The past month has flown by in a torrent of busyness and bad moods. And I can sum up the reason with one word:
Or is that two words? Home school. I don't know. I must be a terrible teacher.
I'm needing to remind myself often about the reasons why we decided to homeschool. Flexible schedule, superior curriculum, no detrimental peer influence. Sometimes when we're in the throes of schoolwork, I think, "Why don't we just send her to public school? We could go to Sea World when everyone else is on Fall Break...how bad can the lines be? Bree could learn one or two swear words at school; it's no big deal. And the incidence of meth use/alcohol abuse/dropping out in our area can't be the absolute worst in the state." Okay, so I guess I'll stand by our decision to homeschool. I think it really was the best one for us.
Last year, kindergarten at home was a breeze. I often wondered what a full day of school would be like. Now I know.
We all wake up some time between 7:00 and 8:00. We kiss Daddy goodbye around 7:50. Usually by the time I have told Bree and Mason to eat their breakfast, take their vitamins, brush their teeth, get dressed, and make their beds, it's 8:30. By the time I've repeated each command 2 to 5 times, and they've actually followed through with my instructions, it's 9:00.
Deep breath. Time for school.
We sit down at the computer desk in Bree's room, and start with whatever subject is currently challenging her the most. For a while this was math. Lately it's been Phonics, because her previous distance learning curriculum had her a little behind, and what should be a review right now is translating into a steep learning curve of a huge stack of sight words and digraphs and trigraphs (on an unrelated note, I just ate a crumb of chocolate pie crust off my shirt...as long as I'm being completely honest here). She gets frustrated to the point of tears on a daily basis. Reading and writing are the most common culprits. Then I get frustrated, because it's difficult to pull her out of one of these moods when they hit, and also because I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be happening if she was in a "real" classroom. So, I let her cool off in the corner until she's ready to continue, and I cool off in my room, with an extra prayer for patience.
Deep breath. Let's continue.
We do Phonics every day, along with Language Arts (sentence structure, poetry, etc.), Handwriting Without Tears (hah!), and Math. These are the core subjects, and we can usually bang them out before lunch. I'm still trying to master the art of keeping a 4-year-old and 16-month-old happy while schooling my first-grader. Mason often follows along with Bree's lessons, and he picks up quite a bit. Or I have him work puzzles, or play with Bree's math cubes, or do educational games on the Sesame Street website. Or he plays Lego Star Wars if he's earned game time by putting dishes away. And Lincoln usually tags along with him. Which means I have to investigate the reason for Lincoln's crying several times during the morning. Which means Mason will tell me, "It was just a accident!" Which means he is often in the corner for lying.
Deep breath. Lunch time.
Chad gets to come home every day for lunch, which is really nice. Aside from the fact that it's just nice to see him (10 hours is a long shift), it forces me to have something concrete on the schedule to break up the school day. I have to stop, take a break, and make lunch (or, let's be honest, heat up leftovers) because there will be a hard-working man walking in the door at 12:30. After Chad's lunch break is over, he goes back to work with a sigh of relief, because his "break" has actually just been a visit to a crazy house, with a crazy wife, and even crazier children. Just kidding. Kind of.
Deep breath. Home stretch.
After lunch, Lincoln goes down for a nap, and we work on the other subjects: History, Science, Art, Music (each twice a week), and PE (once a week). Bree excels in these subjects. Actually, she's excelling in all of her subjects; the difference is only the amount of time and frustration it takes to get there. We also have to make sure to complete the monthly writing samples, attend live online assessments for reading and math, and every week we take quizzes that evaluate whether the students are "up to par" with state and national standards. The curriculum is excellent and very challenging. I myself am currently learning a lot about ancient Egypt. The coursework is very demanding for the Learning Coach (that's what I'm actually called, by the way. The term "Teacher" is reserved for the kind soul with whom we communicate via email). I spend most of the school time actively teaching. Very little of Bree's schoolwork is independent or "busy" work. So at the end of the day we're both exhausted.
But wait! That's just the end of the school day. Now it's about 3:00, and the house needs to be cleaned, the dishes need to be done, there's laundry, yard-work, exercise (hah!), and I still haven't showered, etc., etc. The amount of homemaking work that actually gets done on a daily basis varies greatly. This afternoon, for example, I'm blogging instead of working. It's just one example of a time-sucking activity (though a worthy one, in my opinion) that lures me away from my chores. But then I redeem myself by cooking a delicious (usually) dinner, and having it ready when Chad walks in at 6:00. Then Chad and I try to create some semblance of alone-time by putting the kids on our bed (if they've bathed) or in the living room (if they're in their usual state of stickiness) to watch a kids' movie. Then we watch whatever we want to watch in the other room, because we're adults, and we can. The kids' bedtime is 8:30. So naturally they're in bed by 9:00.
Then Chad and I usually finish whatever we want to watch, or sometimes we read. I haven't been burning through my reading list like I wish I could, with less than an hour of reading time a day. It's barely enough to keep me averaging one book a week to keep up with my goal. And reading really helps keep me sane. That and prayer. And Chad's insistence that though I normally hate running, he'll watch the kids a few nights a week so I can go ALONE to the nearby school track. Running sounds pretty good when it means I get to leave the house alone. (And no, grocery shopping/running errands does not count as "me" time.) So I've been running...okay, I've been mostly walking, but I do run at least one lap out of the eight I usually do at the track. And it's been helping. Because, honestly, it was getting pretty scary there for a while. As in I was so grouchy, stressed, rude, impatient, tired...and just unhappy. I was losing myself and getting burned out. But thanks to the support of my amazing husband, and a little introspection, I'm doing so much better now.
Homeschooling is hard. It's not the teaching (excuse me, Learning Coaching) that's hard. It's the juggling three kids, the dealing with tears, the trying to be mom and teacher, the fear that I'm giving all my attention to my first-grader and neglecting the other kids, the exhaustion and "leftover wife" state that Chad finds me in every evening. It's taken some getting used to. It's not for everyone. But I think I've come around to a place where it feels like it's for me.
Deep breath. It's going to be okay. It's working. And it will start all over tomorrow.