A homeschooling mama of five asked for suggestions…she explained her concern perfectly with this 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. (Wow, 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 we can suggest to this devoted mama?
Here’s what my kids suggested as possible ways to switch up academics:
Watch history videos. Or documentaries.
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).
Introduce a new sport like skiing or skating (in our part of the world, you need to use that snow!) Or find a new sledding hill.
A scheduled weekly field trip to somewhere new, anywhere new, maybe even the library and a café in the town next to yours.
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, you should definitely loosen the academic schedule. (Learned from experience).
How to switch up the home environment during this time of year:
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. Those are the goal. Really, who is demanding our perfection anyway? There is no perfect academic education; you’re neither Google nor God, and neither will your children be when they leave home. In the wise words of Disney, Let it go, let it go…
Perhaps, as in most people’s experiences of parenting, the need for control needs to be loosened. 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 despite…despite an absence of bookwork and academics, despite imperfect teachers, despite noise…this will give you a lot of mental freedom when you see they learn with or without you. (Read John Holt or John Taylor Gatto…conventional school teachers that studied how kids learn).
To accomplish academics for older kids, the younger kids need to be occupied. In whatever mentally stimulating way you can achieve that. The temporary television babysitter is not evil in short increments. A box of Legos, a student basket just for the little ones, measuring cups and a sink full of water (put away your dish detergent;) Pinterest provides a plethora of preschool play learning possibilities. (That sentence is fun, right?)
Five kids as closely spaced as this family 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, no quick fix, so I won’t be unrealistic. It’s a lot of effort to homeschool five kids. Parents with five kids in school are tired too. Actually, all parents are tired at times. Parenting is work. Homeschooling is around the clock, 23 years of parenting work (okay, for my family anyway). Wonderful, rewarding work. But a lot of work.
Having said that, one of the biggest hurdles to happiness in the home is simply this: learning how to be together.
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. Not a kid in sight. You need to be on a venture to developing you over the course of your homeschool, just like you are helping to develop each of your children. If you’re not filled and energized, how are you going to give?
#2 Value quiet. In my observation, 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. But every effort worth it.
#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. In a world that often runs counter to that approach, I suggest it is necessary for some really obvious reasons. They focus better in their work, and their play. They are more peaceful and they accomplish more. They learn to be attentive to friends and other leaders in their lives. They learn to be empathetic. Because they listen better.
#4 I think this is the one major reason to homeschool: to help them learn to manage their emotions and know how they affect others (also known as socialization, but that’s a different rant for another blog). With warmth and continual efforts, they will learn what they need to learn. Some days those lessons need to be learned and relearned. I know, some days it’s pretty frustrating. Back to ‘unrealistic expectations’. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither is our children’s character.
#5 And you know it wasn’t built in a day, because you’re still learning it too. They’re our little mirrors, and we character build as we homeschool too. Calmly giving consequences when the need arises, because frustrated energy gets in the way of that child actually learning. We need to keep our cool when we’re frustrated. Have to. Not an option. But when we don’t, we’ll need to be as gracious with ourselves as we are gracious with our children. Rome wasn’t built in 44 years either…or was it? (Ironically, ancient Rome is next up in history studies, ha).
What else would you share with this homeschool mama?