Monday, June 24, 2013

School Planning Brain Dump

Every few  months, I need to write an angst ridden post about what to do for school with the kids.  So, here it is.  After this, I should be good for about six months.

I’m taking the time (summertime) to evaluate how last school year went and figure out what to do for the coming school year.  The difficult thing about homeschooling isn’t so much WHAT to teach, it’s WHEN and HOW.  If there was one thing I could drive home to folks who don’t homeschool, it’s this: homeschooling is not like public school.  No matter how you try, you cannot, cannot, CANNOT schedule your time like public school.  Believe me, I have TRIED. 

I bought a homeschool planner and filled out a week’s worth, almost to the MINUTE with a school schedule and assignments. It was beautiful.  It was even color coordinated.  I trained my kids on how to read the schedule, so at least the big kids could follow it on their own while I worked with the younger ones.  You want to know how long that schedule lasted?

An hour and a half.

After that first ninety minutes, we were already behind on assignments, and I was so stressed out I was screaming at the kids to get back on task.  Not awesome.  And I hadn’t taken into account things like the dentist appointments that I’d scheduled during math and grammar. 

I tried again the next day, but again, I was so stressed out trying to stay on schedule (with resistant kids who didn’t want to get up on time, at a generous 9 freaking o’ clock!) that we abandoned the stupid thing.  It was a matter of all or nothing, and in order not to kill anyone, I abandoned the schedule to go with nothing.  To use an art analogy, I’m more Jackson Pollack than paint-by-number.

I struggle with this.  I can accept that I’m not a meticulous, detail oriented person, but my children (some of them, anyway) need more structure to feel successful (and not drive me crazy demanding to know what we’re going to do next and when.)  I feel like I need a more measurable, results-focused plan, and I need to stick with it, but I suck at making flexible plans.  These are the times when I sink into despair and think “I can’t do this.  I’m ruining the kids. They’ll never get into college and it will be all my fault.”

I think my biggest issue is creating boundaries.  I am so easily distracted and such a bleeding heart that I will say yes to just about anything—to the detriment of schedule and plans.  I don’t want to be left out, I want to try new things, I don’t want to be bored.  I want the kids to have fun and lots of life experience.  But at the expense of academics?

My kids are very well read and articulate.  But they are behind in some of the more “technical skills” like math and science.  This stresses me out—but I HATE math and science.  I don’t want to.  I am trying to figure out how to love and be excited about math and science, but those are the subjects that killed me in school and turned me off to continuing in college. I was afraid of math and science.  I don’t want that for my kids, but I don’t have the mental fortitude to forge ahead with them.  Even the thought of making a baking soda volcano or raising butterflies from mail order caterpillars makes me want to run screaming from the room and hide in a dark closet somewhere.  Gloria is coming up on learning the times tables and I’m breathing into a paper bag over this.  I just don’t think I can do it.

And yet, I don’t want to put the kids in public school—I want to conquer this.  Do I hire a tutor? Do I join a co-op? Succumb to an online school? Do I just give up and put my precious, amazing, kids back in public school, where I won’t see them for hours and am beholden to a schedule not of my own design (including school events, homework, and the dreaded homework folder???) 

See? Angst.  It’s awful.  It makes me want to hit something. But, I’ll figure it out.  I may have to declare a moratorium on everything BUT math and science for the coming year.  I can’t imagine that will go over well, but I need to do something. 

Fortunately, I know these feelings are just part of a cycle---and it will roll around again and I’ll feel on top of the world and the kids will be doing just fine—but right now, at the low point—worried about what I’m NOT giving/providing/teaching the kids makes it hard to see what we’ve gained, what we’ve learned, and how much we’ve accomplished. Part of the cycle involves sitting at the bottom for awhile, fretting and stressing until I can’t stand it anymore, and finding inspiration and hope.  I’m not trying to wallow in a pity party, here—it’s just part of the rhythm of our lifestyle.  While I’m down here, I’ll explore my options, re-evaluate my methods, and my desires, and take the kids strengths, weaknesses, and desires into account.  We’ll figure it out.

The kids will be fine.  They’ll be successful.  They’ll get what they need.  For now, I just need to breathe into a paper bag.

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