Yesterday was back to school for us, after almost a three-week break.
If you think it sounds crazy attempting to homeschool with two new-to-our-family toddlers in the house, you’re right. It is.
I spent an hour during naptime on Mother’s Day spread out at the table, trying to make it all work on paper. Legally, we have to both complete 180 days of school a year, and also get through a certain amount of curriculum. Thankfully after looking everything over we seemed to be in good shape: 17 days of school and we’re on track to complete our material by then too.
It’s been a three-ring circus around here in the mornings, adding school into the mix, but then I remind myself — it’s a three-ring circus anyway. Why not try to squeeze some education in while I’m at it??
And guess what — as of this moment, we now only have 15 days to complete! We can do this!
Actually I really believe that the structure is good for all of us. It’s just being patient while everyone learns the structure.
My friend Tara gave me a genius idea for the big kids: use notebooks to keep them on track with their work. I grabbed a couple of those inexpensive black and white composition books at Publix, and in the evening I write tomorrow’s date and their to-do list for that day with boxes next to each item. Here’s the best part to me: the to-do list includes their chores. The first three items are: “Make bed, get dressed, brush teeth.” So by the time Judah and Amie come out of their bedroom in the morning, they can immediately check off 1-2 items, which they love.
I can already see how notebooks and lists are empowering for them, because they can choose when to do their work, and it keeps me from nagging them to get things done. If Judah asks, “When can I be done with school?” I just refer him to his notebook to tell me what he has left. He helps Amie read her list (I can even add, “Read Amie a book today,” which allows him both to practice reading and gives them quality time together).
I’ve realized this month that I never did a good job teaching J and A to help me around the house beyond the bare minimum, and I’m regretting that now. So I’m using their notebooks as a tool to give them some more responsibilities over time: vacuum the kitchen and dining room, fold laundry, wash dishes, etc. At the end of their daily list I write: “One extra chore for Mom,” and I show them how to do something. So far, they think it’s cool.
Gabriel wants so badly to help out and do whatever the big kids are doing. He already clears his dishes after meals and cleans up his own toys, so now I’m teaching him to wipe the dining table after breakfast.
Another item on J and A’s list is to babysit Gabe and Noah so Mom can work with the other one.
This morning I decided to start doing some “preschool” with Gabriel first thing, and it made a big difference in his contentment throughout the morning. We’re learning his letters and numbers. He loves the little foam letters we worked with. He’s also great at puzzles, colors, and shapes.
Please don’t think I’m super woman, or even that all of this goes smoothly after just two days: it doesn’t. at 10:00 a.m., after three whole hours of people calling, “Mommy!”, discipline, dirt tracked through the house, requests for snacks and juice, sibling fights, tearful outbursts, and overseeing school work, I’m ready to lock myself in the bathroom until David gets home from work.
I’ll give it time. It’s good for the little guys to learn the world does not revolve around them. It’s good for the big kids to learn the world does not revolve around them. Heck, it’s good for me to learn the world doesn’t revolve around me either, ha!
And I see a big improvement in Judah and Amie’s spirits already now that we’ve resumed our school routine. They’re getting more attention from me, and it makes them happy. Now that their tank is filled, they’re initiating playing with their brothers a little more. And they’re still getting lots of play dates with friends so I can spend time with Gabriel and Noah. I feel sure we’re on the right path here.
If you’re wondering about our plans for the fall, I’ve been all over the map with that one. But as of right now, I feel like all the reasons David and I decided that homeschooling works for our family still stand. I want to give it one year with all four kids at home before making any drastic decisions. So I registered Gabe for the 4-year-old class at Classical Conversations in the fall and Noah will be in the nursery. I think both boys are going to do awesome. Judah and Amie will each start an extra-curricular activity in the fall which they’re excited about.
So as of right now, we’re aiming to finish this school year by the end May, take all of June off, then start back again three days a week in July. This continues to give us structure, helps us “practice” school time together, and it gives us some wiggle-room next year for traveling/taking days off.
Ok, now I need a nap!