Project Homeschool {Winter Blahs Update}

Some of you have noticed and commented on my lack of weekly Project Homeschool posts and so I wanted to give a little update. Are you ready, because this one is a little raw.

Homeschooling is hard. Really hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be.

And I’ve been pretty depressed about it. I mean, I should have this down, right? I have a teaching degree. I taught public school. I have a bazillion fun learning ideas stored in my brain (and Pinterest!).

But teaching your own kids is SO much harder than teaching someone else’s, and the lack of recent Project Homeschool posts reflects a bit of reality in what our homeschool has looked like. (I told you this was going to be real.)

Now. Lest anyone in a school district starts to panic–I’m not saying we haven’t done school. It’s just that it hasn’t been as organized and consistent and creative as I dreamed it would be. And because of this lack of organization, it’s not been something I’ve wanted to scrapbook or show on a blog where I strive to inspire and encourage creativity and learning in your home (no matter what your schooling choice may be). I guess it felt like falling off my plan would be admitting failure.

Seasoned homeschoolers say this happens every year–wintertime especially. You’re far enough into the school year that the newness and excitement has worn off. But you’re so far away from the end of the year that those sunless days can become monotonous and lifeless.

So what have we done this winter?

Took a break.

Most of the month of December and a couple of weeks into January, actually. Since Jared teaches college, our family tends to think and operate in semesters. And although I hadn’t planned to take most of December off, the month got started and Jared was gone early mornings and late nights with student conferences and finals to grade and I realized my visions of school were unrealistic. And then once finals were over and he was on winter break, we chose to spend our time hanging out with daddy, catching up on housework, and getting ready for Christmas.

Then there was the mother-of-all sickness in January that cycled through all of us and wiped me from all motivation. Between the flu and sinus, ear, and eye infections, we were spending so much time at the doctor or in beanbag “beds” that I felt it was a good time to take another break and recover–a hard lesson in flexibility for this routine-loving mommy.

Read.

We read, a lot. Picture books, chapter books, audio books–we did them all, and some days that’s all we did. But I’m saying goodbye to my initial mommy guilt, because at this stage of my kids’ lives, I feel like a strong foundation in literacy will propel them as they get older. At least it’s what I’m banking on. I could be in for a lot of trouble later on if the theory doesn’t play out. . . .

Changed it up a little.

Although I’d spent a lot of time last summer researching curriculum, I really didn’t know what would work for us until we’d given it a fair chance. For the most part I’m happy with the curriculum we’ve chosen, but when I found myself craving a bit more creativity, we switched up the regular workbooks with more subject-related activities and projects.

Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers are gold-mines, and a “home” subscription to Brain Pop, Jr. has been a great resource–not to mention fun for the kids. I even gave in and bought some dollar store cartoon character workbooks that took the place of our regular math one week. You know it’s a good move if the kids are begging to do more math.

Followed Their Interests.

I’m a big believer that kids learn best when they’re having fun–when their schoolwork isn’t a chore, but something they want to be involved in, and know more about. Not that it can be this way 100% of the time–but at least for now while my kids are young I want them to develop a good attitude about learning so that when it’s time to talk about ancient history again in 5th grade they don’t grumble–instead they’re excited because they remember creating their own cave paintings and building pyramids with sugar cubes and because they remember loving history.

So–another lesson in flexibility for me–I’ve been trying to be okay with straying from my curriculum plan and taking some time to let them discover. At first I was very stressed about this–wondering how we’d ever get caught up. But now I’m taking a deep breath and realizing that little seeds of inquisition are being planted.

So, maybe we’ll get through our books before the end of the year, maybe we won’t. But they love learning, and I’m even beginning to see application, like in this comment I heard just today:

“Mommy, I was thinking, since owls can move their heads in all directions, I guess they must have really loose pivot joints in their necks.”  Music to my ears.

Played games.

Call me sneaky mom, but games are a great way to help teach life skills called “taking turns,” “working as a team,” and “getting along.” And these “life skills” are definitely some we need around here, as in the spirit of reality, I’m admitting that my kids fight–a lot. From stupid arguments about who gets the favorite fork at breakfast, to full-on hair-pulling, face-scratching, three-year-old brawls. And despite the nightly scripture reading and regular family night discussions on being a peacemaker, sometimes they can be downright mean to each other.

So we’ve played games. I’m not saying we’ve reached a state of being best friends, but I have noticed a few more moments of peace and sharing lately. And of course, games also fall into that above category of learning best when they’re having fun! (They barely notice they’re doing math with this fun card game!)

Despite the frustration and lessons I’m having to learn, school is going well, and after entertaining a stretch of “flexibility,” I am starting to get my groove back. We’re settling back into a routine and I’m anxious to share those weekly Project Homeschool posts again!

Linked to Homegrown Learners

Comments

  1. You are doing awesome! I’m a cheerleader for you, and I read every single word of your homeschooling posts (sometimes multiple times) because the possibility of me switching to homeschool is a very real one. Keep it up! Spring is just around the corner. :)

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    pameladonnis Reply:

    Oh, Mandy. I need all the cheerleading I can get!
    Let me know if switching DOES happen. Then we can cheer each other on!

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  2. Wow! You are a super creative homeschool mom! My kids only WISH I was that much fun! I think there’s going to be awesome days, good days, less-good days, and sometimes a couple of not-good-at-all days. I just know that if I’m having a not-good-at-all-day that tomorrow will be better! I take it one day at a time, and celebrate the small successes! Thanks for sharing your creative ideas!
    Alice.
    (homeschool mom for 7 years)

    [Reply]

    pameladonnis Reply:

    Taking it one day at a time is good advice. I need to remember to celebrate those small successes more often, and not stress if it doesn’t go well one day. . . or week!
    Thanks for your encouragement!!

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  3. libbywilko says:

    Being a teacher myself I think teaching your own kids can tonnes harder than the children in a school classroom. Keep you chin up… Spring is on its way and everything will feel a bit better & brighter.

    [Reply]

    pameladonnis Reply:

    Oh good. I’m so glad you agree that teaching your own kids is harder! Sometimes I get so down on myself because I feel like I did pretty well in the classroom, but I’m failing as a parent. Sigh. So glad spring is coming.

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  4. Yep. Been there. Still there. This is our 4th year homeschooling, and if the sun doesn’t shine soon for more than an hour … ugh. I know Spring is coming, but I am so very ready. I just want to GET OUTSIDE. :) I feel a RAW post coming up on my blog too. You are doing great!

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    pameladonnis Reply:

    It IS kind of encouraging to know it happens every year. Is it something I should just plan for?
    So glad spring is getting closer!

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  5. I’ll be back to read your post…I just skimmed down, but the pictures look really interesting. Anyway, to answer your question on my blog about our homeschool scheduling at Our Side of the Mountain: I schedule us 6-7 weeks ON (i.e. doing school work) and then 1 week off (i.e. vacation to visit family away OR relax at home and continue extra-curricular activities without book work). We start in early September and usually have the week of Halloween off…and then take 2 weeks off around Christmas…a week in February…and a week off in April….and then we work until we’re wrapped up with our legal day requirement (or our books and projects) until early June before taking off the summer. I’ve found that the weeks off give me time to plan for the next session while keeping our required portfolios up-to-date, perhaps some time to do some deep cleaning and organizing, and ALL of us time to “chill”. This is my first year doing this though. ::wink:: Usually by April we’re burnt out…I am hoping that this year we won’t be struggling and can finish the year strong.

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  6. It’s okay to be blah. It’s just like art. Sometimes your creativity is really flowing, and sometimes you just have nothing to give. It’s okay, and it’s harder coming from teaching public schools to learn to listen to your instincts with your own kids. That’s something I know for sure from experience :-) I’m glad you’re finding your groove again. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

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  7. Oh, gosh, I’m a certified K-8 public school teacher as well. I stopped when I started homeschooling and had my youngest son. (You can’t do everything, right? LOL) When others tell me it must be easier because I went to school for teaching, I laugh…Homeschooling is NOT like public school!

    And besides, it totally looks like you’re doing awesome! Your kids are young! There is plenty of time later for texts and tests and papers and projects! Get in the basics (i.e. reading, math and writing) and roll with the rest!

    [Reply]

    pameladonnis Reply:

    I really needed this encouragement. Thank you! I guess I was just surprised at how much harder teaching my own kids would be. But yes, they are young, so I think we’re doing okay.

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  8. I’m raising my hand next to yours on the ‘sneaky mom’ – if you can make learning fun and they remember what they need to – why not, right? Times of reading, hands on activities, and following their interests are a great way to make the days different. I use to think I had to stick to my initial plan of school at home for it to ‘count’ as school, ya know? Then, as the children aged, I realized they probably learned more on the fun ‘extra’ projects I would let them do after their ‘real’ school book work was done. My younger children benefit greatly from what my older children taught me. Right now, we are taking a few days break from the books and doing just field trips for school. Today, we were at the aquarium. One of our kids voted it the best day of school so far :-) That’s the beauty and flexibility of homeschooling – you can make changes and alterations when necessary. Mid year is tough going, but it is worth the journey.

    [Reply]

    pameladonnis Reply:

    So, I’m not sure why, but this comment just made me cry. I think I’m just lacking confidence–but you are SO right, it seems like those “extra” activities is where they are learning just as much, if not more. You nailed exactly what I’ve been thinking because I’ve had so many days where I felt like it didn’t count because we didn’t finish the workbooks. THANK YOU for this perspective.

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  9. I’ll give a three cheers for “sneaky learning” as well — I am amazed at how much my kids learn from Magic School Bus videos, random library books, games (even games that I hadn’t “planned” on as being educational games) and projects they set out to do on their own. Today hearing on the radio about the meteor in Russia turned into a discussion of friction and why we put sand on the sidewalk. So we “did science” even though technically we were taking a day off from school just to have fun. :-)

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  10. We go through seasons in our homeschool, and it is okay. I don’t think we ever “get it down.” You were pretty productive during your break, and that is awesome! As an aside, I really love the color coordination of your books!

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  11. It looks like you are being too hard on yourself! You all have been using some awesome activities and resources. Plus, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is to teach your own kids everyday. Keep on, keeping on. You’re doing a good job :)

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  12. I just found your blog and I’m so glad I did! We are just coming out of a similar season as you and it was so refreshing to peak into the life of another homeschool mom on a similar journey. Isn’t amazing how our kids are learning and experiencing so much even when we don’t have things all planned out. I sometimes think our best learning experiences are in those spontaneous moments in life. Reading and games are some of their favorite ways to learn! Inspired by you and looking forward to reading more posts!

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  1. [...] it’s because I’m beginning to wonder if the end will come! I was crossing my fingers thinking everyone was healthy again, when the two littlest ones caught the sniffles and the past few nights I’ve been up nursing [...]

  2. [...] And while the kids were in their classes I got to spend time meeting other moms. The encouragement, friendship, and adult conversation I gained breathed refreshment to my soul and motivated me to push past these winter blahs. [...]

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