted. As I walked into my house I noticed that there were multiple buckets on the floor in the downstairs bathroom. Every towel in the house lined the floor of the bathroom and the hall. I was almost too afraid to ask what had happened.

Apparently my husband had bathed all the children. He put Bee and Ladybug in one tub together while putting all the other kids in different tubs throughout the house. Even though he was nearby and checking on the girls often, he neglected to turn off the water in their tub. He assumed that they would turn off the tub when the water was high enough. (He sometimes forgets how little toddler type people think- or don't think...).

The upstairs tub had overflowed and flooded the upstairs bathroom which in turn leaked down into the bathroom where Curly was bathing, prompting her to start shrieking that it was raining inside. He then had to run into the bathrooms to see what was happening. All this time he was carrying Punkin who was wrapped in her little hooded towel.

As my husband recounted the story and expressed his frustration that the girls would not have thought to turn off their water I simply smiled. He was learning something that I saw every day as I homeschooled-kids rarely do what you expect. I reminded him that little children rarely think logically and things that are obvious to us are almost never obvious to him. He sighed and continued his clean up efforts while I tucked the kids into bed. I never said a word about the state of the house or the bathrooms or the fact that we had a small rainstorm in our house.

Daddies do it differently. I'll keep any comments and criticism to myself and let him learn in his own way. I will sneak to the bedroom and laugh to myself though. Maybe he should have read those parenting books after all.....

January 14, 2015

Curricula Overlap - Using More than 1 Curriculum Per Subject

If you've glance through my curricula plans you've undoubtedly noticed that there are often numerous resources listed for each subject.  As a matter of fact, I sometime use two different curricula for one subject.  Other times I use bits and pieces of each to piece together our school year.

It might seem a little crazy at first glance but here's why I use more than one curricula per subject:

Encompassing different learning styles
If you've looked at curriculum it is apparent that different vendors market to students of different learning styles. I have a broad range of learning styles in my homeschool so I try to make sure that I teach to each style at various points in the year. When I use a blend of two different curricula I'm able to teach to multiple learning styles.

For example: I use both Right Start Math and Math Mammoth. I've found that Right Start Math best teaches to auditory and kinesthetic learners while Math Mammoth addresses visual learners best. When I use them together my kids have a more well-rounded learning experience.

Keeping things interesting
As the teacher it can get boring to simply move through the progressive levels of a particular curriculum. Sometimes my kids are so familiar with the style of a curriculum that they start to guess at answers or they don't pay attention well. When I add in an extra supplement from another publisher or use two different curricula for one subject, no one has a chance to be bored. I have to stay engaged in the lessons because I have to learn how the curriculum works. My kids get to learn a broader range of topics because of the overlap.

For example: Nancy Larson Science is our main science program. We enjoy the teaching style and the variety of topics. However, I also add in Apologia elementary science. We read one book per year. It is a completely different style of teaching and it covers different topics at at different level of depth as the Nancy Larson Science. Because we use both we learn more about various topics and we enjoy the variety.

Ensuring that we review
I can never predict what topics will be a struggle for my kids to understand. Sometimes we find that we need greater review of a certain topic. When we use a blend of curricula then we are able to experience the same topic more than once so that my kids are always reviewing topics.

For example: I use First Language Lessons as my main grammar resource. I teach spelling through the Phonics Road which also contains quite a bit of grammar. When we encounter the grammar in the Phonics Road it is often review (because we move through this curriculum more slowly) and it allows me to see how well my kids have retained certain topics that I taught earlier in the year. 

Teaching from different angles and perspectives
I don't want my kids to do all of their studies through just one publisher and learn that author's viewpoint without having the opportunity to explore other perspectives. When we use a variety of publishers and curricula we have the ability to explore bias, viewpoints, and perspectives. It allows me to help my children learn to question and think critically.

For example: Story of the World is our main history curriculum for this year. I add in many additional resources to our studies in the form of outside books and encyclopedia articles. Through reading about the same events as recorded by different authors, we can see new angles and perspectives that we would have missed if we studied through the lens of only one individual's perception.

I have found that using a broad variety of curricula and supplements works best in our homeschool. That doesn't mean that it's not time consuming or a lot of work to plan ways to mesh the resources together. However, I've found that it's worth it for me to spend the time researching curricula options that complement each other well. So, call me crazy but we have quite an interesting conglomeration of overlapping curricula in our homeschool!

Hip Homeschool Moms

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