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View Full Version : The honeymoon is over: finding balance and harmony



Pilgrim
09-12-2011, 08:26 PM
So, the first week went well. DD9 was done with all her school work by 1. DS5 was done a bit earlier. (We start at 9 am.) Afternoons were spent outside or playing games or running errands.

Today wasn't so perfect. There was a lot of procrastination from all of us, myself as well. There were also a few crying fits from the younger one. DD9 finished up around 3:30, though we did the same amount of work as last week.

It led to a conversation with DW, who worked from home and helped out today. She felt like we were 'cooped up' all day and she felt frustrated for not getting outside more. I felt it to some degree, too, but chalked it up to experience.

At one point, she questioned the 'school at home' format, but also agrees it's important to get to the curriculum we have in place and to keep at a steady pace (we are using MBTP plus math, handwriting, and reading). She also threw out the term 'busy work'. I don't agree -- repetition is important to some degree -- but I can understand her pov. When I asked how an alternative might look like to her, she couldn't say, but mentioned more hands-on activities. I reminded her of all the hands-on science and art we're doing already. She said, "I know, I know," frustrated.

I think the transition from lazy summer days of fun outings to homeschool is more difficult for her than it is for the kids. :rolleyes: I suggested doing some of the book work outside while the weather is still nice, as well as setting a better example of focusing solely on the book work and leaving all distractions (phone calls, etc.) until later in the day. We could easily get done by noon if we put our minds to it. Another option is to try book work in the afternoons instead, after we get plenty of exercise and fresh air. Yet another is to plan four-day weeks, taking Wednesdays as 'do what you want' days, for instance.

I reminded her that with MBTP, we don't have to do every single activity (she admits that she feels like we're somehow cheating if we don't...which I disagree with). I've already skipped over some activities I felt were redundant or would be boring for the kids.

We don't subscribe to the unschool method, but we don't want to become slaves to our curriculum choices, either. I fully understand that it is going to take time for us all to find our rhythm, and that it will change day to day and week to week.

But the honeymoon is definitely over. The reality of being together all day every day is weighing on us a bit. This week, many of our extracurriculars begin, so that will be good. We also are debating the pros and cons of having a daily tutor/sitter so we all have some healthy time apart from one another.

I suppose the question is mostly about how to fit in everything you want to do, and if you're like us, how do you balance a wariness of 'school at home' and a desire to be more spontaneous? I know there's no 'one size fits all' model, but am curious as to how you all have dealt with similar issues. Thanks!

Stella M
09-12-2011, 08:29 PM
Hmm. I am actually meant to be in the middle of baking dd's birthday cake but I'll give this some thought and come back later. It's pretty normal to have some hiccups though :) I actually really like some of the suggestions you mentioned in the middle of your post. It is tricky to walk that middle line.

Christy
09-12-2011, 08:36 PM
I think part of finding balance for me, is to plan to have up days and plan to have down days. When I'm writing out my weekly schedule, I purposely pile lots on two of the days, a medium amount on another two days and have one day really, really minimal. (Normally heavy days for me are Monday and Thursday, with Wednesday the most minimal day.) And I constantly try to review the idea that all those other things... trips to the parks, afternoons climbing the back hill, time playing lego, etc, etc, is just as (or sometimes more) important than the schoolwork. And I think I accept that I won't get done everything I want to do, every week. I only plan one or two weeks ahead, never more than that, or else my planned schedule will get too out of line with what really happens.

Shoe
09-12-2011, 08:40 PM
We do kind of school at home in some ways, but I try to be aware of when my kids (or I) have had enough on any particular day or week, and will either take a day off or change direction and do something fun for a short time when that happens. Today, for instance, I had a whole day planned, but both of the kids weren't feeling well-not sick enough to just give up the day, but not well enough for a full day either. So we did a math lesson, read a little, and then took the rest of the day off. We got a little behind, but nothing that we won't be able to catch up in a reasonable time.

Make a general plan, but allow some flexibility, and realize that you are unlikely to accomplish absolutely everything in your planning, and that that is okay.

Stella M
09-12-2011, 09:13 PM
It will be interesting to see how things pan out over a week. I imagine you will have some days fuller than other and so the days you feel 'cooped up' may be balanced out by the days you find plenty of time for 'extras'.

I think the key is to use your curriculum as a tool, don't let the curriculum use you. If you need to stop for the day, stop. If there are activities there you feel are redundant or simply less important, leave them out. It isn't cheating, it's tailoring the kids education to fit the circumstances and help develop a wholistic life.
Looking after everyone's physical and mental health is just as much part of their education as maths, or LA.

And I know I've said this a zillion times here but consistency and quality of work is really way more important than quantity. If there is consistency in your h/s, I don't believe at all your kids will fall behind, even if you take days off or scrap parts of the curriculum sometimes.

I bet you find that sense of all being together all the time less oppressive once extra curriculars start and everyone is getting out for this class or that on a regular basis. Personally, I never work with the kids past 2 or so and take the time to do my own thing for a while, which helps me feel less 'on call'.

When I really feel stuck in a rut, we take the day off :) Go to the movies, go and see an exhibition.

Hope tomorrow is a better day :)

Pilgrim
09-13-2011, 12:37 AM
I think the key is to use your curriculum as a tool, don't let the curriculum use you.

Thank you for the words of support, everyone.

The above struck me because it's exactly what we didn't like about PS. It ruled our lives. For seven hours, they controlled DD (not to sound menacing), and then there was homework and dealing with all the social anxieties brought on by school. We definitely need to keep in mind that we are in control and do not want the curriculum to control us.

Today, I threw in some drawing time, something that DD and I both really enjoy. It was a blast, and I plan to make time for it at least a few times a week.

Tomorrow morning, we're hitting the donut shop then we'll go for a nature walk and fishing. In the afternoon, there's a gym co-op at the park. In between, we'll get to some book work, but we're determined not to stress if we don't get it 'all' done. Looking forward to it.

MrsLOLcat
09-13-2011, 12:57 AM
One of my friends told me today that she has stopped trying to plan a day before it comes. Each morning she gets up and works out what the plan for the day will be. This way if she and the kids need/want to get out of the house, they can, and if they wake up feeling like they need to get a lot accomplished, they can have a heavy day and get 'er done. I know that this philosophy would not work for DS because he needs advance warning for outings and schedule changes, but the idea sounds lovely to me!

lakshmi
09-13-2011, 02:59 AM
One of my friends told me today that she has stopped trying to plan a day before it comes. Each morning she gets up and works out what the plan for the day will be. This way if she and the kids need/want to get out of the house, they can, and if they wake up feeling like they need to get a lot accomplished, they can have a heavy day and get 'er done. I know that this philosophy would not work for DS because he needs advance warning for outings and schedule changes, but the idea sounds lovely to me!

I like this option! Curriculum is Fantastic, and having one makes my life easier. Today was a very schooly day, full of projects and phonics and even some handwriting. BUT, then last week found us doing a MBTP project at 9pm. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't buy the full year and just hang out and do some of the projects. Or buy it all and not do all activities.

One day last week my daughter spent the entire day on the computer. It turned off at 5 hours and I added more time. Sounds sort of unschooly of me, but I am most certainly not. But we don't have a M-F 9-5 schedule of any sort, so that we don't differentiate between weekdays and weekend days. More often than not we "school" all week long. There really isn't any difference.

We just sort of flow in and out of it, BUT both my kids are sort of young and just making popsicle stick puppets is still an activity that they find entertaining. And is something I'd count as school.

But I most definitely do not plan anything.

hockeymom
09-13-2011, 05:55 AM
Your plan for today sounds perfect, Pilgrim! Enjoy! :)

But for the every day, I share a lot of both your and your wife's ideas and frustrations. I'm hoping this will be the year we find that elusive balance, and in the meantime I'm working hard to stay on a daily schedule. We have lots of breaks coming up this year (trips, guests) and new routines that will take up a lot of our time so I'm feeling like I need to make sure our table work gets done every possible day we have available (that is, at least 3 times a week--I'm a real slave driver, I know!).

DS focuses best in the mornings, so it's not unusual for us to be working at the kitchen table by 7:30. I'm aiming for 3 core subjects a day (math, L/A using MBtP, history or science depending on the day) and to finish up by lunchtime. I haven't yet worked in Spanish or guitar, but with our big transitions this summer I'm not planning on reintroducing those until winter. Co-op days will probably see a little bit of table work early, and I'm hoping to take field trip days (Fridays) off entirely.

Our afternoons are spent mostly exploring our new town, going for short trips in the area, riding bikes and reading. Summer is fading quickly and I'm determined that we take full advantage of the beautiful weather before winter sets in. Having our work done early allows the afternoons to be purely enrichment time, while providing us with plenty to show off to daddy at the end of the day.

Pefa
09-13-2011, 06:24 AM
The joy of homeschooling is being with your kids all the time. The agony of homeschooling is the same. You've got some great ideas. I don't know if you thought about how you and your family will know that they are learning but that's helped me over time. (I have become very unschooly though for various reasons). BOO learned to spell in three months by playing an online multiplayer game. B1 learned about foreign policy through a cookbook (Cuisines of the Axis of Evil. Great book). When I worry about gaps I add in some reading or something but it evens out.

I like the way you're tweaking your schedule.

WindSong
09-13-2011, 09:17 AM
I reminded her that with MBTP, we don't have to do every single activity (she admits that she feels like we're somehow cheating if we don't...which I disagree with). I've already skipped over some activities I felt were redundant or would be boring for the kids.

We don't subscribe to the unschool method, but we don't want to become slaves to our curriculum choices, either. I fully understand that it is going to take time for us all to find our rhythm, and that it will change day to day and week to week.

After feeling like we've been slaves to the curriculum, I've backed off of some of the activities. I'm also finding it difficult time-wise to squeeze in every activity in each lesson. I feel like I'm forcing the learning rather than letting it happen at the child's pace and interest level. I've been picking those that I feel would be most beneficial and enjoyable to dd or ds. I'm finding that the discussions ds and I have about the reading, both LA and SS, have been fun, insightful and meaningful to both of us. I'm sure your dw will relax her attitude towards the activities over time.

We aren't unschoolers either, however, I would like to find a balance between the curriculum and child directed learning based on interests. I've thought that periodically throughout the year we could take a week or two off between concepts and pursue our interests. We'll see how that works out.

This year I'm definitely more in tune to the kids' feelings when they have had enough and it's just counter-productive to continue. At times like that, one activity we enjoy doing together is going to our local Humane Society to play with all of the cats. We stay for an hour or sometimes two and we feel so refreshed afterwards. It does our hearts good.

I don't have any easy answers about finding balance and harmony. This is our second year, and we still havn't found it yet. We sure are enjoying the journey though.

Hampchick
09-13-2011, 01:48 PM
We do a lot of on-the-fly tweaking here. And the tweaks for one day might not carry over to the next day. Today we cut our spelling lesson in half because there was no way we would have gotten through it without pain. We did two math lessons yesterday because the first one went quickly and DS is itching for more math. So now I'm ahead of the plan in math and behind in spelling. Last year I didn't use a plan for this very reason. This year I'm experimenting by putting together a schedule for about 3 months at a time. I'm not sure if this will work for me yet, but I can see some advantages. Whether I use a plan or not, I believe that it's more important for us to do what feels right at the time rather than sticking to a schedule when it isn't working that day.

Pilgrim
09-13-2011, 05:52 PM
Dawn, I like what you say about what feels right at the time.

Today was good. The kids loved using their nature journals, we compared bass and trout, and we stumbled into a mushroom experiment. We all enjoyed the morning, and the kids focused better on school work this afternoon after getting a lot of energy out. In fact, three of our mornings are shaping up to include extracurriculars, so we might just do the three R's after lunch every day. Or just go fishing 365 days a year. :)

What a difference a day makes.

Stella M
09-13-2011, 05:57 PM
Yay! :) Happy for you.

MarkInMD
09-13-2011, 06:21 PM
Didn't have a chance to weigh in yesterday. I also believe in the flexibility angle. DW (who is doing most of the teaching this year as opposed to last year, where I was primary) is more of a planner than I am. That being said, she's also one to just say "Eh, we don't need to do x today because y took longer than we thought."

And let me just tell you as the child of two former teachers: Even they didn't get to everything in their lesson plans everyday. Have a general idea, sure, but circumstances dictate activities in my book.

Lak001
09-13-2011, 08:37 PM
I am absolutely positively sure you'll find that balance as you keep sailing through this journey of HSing. Everyone figures it out differently, I guess. For me, it was letting go of the need to control my dd every step around. Once I did that, it became more easier for me to handle her. We still have few issues we're working on, but that's another topic. Overall we have made a big progress from where we started with a lot of challenges, to where we are now where the challenges are much smaller in comparison. I hope you,ll be able to share a similar experience in a few months from now :)

Pilgrim
09-13-2011, 08:47 PM
Didn't have a chance to weigh in yesterday. I also believe in the flexibility angle. DW (who is doing most of the teaching this year as opposed to last year, where I was primary) is more of a planner than I am. That being said, she's also one to just say "Eh, we don't need to do x today because y took longer than we thought."

And let me just tell you as the child of two former teachers: Even they didn't get to everything in their lesson plans everyday. Have a general idea, sure, but circumstances dictate activities in my book.

Lol. As a former teacher myself, I understand. I got good at letting some things go and adding other things on the fly. DW, as a business manager, has a tougher time not going by the book. :rolleyes:

MarkInMD
09-13-2011, 09:06 PM
Oh, well then, yeah, I'm sure you know! :)

Laina
09-13-2011, 09:18 PM
What a difference a day makes.


Isn't that the truth. I had one day this week that included a lackluster response to the lessons, a dirty house I couldn't get to, a disappointing extracurricular activity, and facebook posts of friends' kids first day of school, along with reports about how much they all just love first grade. Sigh. Fast forward two days and we've found a great dance class with one of dd's old pals, joined another great homeschool gym class, and had some great lessons. I guess it's like the stock market--you can't focus too much on the small ups and downs.

Pilgrim
09-13-2011, 11:33 PM
Isn't that the truth. I had one day this week that included a lackluster response to the lessons, a dirty house I couldn't get to, a disappointing extracurricular activity, and facebook posts of friends' kids first day of school, along with reports about how much they all just love first grade. Sigh. Fast forward two days and we've found a great dance class with one of dd's old pals, joined another great homeschool gym class, and had some great lessons. I guess it's like the stock market--you can't focus too much on the small ups and downs.

So true. You can get lost in the details. A bigger picture and long-range vision is essential.

Glad to hear things are getting more positive for you! We're also on the cusp of several new possibilities including a boys' group (that DS desperately needs/desires), a new HS gym class with a great teacher, and music lessons that aren't 45 minutes away.

As for cleaning house...that's a work in progress. ;)