Monday, August 20, 2018

A Letter to the Struggling Homeschool Mom

Dear Home School Mom,

Get a cup of coffee and settle in for a Mom to Mom chat.


So I hear you are feeling overwhelmed. It is almost time for your school year to start, and you aren't ready. You have children you need to teach, but you have a baby in the house. 

You feel like you should already have a 36-week-lesson plan figured out for all your subjects, and right now you are just wondering if there are enough clean clothes for everyone and what you will serve for dinner tonight.

Well, let's start by breaking this down piece by piece.
  • Laundry: Okay, so someone might have to wear something that's not exactly clean today. That is the beauty of home schooling. You aren't going anywhere (school), and this isn't a beauty contest. If Child #1 needs to loan a shirt to Child #2, or Child #3 needs to wear yesterday's outfit, life will go on. Get the kids each to grab an armful of dirty laundry and meet you at the washing machine. Put the baby in a bouncer seat on top of the dryer and start a load of darks in cold water. Now the only important thing you need to remember is to come back in about an hour and move the laundry to the dryer. Set a timer on your cell phone.
  • Dinner: Take stock of your freezer and your fridge and see if you can pull something together. If not, call your husband and tell him the situation. Ask him if he 1) wants to get some stuff at the store on his way home from work; 2) wants to get something like pizza; or 3) wants cereal or pancakes or something like that for dinner tonight.
 Next, let's talk about planning. You might not have thought of it this way, but there are actually two options for filling out a "Planner" -- in advance, or after the fact. When you can't plan in advance, you write things down as they get done. It isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be. So here's your basic plan, and you write it down as they do it:
  • Math: Most of us purchase some sort of Math textbook. If you have a text book, it probably has about 140 lessons in it (more for higher grades). Public schools consider it "good enough" if they get through at least 75% of the textbook. There are 180 school days in a 36-week school year, so there is a lot of lee-way, even if you don't do a lesson on days when you give a test. Aim for a lesson a day 5 days per week, and when you do less, you record that you did less. That's all. No guilt.
  • Science: Textbook or non-fiction library books, projects or interest driven, just try to record something "Science-y" in your "Planner" each day. It might be a weather record for the full year (which also covers "Math" by doing a calendar) with Cloudy or Sun, Rain or Snow, temperature, windy, etc. Consider reading books about clouds and what the different types of clouds mean (stratus, cumulo nimbus, etc.), books about what conditions cause snow, sleet, what causes dew. Take one "nature" walk per week and find one thing to focus on for the day, and come home and learn about it, whether an oak tree, a dandelion, a butterfly, a squirrel. Take a photo if you can. At home, everyone draw a picture of it in a nature journal (art).
  • Reading: Right now might not be time to stress about Phonics, unless you are able to use an on-line program. Otherwise, consider some lovely books to read aloud to everyone. That still counts as "reading" -- it doesn't have to be that the child read to herself. Some of my early favorites were: Heidi, Black Beauty, PinocchioMary Poppins, The Saturdays, Winnie the Pooh, and A Child's Garden of Verse. Visit the library frequently; keep costs down.
  • Social Studies: This can mean history, geography, and that type of thing. You don't need to do this every day of the week, but you can. You can cover material by time period/topic, or can cover material by more specific interest, like studying mummies and learning a little about Egypt as a result. You can keep it light and think of ways to make it fun. You can weave many subjects together, like read Little House on the Prairie (reading/literature), locate where they are on the globe (geography), follow an item mentioned in the book, like what is a prairie hen, and look it up (science), do something mentioned in the book like make a corn cob doll (art)... Just write it all down in the appropriate categories. It looks real impressive! 
  • Phys. Ed. - most active play is Phys. Ed., whether it is riding the tricycle in the living room or chasing the dog in the back yard.
  • Art: Pull out scrap paper and crayons at least once a week. Add more structure as you are able. Some glue and torn construction paper makes a nice layered picture. Add scissors and you can make paper chains. Get a craft book out at the library.
  • Music: Play classical music in the background at various times during the day, like while everyone is eating lunch.
  • Health: this doesn't need structure. We are teaching health every day at home. Just periodically note in your planner things like "Health: discussed the importance of washing hands with soap regularly to prevent the spread of viruses like colds."
In our early years, each day at the end of the day I would make entries in my "Planner" of what we had done. Example:
Bible: Read Psalm 17 and Eph. 3
Math: Made cookies. Worked with units of measure (teaspoons, cups) and fractions (1/2 cup)
English/lit: Discussed that sentences have a subject (or thing) and a verb (or action). Read Chapter 11 of Pinocchio
Social Studies: Discussed time (1800's) and place (Italy) of Pinocchio, when there was no electricity and heat was in fire place. Located Italy on globe.

Science: Studied square foot of ground in woods. Picked a fern. Brought it home and read about ferns.

Art: Drew and labeled a picture of a fern.
 "Health" - ate three well-balanced meals; discussed types of fruits and vegetables
Phys. Ed.: Walked around the block. 

On really rough days, have older kids read to, play with and take care of littles while you take care of the baby. Reading is still reading. Play and care of younger kids was part of a high school course when I was in school. What could be better than taking care of your own siblings.

For longer term survival, I recommend you plan a menu for next week, creating a shopping list at the same time. Ask your husband to help you by shopping for you on Saturday. Have your older kids help you work on dinner during the week days, allowing plenty of time. This is part of their education, too. An 8-year-old can learn how to scramble eggs, make a grilled cheese sandwich, or mix up a box of macaroni and cheese. A 12-year-old who has been taught can usually make an entire (easy) dinner, like baked chicken, rice, and steamed broccoli.

Hang in there. One day your newborn will be graduating, and all these days will be memories. Do what you need to do to make them fond memories for everyone!

Other members of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew are also participating in the 5 Days of Homeschool Encouragement. To see more posts please click the button below.

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