academics / home educating and daily life / homeschooling / what I've learned / what we do

tis the season, the season of homeschool fatigue

Tis the season! The season of homeschool fatigue. The time of year that we tire of everything. I was asked recently what new and exciting things we are doing this time of year?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. The grey skies and the tiring snow are not that exciting. (Well, except for the week vacation that we just returned from. Let’s say we were studying marine biology, basking in the sun and swimming with dolphins.)

At home now though, four of us are in a homeschool theatre production so that does add a lot of newness and social interaction and challenge.

But academically? Same old same old.

We usually stop academics by end of April so I like to barrel through this time of year. We don’t officially quit academics then either — we simply switch gears, focus on projects and art and botany or weather. But it feels a lot different and has a different pace.

A homeschooling mama of five asked for suggestions…

This mama explains her concern perfectly with a word picture: “our house is very loud with five kids and it feels like we all fall like dominoes once one kid gets started with another…”

She goes on to say, “it doesn’t help to create a good atmosphere for good learning”, so what tricks do you have for peace with trying to teach so many kids at once? She has two kids in early elementary, two in kindergarten and one toddling. Yup, she’s busy.

She adds, “we tend to break things up into subjects…but something is just not working and I think we’re all frustrated…even I’m just pretty snappy and frustrated most of the time it seems…trying to keep things lights but I think I’m just so frustrated with myself that I just can’t seem to find what works for these kids in order to keep doing what I feel my heart believes in. Maybe it’s just the winter homeschool blues but I can’t feel good about dragging my kids through each day of homeschooling if their own hearts aren’t there.”

Oh, haven’t we all been there!

Is there anything you can suggest for this devoted mama?

Here’s what my kids suggested as possible ways to switch up academics:

Watch history videos.

Change the time of day that you do different subject areas.

Do different classes at different times in the year.

Change things up. History at the beginning of the day.

Create semesters for different topics (a school solution that helps curb boredom).

I suggest stop doing everything for a week, or a day. Enough to gather your thoughts on exactly WHAT isn’t working. One day really does not rock the academic schedule. And if it does, loosen the schedule. It’s too tight. (Spoken from someone whose husband would be shocked by her words).

Here are the first words swimming in my mind:

Lower your expectations of how perfect every day will be. Homeschooling is not bliss. Though some days are. Some days are definitely not. Perfect is not in a parent’s vocabulary. Good. Good enough. Make those the goal. Really, who is demanding our perfection anyway? No one. And those we can brag to about being perfect definitely don’t want to hear it, cause they know it ain’t true. In the wise words of Disney, Let it go, let it go…

Perhaps, as in most people’s experiences in parenting, the need for control needs to be loosened. I know from which I speak here. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have all the freedom in the world. And you’re surrounded with the people that you love the most. Take advantage of that. If you haven’t already, take a season of unschooling to identify that kids learn anyway…despite an absence of bookwork and academics…this will give you a lot of mental freedom when you see they learn with or without you. (And if you’re not in agreement with me on that, try reading John Holt or John Taylor Gatto…conventional teachers that saw the ineffectiveness of a conventional education — the unschooling mindset does fuel mental freedom as your kids learn outside of a brick and mortar school).

Five kids as closely spaced as yours is like a mini preschool. Lots of multitasking. Lots of energy. You will figure out each child and come to understand how to balance what they need with a quieter mental space as time goes by. Sorry, I know there’s no quick fix in this, so I don’t want to be disillusioning, or offer a carrot to follow that won’t require a lot of effort. It’s going to be a lot of effort. Parents with five kids in school are tired too. Frankly, all parents are tired. Parenting is just plain work. Wonderful rewarding work. But an awful lot of work.

All the kids need to be occupied. In whatever mentally stimulating way you can achieve that. The temporary television babysitter is not evil in short increments when they are young. I won’t add here to the numerous ways to occupy a young one while the others need you, because this mama mentions ways she’s doing that. No need to reorganize that.

Unless they’re bored. Tis that time of year. Then change it up. No perfect academic education. You’re not educating them to rival Google or God, so let it go, let it go, let it go…Remember ‘good enough’.

Having said that, one of the biggest hurdles to happiness in the home, at least for me, has been this: learn how to be with your kids.

Frankly, #1…you need time alone. Scheduled. In a different location. Not just in a different room. You need your own thing. Whatever that is, it needs to be all about you. You need to be on a venture to developing you, like you are helping to develop your kids’. You really are just as important as your kids. And really, if you’re not filled and energized, how are you going to give?

#2 Value quiet. In my observations, the longer one homeschools, the quieter their children become. Out of necessity, I think. Lots of noise means less of mama being peaceful and able to think (also back to #1 here). Lots of work teaching the littles to be quieter. A. Lot. of. Work. And every effort fruitful.

#3 Which leads to this perhaps obvious, but vital effort: kids need to be taught self-control. Kids need this. To learn to do what they’re told when they’re told to do it. In a world that often runs counter to that old fashioned parenting approach, I suggest it is necessary for some really obvious reasons. They focus better on their work, and their play. Their inner world is more focused and they accomplish more focused things. They learn to be attentive to friends and other leaders in their lives. They learn to be empathetic. Because they listen to others.

#4 On that note, I’ve learned that if I’m not just calmly giving consequences for whatever infraction, my angry energy gets in the way of that child actually learning their character lesson. This is one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn as a homeschool parent. To keep my cool in the face of pretty inappropriate behaviours. (I’m being nice here). When someone gets a consequence without my freaking out or getting loud, that lesson is learned more quickly.

Some days those lessons to need to be learned and relearned and it is pretty frustrating, I know. Back to ‘unrealistic expectations’. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is your child’s character. Five kids means more character issue potential. More work. But it is what it is. And every effort is worth the effort.

I think this is the one the major reasons to homeschool, to more closely hone their character (also known as socialization, but that’s a different rant, I mean blog). With warmth and continual efforts, they will learn what they need to learn. Just not before they’re 93, just like all of us (so lower those expectations, they’ll be learning their ‘stuff’ long after you’re no longer around).

And also, I’ve learned that if I’m not just calmly giving consequences for whatever infraction, my angry energy also gets in the way of my kids actually learning their academics. They get to have a nervous energy around me. They listen less and engage less.

#5 So, we have to learn how to keep our cool. Have to. Not an option. And we’ll have to be as gracious with ourselves as we have to be gracious with them when we do lose our cool– because we’re human, of course we’ll lose our cool sometimes.

Okay, so I think I have said enough. What do you think?

One thought on “tis the season, the season of homeschool fatigue

  1. Good points for a tougher time of the year, when everyone starts going a bit stir crazy. . . We try to do the following things: as much outdoors as possible, even when it means just plainly covered head to toe in rainy cold mud. Having proper clothing for kids is essential, one thing you learn quickly at Waldorf school. Tons of outdoors.
    Second, it helps us to stick to seasonal happenings. So, this time of year is great to witness lamb births, ice skating, husky races, snow shoeing, soon maple sugaring, etc. Also, good time to visit science museums and pass time doing more tangible things with our hands.
    And last but not least- chocolate. That what February is for. When we just do not feel like anything, we take a trip to our favorite chocolate store to explore the whole cooking process and to make kids (and MOM!) feel better. 🙂

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