Alright, friends. Because you know that I cannot resist turning my life into fodder for blog posts, I’ve decided to start a new monthly series about my homeschooling experiences. (Hey, it’s hard to come up with topics sometimes – especially three times a week! I know. #bloggerproblems and other nonsense. Cry me a river, right?)
As much as I enjoy reading other people’s posts about their lesson plans, their children’s progress, and curriculum, (and quite frankly, usually only those of my friends), the thought of writing those posts makes me stabby. However, I do want to talk about the things that I am learning about myself, my kids, and the whole process of homeschooling.
Instead, I decided I would model my posts after Amy Sneed Heinz’s Everyday Lessons Series, as well as Larissa Mark’s monthly Life’s Lessons. (When you get the chance, please go check their sites out. These are always my favorite posts of theirs. Amy is funny and wry and moving. Larissa is deep, spiritual, and reflective. They are both awesome.)
So, without further preamble, (oh, who am I kidding? We are not even remotely done preambling.) I bring you some of the lessons I have reluctantly learned from homeschooling. I say reluctantly because it’s not as if I went on this homeschooling thing to learn things about myself or to grow my character or anything. FFS. I did it because I’m a rebel and anti-establishment and non-conformist and badass!
Ok. Now, I bring you the lessons I have inadvertently learned (and sometimes re-learned) for the months of September – December 2015:
1) Homeschooling Cookie Monster really means that I am also homeschooling Gamera.
I should have seen it coming. After all, Gamera wants to do everything her big brother does. So of course she would want to have the same math workbooks and read the same Chinese readers.
2) In the same vein, Gamera got very upset that I was spending so much time with Cookie Monster. Even though it was “school,” it still seems fun and it was still a lot of one on one attention I gave Cookie Monster at her expense. Glow Worm also got a lot of attention by virtue of being the baby, so she started suffering severely from Middle Child Syndrome.
Once I realized what was going on, I started to spend more focused attention on her. (Buying her her own set of math workbooks and going over the Chinese readers helped a lot.)
3) I dropped everything except learning Chinese and doing math.
Don’t get me wrong. I still had Cookie Monster in a bunch of classes (math, Chinese, art, sports, etc.), but I dropped all the stuff I wasn’t personally teaching except going through Sagebooks and Singapore math.
I had lofty ideas of Cookie Monster watching science videos and playing logic puzzles, etc. But that didn’t turn out to be the case. I’m sure if I cared more about enforcing things and having more regimented days/schedules, we could have kept things up. But I didn’t care enough.
4) Choice is important. Especially at the beginning.
I would have Cookie Monster choose from a wall of pictures of tasks (he can’t read so I took pictures of his subjects and activities) that he had to finish by the end of the day. He really enjoyed the sense of control he had over what we were doing. Of course, he would choose the things he liked first, but as long as he did everything by the end of the day, I didn’t care what order he did things.
5) Cookie Monster is motivated by unfinished tasks. He really, really wants to “finish” things – be it moving all the pictures from the “To Do” side to the “Done” side, or finishing a math workbook. He is his mother’s son!
6) Although we no longer do the Picture To Do list since we dropped so many other things and he got a better sense of how things worked, it was very helpful at the beginning to both physically represent a To Do List, as well as have him physically move the pictures from the “To Do” side to the “Done” side.
As a result, abstract concepts of open tasks became concrete.
7) Schedules are helpful, but accounting for every second drives me insane.
I prefer loose schedules. I like having some scaffolding (Cookie Monster and Gamera’s classes) around which I can structure my day. But I do not enjoy scheduling what I’m supposed to be doing every free minute. That makes me feel trapped and stuck and rebellious.
I want to be able to go on a playdate with my friends even though we’re supposed to be working on math this morning. Or go on a sticker factory tour because unexpectedly, we have the day off from classes and our friends can go, too.
Schedules are made for me. I am not made for the schedule.
8) Practical life skills are empowering.
I don’t know why I waited so long to teach/force Cookie Monster to do certain tasks for himself. Quite possibly it’s because he is the first child. But I now know I could have taught him even at Glow Worm’s age because Glow Worm has picked up many of those practical life skills I only just now taught Cookie Monster (and by default, Gamera).
Some examples of life skills Cookie Monster and Gamera, and to a lesser extent, Glow Worm, have learned how to:
– Pour their own glasses of water/milk
– Get their own snacks
– Dress themselves
– Use the EpiPen Jr and AuviQ on both themselves and someone else (Cookie Monster and Glow Worm have serious food allergies)
– Buckle themselves in their car seats
– “Tie” their own shoelaces (I replaced their shoelaces with LockLaces affiliate link)
– Wipe their own bottoms after pooping
– Soap themselves when showering/bathing
– Lotion and clothe themselves after bathing
Now, several of these items required I rearrange our kitchen pantries and drawers so that kitchen utensils and snacks were at their level and in containers they could open or lift. But that was a small task for the freedom I now have.
9) I am mean.
I mean, we knew that already. But holy shit, I am mean.
There were times Hapa Papa would be staring at me from across the room with his mouth agape in complete, utter disbelief that I would get SO angry if Cookie Monster couldn’t master a new concept quickly enough. I would scream and yell and Cookie Monster would cower and cry and apologize for not getting something quickly enough.
I felt horrible.
I eventually had to take a break from helping Cookie Monster with practicing piano. We also took a break from learning how to tell time and how money works. I am pleased to say that at least as of January, I have gotten much better.
10) It helped when I finally realized that it wasn’t fair to be angry at Cookie Monster for not understanding something the first time he was exposed to a new concept. (Especially music theory, notes, time, money, and carrying numbers.) It especially wasn’t fair when the reason he didn’t understand something is because I failed to explain the concept well – or in a manner that he understood.
Once I realized that, and then realized my true frustration was at myself, I felt better. I also immediately apologized to Cookie Monster and explained that I was mad not at him, but at my inability to explain something well to him. It took some time, but he eventually felt better. I apologized for not explaining well and told him that it was okay not to know something. That new concepts take time to master. And that maybe we should take a break so that I could figure out a better way to explain things.
Often, that was all it took. The next time we covered those subjects, I would be more mindful and aware that this particular subject would be hard for me to explain.
Whew! I can’t believe that I didn’t think I had anything to say on the subject! But as usual, I am incapable of brevity. Ah well. It’s in the tagline of the blog so you can’t exactly say you weren’t warned.
Anyhow, tune in next week for my Things I Reluctantly Learned in Homeschooling for January 2016. Have a great Monday!