May 31, 2019

Obstacles to Keeping a Homeschool Routine

I have tried many different routines. With my husband working shift work, our day to day routine seems to constantly be changing and for homeschooling, I really have to work to make it happen in the part of the day I can count on. We often homeschool Saturdays and take a day off during the week when my husband is home. When he works night shifts, it is up to me to make sure the core of our school happens in the morning, because if it doesn't happen then, then it often doesn't happen since he's home in the afternoon.

But whatever routine I choose, there are many reasons it still might not be working and the problem is not necessarily the routine itself.

Self- Discipline: Bedtimes
The problem sometimes is me. If I don't get to bed at a good time, that makes it very difficult to get up in the morning and the later I get up, the later school starts and the less we get done.

Also, if I don't get enough sleep then I can be grumpy the next day. How can the kids be expected to calmly do their work if mama is not calm and irritable? Grumpy mama makes for grumpy children which is not at all conducive to a productive day.

Then there is the kids' bedtimes. So many nights it seems to take so much longer than it should to get them to bed or we get distracted doing other things and don't realize it is getting late. In addition, my four oldest share a room and sometimes its a bit of a rowdy slumber party in there. But that again is up to me. I am responsible to get them to bed. Once they are in bed, I've found it really helpful to sit in there and read to them. That cuts one more thing out of our school morning that we have to do and keeps me right there with them making sure they are quiet. They also have something then to think about and help them to calm down.

Discipline of the Children
Sometimes I find the day lagging because the children are not getting going. They laze around in bed and take 45 minutes to get dressed. They come out and start colouring and drawing pictures when their beds aren't made and their room is a disaster. And as much as I want to point my finger at the kids for this, I have to turn that finger back around at me and realize I have not been keeping the discipline around here as well as I should. It is up to me to make sure they are being timely and not dilly-dallying, lollygagging, or whatever you want to call it. (It's hard, I know! Especially when you have babies to take care of!)

Sometimes the children are simply unmotivated to do their work. They can take 10 minutes or more  on one spelling word, when they should have all their spelling done in that 10 minutes! But they are so easily distracted. My oldest especially is always dreaming. He's super imaginative and creative. He can draw amazing and detailed robots and monsters, give them names and have insights into how they work and their strengths and weaknesses in battle. He asks me the most in depth questions about God, heaven and hell, right and wrong. But it is super hard for him to focus when it comes time for school because his mind is always thinking. I'm still figuring this one out. We have a chart on the fridge with magnets on it and a list of all the subjects he needs to accomplish through the day along with some chores. He gets to move the magnets over each time he accomplishes a subject and when all the magnets are moved over, it is free time for him. This was very motivating the first day I tried it. I could not believe how fast he got everything done. But I've had days since then where it still took him a while to get things done. I'd like to try to stick with it for a while. Maybe he will see the correlation between getting his school done and having more free time to pursue his own interests. Moving a magnet is just a small reward each time something is done and is a more manageable goal than a whole day of school is. (He is a list checking kind of person as I am.)

Yes, this is a major one for me. My nine month old needs things throughout our school time. She needs fed, face and hands wiped, changed, stuff taken from her that she shouldn't have, picked up and comforted when she falls, and put to bed. She has a routine, but hers is much faster than ours and she'll have gone through hers two, three, or four times while we're going through ours once. This is a constant interruption. I don't really have a solution for it except to say it will pass and don't wish it away because babies go through their stages so quickly as we all know. I just try to deal with each interruption as it comes and try to keep the older ones on track.

My two year old. This one sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out. He dumps out toys and school supplies, rips books, empties out cupboards, raids the fridge for food or drink, crawls across the table, runs away when I call him and cries about millions of little things. I'm having an especially hard time with him in particular right now because we're trying to help him stop sucking his fingers and it makes it difficult for him to get to sleep so he refuses to nap in the afternoon and so is grumpy through the day, takes a long time to fall asleep at night and wakes up in the middle of the night and asks me to come tuck him back in... He's a very cute and sweet boy who I love very much! But understandably out of sorts because his sleep comfort has been taken away. It is hard to keep him occupied during school time. Sometimes he sits on my lap while I read to the older ones or I'll give him a coloring page and will also put on a show from Netflix when I really need him to stay out of trouble. I know, I know, I never thought that would be me! But it helps and I can't be everywhere and do all things. I try.

Phone Calls
I am the secretary in this house and when a call comes in, I have to take it because sometimes it is important. But if I know who is calling and it's someone I know is calling to chat, I don't answer it and call them back later when I can talk for an hour.

We all need to eat and we have to take breaks in our day to do it. But since we do school in the morning, it is easiest if I am not feeling burdened to cook at the same time! We try to have simple lunches. Salads, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, sausage and crackers, soup that I've made the day before and just have to warm up, pasta and tuna, stir fried rice from leftovers, or whatever other leftover we might have. Sometimes I'll make an extra big supper with the intention of eating the rest for lunch the next day. In good weather, I send the kids outside for lunch with plastic plates and cups to reduce the cleanup that I have to do afterwards.

Messy House
It is hard to focus in a messy house. Not only does it take longer to do things because you have to clean up an area before you can use it, it is also distracting and adds to the stress I'm under as a mom. I try to clean up the house the night before so that I can enter a new day without the added stress of working in a mess. This is hard because after supper, I become mush and it's all I can do to get the kids to bed. Then I still have the kitchen and the rest of the house to clean up. Ideally, I will get the kids to do a lot of the tidying, but my kids are still pretty young for most of the cleaning so I do it myself. I'm one of those people though that will stay up till midnight mopping and cleaning the bathrooms. But then that gets into another problem, I already talked about.

Trying to Do Too Much
It is overwhelming to sit down to do school thinking I need to tackle 10 different subjects. Yes, we've tried to do bite sized chunks, but then I feel like we are just rushing through things. There's no time to ponder what we've just learned about and I don't have the freedom to explore a little rabbit trail that the kids had questions about because I still have more subjects to cover. There are so many times when the kids have their own ideas about what they'd like to learn and it is relevant but not covered in my schedule.

I'm thinking that we should switch to block scheduling for our Science/History/Geography that way we can really delve into the subject and explore to our hearts content. If we do it last then I won't feel rushed to get through it so we can cover the next subject and we can really soak it up because our head won't be so overwhelmed with information. I've never been someone who feels we have to cover a full topic in exactly one school year. I have a plan as in I know what we are going to study, but the time frame is not an issue. This gives me lots of freedom.

Feeling Overwhelmed
Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed that I simply cannot accomplish anything. The fact that I have so much to do inhibits me from getting any of it done. I do not like it when I get to that point. Sometimes, I simply need to be satisfied with what we do get done. I'm not an unschooler, but I appreciate that kids need to be kids. They need time to explore, dig for worms, watch the ants crawl around, catch bugs. It gives them time to think about things, to ponder their world and process all that life is and things that have happened. Adults need this time too, really, although we sometimes go at it differently. It is not good for kids to always be rushed from one thing to the next. We sometimes have such an agenda that we don't give the kids that needed rest for their own spiritual and emotional well-being. Sometimes I just need to let go. It might be a hot day and the kids are just too hot to think. A run through the sprinkler or a drive in the car in some air conditioning is just what we needed that day. And sometimes, it is me that needs that breather to draw some flowers, write a bit a poetry, sit in a lawn chair and watch the birds or lay on the trampoline and soak up the sun. My kids are young and I want to enjoy them as much as I can, not burden myself and them with lofty expectations of what we need to cover in school or how clean our house is.

Try to keep a positive attitude and enjoy your children as much as you can while they are still children. They don't stay little for long. I hear so many people say that these are the best years when the littles are still little. Well, if these are the best years, I want to try to enjoy them and not wish them away.

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