When it was time to pack away the Christmas tree and get serious about the books, I sat down and had a talk with my husband about how hard last fall was for me. I asked him for advice on how to revamp our routine and make it more livable. I call him “The Flaw Finder” so I make sure I only ask him these things when I really want to hear the truth. Empty words of encouragement? No. Raw reality and precise problem solving? He’s my guy.
First he asked me what the school systems are asking of kids their age, so I checked. Most of them have the same five categories: math, language arts, social studies, science and a foreign language. They then have a spot for one extra class like music, P.E. or art.
Then he asked me to list what I was doing. Holy Crazy Curriculum, Batman! On my agenda was math, logic, grammar, spelling, reading, writing, history, spanish, latin, science, art, Japanese and computer programming. Let’s not forget the outside classes and activities we were also signed up for: music lessons, science clubs, archery, kendo, football and karate.
Not all of the subjects were for all of the kids, and we certainly didn’t get to even half of them on any given day, but there was only one mom overseeing all of this and she was falling apart.
The first step to regaining sanity was to not give each individual subject the same weight. I lumped spelling, reading, grammar, and writing into language arts. In math I kept their workbooks and logic puzzles while adding khan academy for review and reinforcement. I dropped latin for the time being and had them focus on just Spanish. History and science were given more priority instead of being lost among all of the subcategories.
Step two was to set a schedule that worked. For us that means no screens from 8:00 until 4:00. We’re done after 4:00. I tell them what needs focusing on for each area and they try to get some of it done that day. If they finish their work early they can spend the rest of the day reading, working on projects, playing board games or whatever as long as it isn’t screen time.
Finally, he suggested having the kids teach or present to him something they had learned from each of the five categories on Friday night. We are both big believers in the fact that you really learn something when you teach it. We also decided to leave Friday open for field trips or winding up projects as needed.
Brilliant! See why I married him.
The kids love all of it. They really are excited about the up coming field trips. We have one scheduled for today. Throughout the week my kids have begun thinking in terms of ‘what do I have to show dad?’ and ‘I need to figure this part out because I know he is going to ask about it.’ Their presentation skills are improving too. They look for visual aids and practice a little with each other trying to prepare for their dad’s questions. No teacher could structure a better review! My husband loves it too. He loves seeing their work and trying to gently stump them. If they didn’t do much in one core area that week it shows, and we try to emphasize it the next. We keep it fun and full of positive energy.
But the best part for me is that I am a better teacher and mother with this system. I don’t worry about teaching everything in a day or a week or a semester. I focus on them having something new to talk about each week. I relax in the evenings more instead of prepping for the next day. I’ve started paying attention to my favorite hobbies like blogging, and old projects no longer mock me. I know I can get to them if I want. The house gets its due and meals are getting the attention they deserve. Loosing my balance doesn’t help anyone and I know that, but sometimes I am too close to the situation to see the big picture. It really helped to have someone sit down with me and look at the overall picture. I needed to be reminded to set realistic goals and to remember that homeschooling is about learning, but it is also about the home.