Monday, September 16, 2013

7 Things I Hate About Homeschooling...and A Bunch I Love

We have actually completed a whole week's worth of school!  We made it a whole week.  It's been a bit of a crazy, uncertain, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience so far, but just like everything else new in life, we're starting to get a handle on what works and what doesn't.  How to work our lessons into the kids' spontaneous play.  How to work with interests instead of forcing tasks.  I'll state up front, it's probably a good deal my own fault that we're struggling as much as we are, and here's why:
  1. I'm not organized.....Honestly, we didn't really plan to homeschool until a week before regular schools started; we put it off because we didn't know when we were moving or where we would be, and still thought we might try to enroll him somewhere when we settled (which we thought would be soon).  When I realized The Time was upon us, I did some frantic research and got myself nice and overwhelmed, and then sat on it for a while because I didn't know what to do with all the information, and wasn't even sure I could pull it off at all.  After the regular schools had been in session for a full week, I figured I had better get my act together, and it's been a bit of a "ready or not, here we come!" kind of week.  Emphasis on the "not."  I'm sure it will be a whole lot easier if I actually get prepared so that I know what we're doing and we can have some structure.     
  2. I'm not prepared.....A natural byproduct of being unorganized, I don't have many of the resources I need ready to go.  Each morning can be a bit of a scramble with mad dashes to the printer, or with me trying to think on my feet.  I think I cover my harried, stressed feelings okay, but the main point is that my unpreparedness translates to boredom for the kids.  It could be way more fun, and even spontaneous, if I knew ahead of time which direction we were heading.  
  3. I'm not sure what to expect.....I don't have an early education degree and haven't researched it, so I really don't know what is appropriate to expect from a kindergartener in terms of focus, which subjects to study, how much time to spend on each subject, and what he should be able to do with writing, reading, and math, etc.  Reading through several homeschool informational websites has been both helpful and confusing, because some say that for this age you should just read to them in an unstructured setting and have fun, and others say they should be able to read (on their own!) simple words and do basic addition/subtraction before entering kindergarten...and then everything in-between.  I do understand that trying to do too much will burn him out and suffocate his eagerness to learn.  I also fear being solely responsible if he fails to meet basic academic benchmarks on target.  It's extra challenging if I don't know what those benchmarks are. 
  4. I was leaning too heavily on free printables.....The existence of free printables is GREAT, no question.  However, you can abuse the value of them if you're not organized (which we've established that I am not); they just become random busywork instead of valuable teaching aids.  Also, the ones I had found were for the kids to color as we learned, which is fun...I thought.  Apparently, the black-and-white pictures and plain lined paper was just striking the kids with Boredom Bug like nothing else!  We went out yesterday and found Jack a brightly colored workbook that includes fun activities in addition to the lined writing, and is organized with a purpose to the activities(!), and we can hardly pry him away from it.  He sneaks off with his book and pencil at every chance he gets, and he begs, "I just want to play school!"  So there's a win.   
Okay, so now that we've covered my downfalls as a teacher, following is my list of frustrations with homeschooling...our flawed system, at least...I'm confidant that there's an easier and better way to do things, but we're still figuring it out!  In the meantime:
  1. It takes away my play time with the younger ones.....It kills me when--myself being in the middle of a lesson with Jack--I suggest to Safita that she work on a puzzle, and instantly her spirit perks, her step bounces, her eyes glimmer, and she rushes over energetically with that hopeful, excited twinkle in her eyes...and I realize, she took my suggestion as a much-craved invitation to play together.  And I can't say no to her--shouldn't say no to her!--but I'm in the middle of helping Jack with letters and also can't leave him to fend for himself.  What do you do???  How can you be fully invested in 2 (assuming the baby is asleep, otherwise 3) children at the same time?  I feel like I'm robbing precious time from the younger two, because when Jack was in preschool, I would spend the time he was away with Safita (baby wasn't in the picture yet); it was our special alone time, and she ate it up!  With homeschooling, not only is that special time for the young ones gone, but it's almost like they get more neglected because the older one is getting more attention.  How is this unfortunate situation balanced??!!
  2. It forces the younger kids to grow up faster by being immersed in school too young.....I don't think this point is all bad.  There's a part of me that thinks it's amazing and wonderful that my 2-year-old can count to 11 by herself and already knows a lot of the letters, and is perfect with colors and shapes, etc...But, related to the point above, she shouldn't have to be either bound by a schedule or sent off to play by herself for the duration of our school-day.  And the baby...he deserves more than being a fixture on my hip; he deserves intentional interaction and tickles and giggles.  
  3. Sometimes, I just want to be Mommy, and not Teacher.....I do love being so intimately involved in my child's education.  I love being so close to the learning process that I can see how he thinks, what excites him, what frustrates him, and watch the delight when he gets something right for the first time!  But there are lots of struggles throughout the learning process, and we all know that it's easier for a child to disrespect his mother than his teacher, and it's just downright confusing when they're one and the same!  For both of us.  I always try to be gracious, but struggle with knowing when to be firm (specifically with having him do things a certain way, like how he holds his pencil or the order in which he writes his letter-lines) without letting school become a time of discipline and negativity.  I also question what's the appropriate amount of praise to give him--as a mother, every new thing he learns is super exciting and I'm as excited as he is!  But I've read there is danger to over-praising a child...which I'm not sure I buy...perhaps in extreme cases: "Look how awesomely you dotted that 'i'!!!!!  That's the most amazing dot I've ever seen in my life!!!!...other than the last 10 you just did...which were equally awesome!!"  Sometimes, I just want to praise his efforts without thinking critically about his work, or address his behavior without fearing that I'll steal his zest for learning.  
  4. I don't want my kids to miss out on valuable respectful relationships with other adults.....Seeing Jack develop a deep affection for his preschool teachers was heartwarming; and watching him act respectfully toward them without instruction from me was amazing.  It was refreshing for both of us to have other adults in a position of authority over him with whom he had to interact on a regular basis.  I don't know that I want to lose that.
  5. I don't want my kids to miss out on valuable relationships with other kids.....Siblings are the best kind of friends, except when they're not--because it's just too easy act "real" (i.e., without restraint) with those to whom you're closest.  I'm not advocating superficial relations--not at all!  I'm advocating learning social graces that are easier learned with peers who aren't always in your face, pushing your buttons, and who don't know all your secrets.  The art of making friends, keeping friends, surviving in a social's hard to re-create outside of a school setting.  The social issues that might come up in school will be different than what would come up at home, and will provide invaluable opportunities to train our children in Godliness.  Also, I just want my kids to experience the joy of having good friends!  Just yesterday, while driving in the car, Safita (who is 2) lamented sadly, "I don't have any friends anymore."  Jack kindly tried to comfort her, "Yes, we do!" and listed off some of his friends from preschool with whom she had tagged along on play dates.  She knew better, and protested, "But I don't!"  My heart was absolutely breaking to pieces...It's true, and because we're always moving, there's almost nothing we can do.  But school could help, because kids are there.  
  6. It's hard finding the balance between requiring too much or too little.....And once I figure it out with one, the next kid will be different.  This issue also ties in with my comments above about not being familiar with standard expectations for different age groups or even just state requirements--a little research here would go a long way!  This point is a testament to my under-preparedness more than anything.  Still, I simultaneously feel like I'm either pushing too hard or completely missing the mark...or both!  My chants of "It's only Kindergarten...It's only Kindergarten..." are especially helpful during these moments of insecurity.  
  7. That nagging sense of utter failure if we can't or don't continue with homeschooling, or if we do it less than "well".....There seems to be an increasing mindset that homeschooling (and/or alternative schooling) is the better way--or at least an increasing number of people who do it.  I am definitely in favor of homeschooling, but I also think the best education for each child depends on many factors, including the schools available and the child's own temperament, wishes, and goals for the future.  There are some goals that simply cannot be achieved through homeschool.  And some that can only be achieved through homeschool.  It just seems that homeschooling--until you figure out how to not care--carries an extra burden of stress upon the parents' abilities to teach.  What if your kids aren't as smart as other kids?  How do you know if they have a learning disorder, or if you have a teaching disorder?  If that stress is fickle, there's still the deeper responsibility that you are in charge of enriching their young minds through a myriad of subjects, of which you have no capacity of being an expert.  As if it isn't enough to be responsible for their physical, nutritional, emotional, and spiritual well-being, you now also must stimulate and inspire them mentally!  It is daunting.  And it's only Kindergarten. 
I've made a pretty good case against homeschooling here, if I do say so myself!  But since that's not my intent, let me end by sharing all the things I love about teaching my kids at home:
  1. The excitement of learning, discovering, and exploring with my kids.....Life is a process of learning, and I get as excited (or sometimes even more) as the kids do about the various things we get to learn about.  The added bonus is, their excitement is contagious!  Homeschooling is like an organized fashion of doing things we already wanted to be doing together (quality time!!)--and getting credit for it!  I'm pretty sure kids learn better when they're having fun and interacting with the subject.
  2. I get to tailor their education to the things that interest them.....When we have a bat infestation in our house, we can study the benefits and habits of bats for our Science lesson.  When a thunderstorm scares the kids, we can learn about what makes them boom.  Best of all, when we learn in the History book about loom weights and flints used by people long ago, we can run to Daddy in the next room and ask him to show us a real one from his collection of ancient things (if anyone doesn't know, Daddy is an archaeologist).  
  3. I get to be intimately involved in what my kids are learning.....That all-too-well-known motherly question, "What did you learn at school today?" I used to think was just conversation fluff.  But now that I'm a mother, I DO actually really care with invested interest what my child learned at school.  The answers aren't always direct or informative, though, and with homeschool--it doesn't matter!  I know exactly what my kids learned because I taught it to them!  The added bonus is that it's also easy to build on certain lessons when life situations arise:  Because I know what we learned, when a perfect life example arises, we can emphasize what we learned.  
  4. I love seeing how their minds are working and processing info.....It helps me understand them better in general.
  5. It's flexible and allows for life to happen.....I, personally, prefer to have a rigid set schedule for school time--to do it every day at the same time for the same length of time, like a task that we can cross off when we're done.  That type of schedule, however, was not preferred by my 2-year-old and 5-month-old.  So, the other day at the beginning of school time, when Safita looked up at me with her big, beautiful, twinkling brown eyes and asked excitedly, "Can we play store?"  I hesitated, then said, "Yes, let's do it."  And instead of learning on paper, we learned colors, sorting, reading, and counting while we played shopping at the grocery store.  (The kids were none-the-wiser that we were learning while we played!)  It's also nice that spontaneous trips or fun outings are not problematic, because we can either take school with us or just push it off a day. 
  6. I'm sure there's a whole lot more, but I don't have the brain capacity to think anymore!  Leave your favorite things about homeschooling in the comments--I'd love to hear them!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angela - I know we've never met, but I met your husband at Michael Ball's wedding (I'm a friend of Carrie), and I've been following your blog. I also read another blog and she just decided to homeschool her kids, and I thought I'd post the link here in case you wanted to reach out to her. I obviously don't know her personally either, but I know she responds to emails/questions. Just a thought! Good luck!