Sunday, February 03, 2008

One of our best weeks ever!

SO, as you all know, this year has been a real struggle for me, school-wise. When dh was unemployed this fall, the stress and lack of routine really negatively impacted our life. My continuing health issues and medications sap my energy and motivation. It's been very difficult, by far the most difficult year yet of homeschooling. For the first time ever, I began to question my abilities to do this at all.

I threw myself upon God's mercy. I prayed with my whole heart and asked for help, admitting that I couldn't do it on my own. I asked my husband and children and good friends to pray for me. Nothing spectacular happened immediately. But over the course of about 3 weeks, I began to feel better. I got new ideas for how to manage everything, and somewhere got the energy to implement some ideas I'd had for years.

God is so good! Last week was probably the best week of school we've ever had.

Sure, I didn't do any wonderful, creative art projects with my kids. No lap books or posters or scrapbooking. Sadly, I didn't read out loud a single book (though that is definitely on my short list of things to add in to my week). We didn't take any productive, exciting field trips or do any of the other fabulous things you read about homeschoolers doing.

But, every single day, we completed my "minimum" list. It's sort of embarassing to put that out there, that I find it such a victory to complete my "minimums". But I think it's important for homeschoolers to see that sometimes, just completing the basics is really great, and is Enough.

J1 did math, handwriting, and catechism every day. He did rather poorly on his first science test, but understands better what is expected of him, which is a good thing. He'll be ready for his second test by Wednesday of next week, and we're on schedule to finish both Saxon pre-algebra and Apologia's Intro to Physical Science by the end of our school year (7/31) - which puts him several grade levels "ahead" in those subjects. He successfully reviewed and got back up to speed in his Latin book, and next week will be ready to move to a new lesson. We discussed grammar and have decided to get a new program as we're both unhappy with what we've got right now. I'd like to do more writing instruction with him, and I need to get him some history books so he can do some independent study in that subject. But, all in all, I feel like he's doing well.

A2 and S3 did math every single day, and got through 5 lessons in Math-U-See "Alpha". The have complete mastery over 2/3rds of their addition facts, and have learned about solving for unknowns and skip-counting. I find Math-U-See to be a difficult program for *me* to use (it's so much easier for me to just pull out a workbook, rather than watch a video and build with blocks, etc.) but I am *very* pleased with how it is increasing my kids' math understanding. Especially with A2, who had already worked through his addition and subtraction facts in another program but didn't seem to have that intuitive understanding of numbers until Math-U-See. So, I feel like even though A2 is working below "grade level", math-wise, he is really getting a good solid foundation in math understanding, and teaching the two of them together (they're only 15 months apart, age-wise) is definitely much easier for me! In addition, all 3 younger kids worked in "100 EZ Lessons" each day this week. A2 is on lesson 53 now, and is definitely reading - but it just hasn't "clicked" with him yet, he hasn't reached fluency. He's working hard, though, and improving, and I'm pretty sure that if I can just work with him consistently, every day, for about 2 more months, he will make great strides. S3 is so funny - he reads so well - but it's only sight-reading words he knows, he can't sound out new words, so I'm starting him at the beginning in "100 EZ Lessons". I will often catch him reading the parent instructions, rather than the sounds and simple words that the student is supposed to read. He definitely isn't going to take long to reach that fluency, he just needs to focus a bit on what things *are*, rather than what he expects or wants them to be. I've started N4, too, though I'm not certain he's ready. He doesn't complain, so I'll just keep going along with him, and who knows what will happen? His biggest problem is going to be he wants to read books like his big brother J1, not "books with pictures", as he calls them. He'll cart around "Mara, Daughter of the Nile" for two days, pretending to read it. Not sure how I'll convince him to read Dr. Suess first, ya know? The younger boys also worked on handwriting 4 days last week, and I'm actually surprised by how well they're doing, considering how little instruction I've given them so far. In another couple of weeks I"ll start some simple copy-work with them, start having them copy words and simple sentences. I find copy-work and dictation to be one of the easiest, most efficient ways of learning handwriting and grammar at a young age! And, of course, we also worked on Catechism, especially with A2, who will be receiving his First Confession in just 6 weeks.

The other really wonderful thing about this week? Not only did we consistently do our minimum schoolwork, but we kept up with the housework! I will describe our chore system in another post, but I am absolutely amazed at how easy it is to keep the house fairly picked up and clean with all of us working together.

We even did all of this with my cold lingering on, so I actually feel worse than I usually do. Once I finally get over this cough, I will add things in, like art and read-a-louds, things I do think are important in our homeschool. But I'm just so pleased, after barely being able to get started for most of this year, that we finally had a really good week where I feel like we really accomplished something. And it didn't overwhelm me, I don't feel like I put all my energy into a few days and now I'm exhausted and unable to continue (yes, that's how most of the year has gone until now!) This slow, steady pace is something I think I can sustain, and that, I believe, will be the key to our success.

So, if you're feeling overwhelmed, go to God. Pour out your heart to Our Lord, who loves us, and ask for help and guidance. Ask your husband, children and friends to pray for you. Figure out what your "minimums" are, and ask older kids what they want to do above your minimums so that they are self-motivated. I really believe that just completing the minimums will be enough for most kids, especially when they are young. Get together a simple chore plan so that everyone works together to maintain the household matters. And pace yourself, so that you don't find yourself exhausted after just one day.

You can come back from "burn-out", overcome obstacles, and get back on track! And it is oh-so worth it! Being with these wonderful kids every day, teaching them - it is such a joy!


Megan said...

There's alot to be said for "minimums" and a "basic go to plan" for those times in life where things just get out of hand!

Great post! Thanks for sharing. You are not alone in your difficult year!

Kelly said...

I'm SO happy the week went so well! WOOHOO!!!!