Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 9

Hello, all! It’s been two months since my last Homeschooling update. (This makes me sound as if I’m at an AA meeting. Well, I guess I’m addicted to homeschooling so perhaps it is an apt comparison.)

Anyhow, I have been remiss lately in both the writing and the homeschooling, but thankfully, the beauty of outsourcing a lot of our homeschooling is that I can personally slack on stuff but the kids will still be educated.

Also, “everything” and “life” is considered “school” so that is also a great “cheat.”

Now, just because I haven’t done a lot of at home teaching doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything. So then, here are the things I’ve reluctantly learned from homeschooling in February and March 2017:

1) Practice reading every day or there is no momentum.

I swear I constantly forget this. If we practice reading (be it Chinese or English), it is much harder to do it sporadically than to do it consistently. If we continue with the sporadic reading, we have to restart each day and it is super frustrating each time.

However, when I force myself to be disciplined and have the kids read daily, there is a cumulative effect and the kids improve much faster and build their confidence at a greater clip.

This is also the reason why Cookie Monster (7yo) improved at piano once he started practicing daily for 5-15 minutes. And now that he is much better at playing piano, he will play for fun throughout the day.

I suspect (rather, I know) that once their reading hits that highly competent level, they will also want to read for fun on a daily basis. My hope and my dream.

Unfortunately, this leads to my next lesson.

2) Unless I am willing to do the work, my children will never get self-sufficient.

The best part of Cookie Monster playing piano is that he can pretty much do 99% of all his practicing by himself. I only have to help him with his theory homework because that requires reading in English and we have only begun on that.

It was PAINFUL to get Cookie Monster to the point he is at today in piano – but it has been well worth it. I no longer have to sit with him and help him read notes, etc.

Thus, whether it is painfully teaching kids step by step on how to put their bowls and utensils in the dishwasher (which is really a multiple of intuitive steps – but only to grown ups), or teaching them how to slowly cut vegetables with a knife, or even reading so that they can finally read their own instructions, it all takes work on my part.

But then, once that initial pain period is over, I am free.

3) Be kind.

I am a very no nonsense and gruff type of person. I often am exasperated when I teach because I truly don’t remember not knowing how to read English, read music, read zhuyin, or do a lot of things.

But I also know from experience that having someone judge you the entire time you’re doing something new is very hard to feel comfortable enough to risk and make mistakes so that you can actually learn something new.

I need to remember that whenever I am kind and patient, (truly alien concepts to my personality), my children respond so much better. And they end up LIKING the hard thing.

Most recently, I was teaching Cookie Monster how to do division with remainders. He was having a really hard time understanding the concept and he was getting frustrated.

Instead of being exasperated as I am wont to do, I chose to be patient and kind and as a result, after about ten minutes, he understood the concept. He wasn’t perfect, but he got the main idea.

Then, he said, “Thanks, Mama! Remainders are FUN!”

I don’t think I would have ever thought that remainders are fun. But because I was kind, instead of hating something hard, Cookie Monster thought it was fun. And then proceeded to try a lot of the problems because he thought they were fun and that it was fun to apply his new knowledge.

4) Do things not because you benefit but because you are family.

Because the kids are getting older and because quite frankly, I’m lazy and tired, I often tell them to do things that don’t directly benefit them. Or I tell them to pick up things that they didn’t mess up.

Inevitably, I’m asked, “Why do I have to do _____ when I didn’t make the  mess?”

I then proceed to ask them if I should make them food since I’m not the one eating. Or if I should help them bathe because I’m not the one who’s dirty. Or if I should take them to their activities since I’m not the one doing them. Or pretty much, ANYTHING IN THEIR LIVES.

That shuts them up right quick.

5) Turn off the screen. Let the kids play. Don’t interrupt fights.

I put these three together because all too often, I forget that if a screen is on, of COURSE they won’t play. And then, I forget that the only way they can learn  physical as well as emotional boundaries is to let them fight.

And when the screen is off, they go out in the back yard and make mud pies and climb the muddy hill and dig holes and climb stuff. They build elaborate dinosaur and army men war set ups with blocks and then have a great time messing it all up in the game of war. They set up car societies with all their toy cars and play families (which sounds all sweet and lovely until you realize you and Hapa Papa are dead in these scenarios).

They have a fantastic time.

6) My kids need outside/park time.

We had a great run of 2-3 weeks where we met Fleur and Guavarama’s kids’ almost every week day for park play dates. It was particularly welcome because it was coming off of several weeks of nonstop rain and gloom.

Those park days were glorious.

And even my cold, dark heart thawed a bit and was semi-unannoyed.

I forget that kids need sunshine and fresh air. That in turn makes them less wiggly and cranky and that makes ME less cranky.

Oh, and they get to climb trees. Bonus.

Alright. I know these lessons aren’t exclusive to homeschooling, but that’s the context in which I learn them. Have a wonderful weekend!

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 8


You know, I really don’t know how I can keep doing this series without repeating the lessons I’ve learned in the past. Quite frankly, it’s because I’m slow and require multiple reminders and lessons before things sink in.

I suppose there is a greater lesson here about having more compassion and understanding for my children when they don’t get things on the first try.

Oh, STOP IT.

Like I’m going to learn that.

Anyhow, I’m not going to worry about if I’m repeating myself. Maybe if I remind myself often enough, it’ll finally sink in (for me, and maybe for you, too).

Here then, are the things I have reluctantly learned while homeschooling in January 2017:

1) Normal life IS an education.

Yes, yes.

Homeschooling sites (and especially UNschoolers) promote this “benefit” endlessly.

“All of life is school!” “Daily life is all the education your children need!”

But who listens to all that stuff without a HUGE grain of salt?

However, I remind myself that back in my day, there were Home Economics classes wherein we learned to cook, bake, sew, etc. (I did not take these classes – nor did I take Woodshop, Cars Shop, etc. classes – to my everlasting regret. Because hey – GUESS WHAT? That stuff is USEFUL. Unlike a lot of other things I learned in high school.)

Anyhow, back to my point.

Which is: teaching our children how to live and function in a family (or on their own) is an education. (And often, one quite neglected.)

Thus, even though this month, we continued to be low-key on me teaching every day, I have been scaling up their practical life skills.

Not in any formal way. But in the course of actual life. It helps that having Sasquatch makes it really hard for me to attend to a lot of my other kids’ “needs.”

It also helps that Cookie Monster is tall enough to reach the microwave on his own now and that Glow Worm is strong enough to open the refrigerator door and that I have rearranged our pantry and fridge and drawers to make all the foods, drinks, and utensils/bowls/plates/cups easily accessible to short people.

Accessibility is the cornerstone for freedom and independence (for ALL parties).

Thus, I take advantage of Cookie Monster being a generally helpful sort, (and as a result, drags Gamera and Glow Worm into his orbit), and they have started helping unloading the dishwasher, folding or putting away some of their laundry, cutting up strawberries, putting away their bowls/plates after eating, peeling carrots, cooking (by helping add spices, etc.), and entertaining Sasquatch.

Yes, yes.

Likely they would have learned this anyway even without homeschooling due to us being a large family and the type of family we are.

Just let me have this win, ok?

2) Breaking things is a learning opportunity.

In the last two weeks, Glow Worm has broken three (yes, THREE) drinking glasses.

Hapa Papa blames me because I have not switched ALL our drinking glasses to plastic ones. (He has since switched to a plastic water bottle.)

However, I refuse to switch. Mainly because I hate plastic glasses, but also because I read somewhere sometime about Montessori using glasses because then children learn to be careful because they now know their actions have consequences and you can’t just drop a glass any damn where you please, etc.

But mostly because I am lazy and hate plastic drinking cups.

Glow Worm does not seem to have learned this lesson.

Also, this is supposed to teach the parents NOT to leave glass drinking glasses on the train table and to be a bit more careful themselves (ahemHapa Papa) and be more aware of where the glasses ARE on the kitchen table.

Hapa Papa blames the latest glass breaking on me because it was my glass. However, it was when HE was on parenting duty.

And I’ll have you note, that in the past SEVEN years of parenting and him leaving his stupid glass everywhere including the train table upon which I have nagged him endlessly to STOP DOING THAT ALREADY, there has NEVER been a broken glass on my watch. (Stitches and broken bones, YES. But not broken glasses!)

He refuses to see reason. Whatever gets him through the day.

Anyhow, whether Glow Worm or Hapa Papa (or I, for that matter) have learned anything is to be determined.

3) I am super passionate about homeschooling.

I think I have almost convinced Pharm Girl to the Dark Side. Her husband seems to be ok with it, and she is seriously contemplating it but of course, has her worries and questions.

I monopolized most of a play date last weekend and just endlessly talked and talked about homeschooling and what it is and what it means and Geez Louise, Pharm Girl is patient and kind and agreeable for listening to me.

Seriously. I wouldn’t stop.

4) I need to find more ways for Cookie Monster to be social with his age group.

Cookie Monster is amazing with kids younger than him and with babies. He’s amazing with babies.

This makes sense because most of the kids his age are in school and when we hang out with other people during school hours, they are usually younger. Also, he spends the majority of his life with his younger siblings.

He’s awesome.

However, he is starting to reach the point where playdates with younger kids has him a little bored, or lonely, and I need to make a better effort at finding either other homeschool kids his age, or make new friends with older kids, or have more playdates with acquaintances with similar aged children.

He has a few classes with kids his age, and while that is helpful, it’s not the same as having unstructured social and play time with kids his age.

I have been waiting for Guavarama and Fleur to come back from Taiwan so we can have regular play dates, but horrors of horrors, they do not revolve their daily/weekly schedules around mine.

WHAT THE HELL, PEOPLE?

Selfish. Just selfish.

Also, even though Guavarama has AstroBoy who is about 6-7 months younger than Cookie Monster, there are a lot more girls and though Cookie Monster plays well with both sexes, he REALLY loves to play with boys.

I really need to get on finding more people for him to play with.

Sigh.

I hate making new friends or effort.

* ShakesfistatGuavaramaandFleur *

5) Remember: my children are tiny persons. A little compassion and kindness is OK.

I have been making a more concerted effort to be kind and compassionate to Cookie Monster and especially Gamera because she pushes ALL my buttons. And hopefully, I will prevent smashing their feelings into the ground and negate the need to rebuild them back up.

I am trying to take deep breaths, clench my fists and grind my teeth closed so I STFU already, and if I start to criticize or be mean, to stop and joke and attempt to change course before it gets too bad.

This is hit or miss.

This is gonna come up again and again on these lessons.

Alright. That’s it for this month’s edition of Reluctantly Learned Stuff. Hope you are all doing well on your homeschooling journey (or just life journey in general).

Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 7

Wow. Has it really been 3+ months since my last post about what lessons I’ve learned from homeschooling?

Since most of it was a blur, I’m not sure how much I will have to say about 2016Q4. But since I’m a completist, I will give it a go. Here then, (with my shortest preamble yet!) are the lessons I reluctantly learned while Homeschooling for October – December 2016.

1) When the kids are having a hard time listening and following directions, it’s best for everyone to take a break. Even if the break lasts a month (or two).

(ie: Mommy needs a time out.)

You see, few things infuriate me as much as children who don’t listen or follow directions.

Also I hate sloppiness. And the fidgets.

And I particularly hate when they look at me instead of the zhuyin (Chinese phonetic system) when they are reading and aren’t sure if they are reading correctly.

I mean, do I look like I have zhuyin and can tell you how the word is pronounced?

Friends, pregnancy makes me really pissy. 

My poor, poor children.

I was so mean to them and so impatient and quick to anger and scream.

I cut short many a lesson due to me completely losing it and yelling at full blast on their every stumble or perceived imperfection.

Nothing encourages language retention and making mistakes and learning for fun like a mean dragon fire-breathing mommy.

I have since learned (and re-learned) to just take a break. And to repeatedly tell Cookie Monster and Gamera that it’s not their fault that Mommy feels awful and that they are wonderful and beautiful and smart and that the time out is for me and not because they are bad.

But mostly, I broke my children and tried to put them back together after they burst into tears because they couldn’t please their mean mommy.

Trust me when I say that everyone is glad that Sasquatch is out instead of in.

Apparently no longer being in constant pain makes me a much more pleasant person.

2) Accept help.

I am a control freak. Everyone knows this. But even us control freaks need to acknowledge their desperate need for help and assistance sometimes.

Thus, it was with great relief that on rare occasion, my mom would listen to the kids read in Chinese (I’m talking on ONE occurrence – but it was still appreciated!!), or Hapa Papa would have the kids do math.

It was especially easy because I wanted Cookie Monster to do repetitive drills/workbooks to make sure he not only understood the concept of addition/subtraction/multiplication/division but to do them so often they became automatic.

Gamera was a little more difficult since she can’t read and her Singapore Math books require a lot more reading than Cookie Monster’s rows and rows of math problems. So, that required more effort on the part of Hapa Papa but hey, it’s not like I had to do the work.

3) Outsourcing homeschooling is AWESOME.

I mean, this is really why most people do NOT homeschool and send their kids to either public or private school, right? Having someone else do the teaching is fantastic!

Of course, I prefer the flexibility homeschooling allows. But my willingness to also hire private tutors or have them attend small classes is a great way for my kids to make friends with other kids (albeit, few of them), as well as give me a break from at least some of my children.

4) Paying for things in advance is a great way to force your kids to persevere in classes.

My kids were less than enthused about attending outdoor education classes. But after me telling them they had no choice because we already paid for these classes and HFS they were expensive – my kids grumbled for weeks.

But they went and had a good time.

They had such a good time that after awhile, the real reason they hated going no longer was as much of an issue. It just became something they had to do. (They didn’t like the fact that we had to leave before 8am to get to class on time and drive a long time because it cut down on their morning iPad time. Spoiled little brats.)

Now, they very much enjoy class and even don’t mind going to class in the rain. (They’ve even been brainwashed because Cookie Monster told me that rainy days are the best because then Mother Earth gets her water. Also, he gets to jump in mud puddles.)

This even applied to my kids and their kungfu lessons. Since they took such a long break from kungfu in the summer, it was hard for them to get back in the swing of things. Their muscles were sore after classes and because they were more advanced than they used to be, the forms were harder and it required more effort.

So, of course, they complained.

They complained because since we missed so many weeks in the summer due to our Taiwan Trip, we had to make up the sessions and often went to kungfu 3-4 times a week. Apparently, that is too much for them.

Well, again, the fact that we had already pre-paid came in handy and I brooked no dissent. After awhile, they again got used to the new reality and their bodies adjusted and they are happy about kungfu again. (It helps that they just got their yellow-black belts and have upgraded to a more advanced class.)

5) Homeschooling is flexible enough to withstand a lot of disruption.

I briefly touched upon this in the previous points, but seriously. I was worried about how being miserably pregnant and then happily unpregnant but with a newborn was going to affect homeschooling.

I need not have worried.

Yes, yes. We skipped a lot of actual schooling at home because I had a baby and all. But you know what? They played a lot with each other, still had their other classes, and in general, we took things slowly.

And because we adjusted our rhythm and tempo, my kids did not suffer really and since they’re pretty far ahead on math and yes, even Chinese reading, I wasn’t really worried.

Also, despite the fact that I still had to shuttle them to a lot of classes, it was STILL a lot easier than shuttling the kids to and from “regular” school. The thought of dealing with pick up/drop off and the traffic and rush in the early mornings hurts me.

Our laid back lifestyle was MUCH better and much preferred.

Plus, kids learned a lot about babies, helping with cooking, and home responsibilities. That is also learning. 

Alright. I think that’s the gist of the last three months. Here’s to another month of homeschooling! Happy 2017!