Good Morning and Happy Tuesday bloggers. Hope you are having a good week! Today is a very important CT scan for me. Hope it all goes well, say a prayer for me! Now, on to homeschooling…Some of my favorite homeschooling books are in the series entitled Charlotte Mason Education, Catherine Levison. My books are so marked up and highlighted in that it’s easy to spot the words of wisdom that spoke to me the most. I revisited them recently and want to share some of my favorite messages with you…
In a Charlotte Mason education homeschooling is about so much more than education. But that doesn’t mean that at times I haven’t needed to fall back on the trusty old workbook. The key is, in my opinion and the CM method, is to choose books the child can do independently. Doing this will give mom a break and Big Bird doesn’t lose ground. There have been subjects that I’ve needed to buy a level below where he’s at in order that he can do the work independently. It’s a mom-who-desperately-needs-a-break’s way of keeping the mind sharp and thinking for itself while getting the rest, or whatever time we need.
Burnout is a very normal problem in homeschooling. Every mom called to the work can grow weary of the task. If you haven’t, you will eventually. It took almost 5 years before I felt that feeling of wanting to put the kids in school. I was exhausted and began thinking about all the things I could do if the boys were in school. I was tired and wondering if it was really the Lord’s desire that I homeschool the kids or had I imagined the whole thing? Was I just pushing my agenda on them by keeping them home and away from the parts of school I find repulsive? It’s a bad idea to ask these things during burnout, but that’s usually when they surface. I realized that it wasn’t about me and why I am doing it. It’s really all about the kids. When I talk to them about homeschooling they beg and plead to be homeschooled. Specifically so they can have the time they have to work on their projects. We live within sight of a nice and clean little elementary school and the kids see the buses leaving each afternoon. They can’t believe kids are just then getting out of school. Then they wonder when the kids got dropped off because they are sleeping when that happens. We are not real early risers like some homeschoolers, but it’s a schedule that works marvelously for us. The kids are thriving and they love homeschooling. It’s not about me, it’s about them. My mom told me once that she wished she could go back and find a way to not have to work so she could spend time with me going to the library and at times pull me out of school (that would have been my wish) since I didn’t go to the alternative school until high school. I loved the alternative high school. It was at the college and I did really well there. My parents worked very hard to give us food on the table and to pay the bills and quitting her job just was not an option back then so I am grateful for the BCC Alternative high school.
Back to coping with stress, illness, and burn out. Just like in parenting, there are times when a kid needs a little extra attention. He may be struggling in math or reading and he may need extra time with me. If I am already feeling worn out, and on top of that have to work extra to help my little one learn a new skill, I get easily overwhelmed. Unit studies are a really easy way to combine all the kids and my favorite ones are Five in a Row (for 3rd and under) and My Father’s World(3rd and up). I also really like KONOS, but the kind that’s all put together by the maker, Jessica Hulcy. It’s heavy on things like poetry, science, and language arts. They are lifesavers. But, there are times when even those are too much work for me. I get exhausted easily these days. That’s when I come to a place within myself that I realize I can’t do anything apart from Christ. As long as the Holy Spirit lives in me I am never left alone to do this homeschooling thing, and more importantly parenting thing. If we need to take a break while I help my little one who’s struggling, the others will be okay. I can give them some workbooks for a while, like mentioned above. I leave my burdens and my guilt with my Creator and look to the task right in front of me. Tomorrow will have its worries. Just focus on today, Jackie.
This year I started doing something differently. I read stories about young men in the inner city who were about to fail out and drop out of elementary school when they began doing a few simple things to turn their lives around. Home life and support wasn’t great, but all they needed was a mom to restrict the television use in the home. That’s number 1… loose the tv and video games (again, I am going over what I’ve began doing in a pinch- I personally love movies!). Then a child reads a book at level and writes a paper about the book. That’s it. If the child can’t read, I have him copy good writing. That’s it. That’s how many of our presidents learned to read, including Lincoln. They read books and write about them. In doing this, in order for it to work, I need their papers to be perfect. So I make corrections and they re-write it until it’s perfect. They choose the book, but it has to have a story of some sort in it. It can’t be a “fact book” or encyclopedia. This life-saver thing we do can be more effective that regular homeschool. The kids like our unit studies so I always go back to that when the hard times pass.
We are a big fan of independent work, once a child can read. I like it because they have to seek out knowledge themselves and it leaves little room for “phoning it in”. For sanity, when I began homeschooling my third, I switched to independent curriculums for the oldest, Big Bird. And some of them are worth mentioning here… Teaching textbooks is fabulous. The lessons are short and an online explanation is provided for each skill being asked of the child. It’s a little easy, so we do several lessons in one day and if I had to do it all over I would go a grade higher than the grade he’s “in”. We used Singapore Primary Math up until now, which is teacher intensive, but super-duper advanced. It relies on learning about and understanding numbers in a way I have yet to see in another curriculum. We have Growing With Grammar and Winning With Writing, Rod and Staff Spelling, and A Reason for Handwriting, with Intermediate Language Lessons as a supplement when we need a break from the norm. All of these are fairly or completely independent. If you have never heard of them and need a break for a bit, check them out.
They are working really well for us.
When I think about the word burnout, it implies that something or someone has been burning for a long time. The author of CM Education suggests “We who have dedicated our lives to bearing, raising, rearing, training, feeding, comforting, and yes, educating our young are at the least glowing if not burning.” She goes on to give an excercise that is really funny and I’m not totally sure if she’s serious, but it made me laugh. She says that when we begin to feel like someone else could do better raising our kids during the daytime hours, strap on the bullet proof vest and head to the nearest school. “Mingle with the students and observe the teachers teaching in the classroom. I’ve done this several times and the outcome is always an overwhelming sense of confidence in my ability to educate my children. I often return from these visits saying ‘If I can’t do a better job with my hands tied behind my back and drunk than there’s something wrong with me'”. Again, the name of the book is Simply Charlotte Mason and it’s book #2. By Catherine Levinson. That is one of the funniest things I have ever read in her books and get tempted to do just what she suggests. That is the only time, she reiterates, that we should ever compare ourselves to another. I agree.
Although I felt led to write about it, we are not experiencing burn out right now. I’m actually pretty inspired right now and can’t wait to begin feeling better so we can plant our seedlings for the spring garden. We are still having snow so I have some time yet. But, the kids are doing great and moving along in their “grades” and I am enjoying every moment with them. I value homeschooling and am so grateful for the opportunity. It is a gift. I hope I get to continue doing this for as long as the Lord allows.Have a wonderful day and lean on the Lord, He’s with you.
P.S. Squiggs says good morning!