Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Homeschooling and What DO You Do With the Little Ones?

I'm not sure what is harder about homeschooling… the fact that you have to home school your older kids or the fact that you have to sometimes ignore little ones while you do it.  Let's face it.  Every form of education has its pitfalls, and one of the downsides of homeschooling is that you don't get the same kind of quality time with your little ones as those who, say, might have their kindergartner and second grader in school… while the two and four year old are home.  It's hard.  I won't tell you that it's not.  Or maybe it was just hard for me.  When Graham started kindergarten, I had three others that were four and under.  It was hard to focus in on Graham without complete chaos going on in other parts of the house.  And then once Asher entered the home school scene, Nathan was here.  And we all know he was a Cry Cry.  He wasn't so fond of not being held, or being held, or sleeping, or not sleeping, or really anything at all… except eating which you could only do for some many hours of the day.  It was not an environment condusive to learning, but somehow we still survived it.  Chris would come home and I, being the good wife that I was, would complain about the events of the day for about 15 minutes before he could get a word in.  But his response was always calming and true.  It doesn't have to be perfect to be mostly good.  If Graham and Asher were in school, I'd be waking the younger three up from their afternoon naps every day to pick them up, and dragging them out of bed earlier in the morning.  They wouldn't have much time with their big brothers and we would all not have been as rested as we were.  As I said earlier, there are pitfalls to any educational decision.

I only write all that to say, I get it.  It's hard emotionally on us moms.  It's hard because we wonder if it's best for everyone.  It's also hard because it's just hard to manage all the chaos and care for all the needs all at the same time.  Haven't we all wished, as homeschool moms, that we could have a clone from time to time.

Here is how our homeschool days looked for me during the different stages of our kids:

The early early years//my kids were 5, 4, 3, and 1
Kindergarten took me about an hour a day of seat work.  The rest was reading which I could do with a little more chaos.  I tried to get it done in the morning when Joseph was napping and Samuel and Asher were playing, so that my nap times were free.  So when Joseph (12 months) went down for a nap, I would make/encourage the older ones to have a quiet hour in bed with only books.

The early years//boys were 7, 5, 4, 2, and newborn
This is when Asher joined the mix, and to be honest, it was my hardest time of homeschooling.  But I think this was true mostly because Nathan was such a hard baby.  We did school in the morning while Joseph slept (yes, he still took morning naps at two) or played in his crib with toys, and Samuel would do something quietly in another area of the house.  Sometimes he would sit with us and do a coloring sheet.  Most of the time Nathan wouldn't nap for longer than 30 minutes and he would join us and I would be nursing and teaching and doing the best I could.  We would finish in about two hours, sometimes less, sometimes more.  The younger boys were learning, even then, that school was just a part of our day.  They naturally learned what they could and couldn't do while we were doing school.  If it was a terrible morning, I could make up whatever I missed during afternoon naps.  

The early elementary years//my boys were 9, 8, 6, 4, and 2
Now the three oldest were in school.  After breakfast, I would let the boys play either do chores or play for about an hour.  At about 10:00, I put Nathan in his crib with toys.  He would sometimes fuss just a bit, but mostly would settle right in to playing independently.  Sometimes Joseph would join him and play in the same room.  This only worked because there was a physical barrier between them.  This time wasn't completely peaceful, but it was peaceful enough to get things like Math, piano, and handwriting.  Then we would break for lunch.  After lunch and playtime, Nathan and Joseph would both take a good long nap and we could tackle all the rest of the subjects like English and Writing that took more guidance from me.  Somehow, I always felt that those subjects required some amount of peace and quiet.  Then I would read something to them related to their history and call it a day.  These years seemed much more manageable than the former.

The mid-elementary years//my boys are 11, 10, 8, 7, and 5
This is where my boys are right now!  And I can't believe it.  I can't believe that this year is my SEVENTH year of homeschooling.  I'm already halfway through Graham's education.  Graham and Asher are in 6th grade, Samuel in 3rd, and Joseph is in 1st grade.  Nathan is the resident clown and playmate for whoever finishes their school work first.  He basically has a blast all day long.  Right now, I spend more one-on-one time with Joseph than anyone else.  Getting them up and reading isn't hard, but it is time-consuming.  I work with Samuel and Joseph in the morning while Graham and Asher do their independent work.  Then I work with Graham and Asher with whatever they need help with after lunch.  But the days are long.  I won't lie to you.  There's no finishing before lunch anymore.  And sometimes there are things to finish after dinner.  In some ways, older kids are easier because they are more independent, but in other ways it is more difficult because there is much more work to be done.

Did you make it through that long monologue?

I'm giving you ALL of that information because it gives you an idea of what our days were like during different seasons of family life, hoping that you can relate to one of them.

If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be this.  Teach your kids when they are young to play by themselves.  I think it's a skill we can teach them when they're little, even babies, and when they are older, they won't expect to be constantly entertained by you.  It has kept me sane over the years.  I did this by turning their morning naps into playtime with special toys in their crib or a gate up in their room.  Over the years it has helped me accomplish things like take a shower in peace, make an important phone call, and spend some semi-peaceful time educating my other boys.  
Playing by himself when he was three while we were doing school... 

While he was hanging out in our room with some toys.

If I had to do it all over again, I would be more willing to hire or ask for help.  My husband encouraged me to do this and I would make up excuses about why it wouldn't really help or about how we couldn't justify the money.  But he was right.  I should have pursued ways to make it easier on me and the kids.  I think part of my issue was pride.  I wanted to be a homeschool success and didn't want to be perceived as one of those moms who was a mess, even though we all are.  After all, so many women do it without help.  So you know yourself, and what your family needs.  If you have the resources to hire help, do it.  If you have people in your life offering to help you, take them up on it.  I wish I would have.

I'd love to hear any questions you have in the comments.  Or you moms of older kiddos, if you have any advice for me as I take on junior high next year, I'll gladly accept it :)


Sarah said...

Such a great post Sarah! Those boys of yours are so cute! I think you are right-there are drawbacks and advantages of all types of schooling-but heck you make me want to home school. Just that point about waking kids from naps...been there done that. And the rush in the morning, and exhausted kids in the afternoon. I also have to say-my kids were really good at playing by themselves or entertaining themselves together-I think that has a lot to do with no TV or little TV, but also-I found this changes a little when they went to school and were "entertained" (taught to) all day. They lost a little of that self motivation, and ability to figure out what to do next that they had developed so nicely at home.
Thanks for the great post.

Blairish said...

oh Sarah...thank you. >sigh<

Teresa said...

Sarah, I was just telling one of my clients about the value of independent play for her children. I learned this from you during my nannying year. It is something I have definitely filed away for when I become a parent, because I saw how well your kids were able to play on their own (even when they were 1 and 3).

Sarah said...

Just curious what kinds of curriculums you use? Maybe there's another post about that...

TORI said...

I recognize that last picture being in your awesome closet. ;) I remember your boys in that house at that age. It doesn't seem real that they are getting older!!

TORI said...

I recognize that last picture being in your awesome closet. ;) I remember your boys in that house at that age. It doesn't seem real that they are getting older!!

Another Texas Family said...

Aw man. We're obviously in that 'little little years' and homeschooling only 1 child and I feel like we're just in survival mode! I just told Justin we need to hire help. A young gal from church has agreed to help a few times a month but it would be beneficial to have a cleaning lady during this time in our lives. Like you said though, justifying the money for it is hard though when there are so many other things that need to be bought!

Krista Sanders said...

We'll said- all of it! You've done such a great job- I've admired you from across town for SEVEN years. Love your family.