Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our Homeschool Year

I haven't paid a visit to my blog in quite a while.  My best excuse for it is because we've started up our homeschooling year, and I've found myself with much less time.

"back to school" 2016
Sly is in "first grade" this year, so I wanted to get a bit more serious about his schooling.  After spending the early summer in an excited frenzy of reading and listening to anything I could get my hands on about Charlotte Mason, I decided to give her approach a whirl this year.  We're almost perfectly following Mater Amabilis, which is a free Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculm.

Somehow, I had gotten it into my head that a CM approach was pretty light and fluffy, and not as rigorous an education as I was looking for.  But how wrong I was!  Many of the books we're reading are ones which I would have thought too advanced for my kids' ages, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how much they are picking up and understanding.

Last year, I pieced together my own curriculum, and as the year went on, I just kind of dropped things here and there as I was developing the classic "homeschool burnout."  Since I had no one to answer to but myself, I had no trouble just ditching parts that took too much out of me.  I think (hope) this year will be a little different.  Because I'm following a plan put together by someone else, I feel more obligation to stick to it (though I think I may drop some of the geography lessons...because that part feels really thrown together to me).  Sticking with this curriculum also forces me to incorporate some subjects which, while worthwhile, I may not have made time for otherwise - things like artist study, poetry memorization, or nature walks.

Our actual school time is close to two hours per day.  That gets stretched out, though, because I try to shoo the kids outside for short breaks in between some of our lessons.  The past few days, Sly has been insisting that he keep working right through with no breaks at all.  He says he prefers to save up all his playtime for one solid chunk at the end.  But I've noticed that his focus has been really slipping.  His brain needs to take those little breaks.  So I'm going to start insisting on it, even if I have to push him out the door whining and crying.

I set things up so that we only do our normal lessons Monday through Thursday.  Fridays alternate between going to our homeschool co-op, or taking a nature walk.  And we've already fit in a couple additional "field trip" days to a special Divine Liturgy at an Eastern church, and a visit to a fort from the French and Indian War.

Stella is only four, so I'm mostly just casually trying to get her to learn her letters and the sounds they make.  Linus is almost two-and-a-half, which I have found to be the magical age for potty training.  So when the big kids started school, Linus began "potty school."  I'm just taking a very slow and gradual approach to it.  Having him sit on his potty a few times a day, and seeing if anything happens.  And reading our all-time favorite book for potty training, Ian's New Potty.  And Flora is six months old, so she mostly fusses during school time until she's ready for her morning nap, and then Mommy rushes to try to finish up the rest of the school lessons so that maybe she'll have a tiny bit of time left to fit in some baby-free chores before naptime ends.

It's been an adjustment for us all.  It's been hard on the kids to realize that they can no longer play with their good across-the-street friend during the mornings, and that Mommy is likely going to turn down most offers for morning playdates and outings because she really needs to get serious and make sure "school" happens most days.

And it's been tough on me to have to give those things up as well.  We're just not morning people in this family.  We can't get up early enough to get lessons out of the way and still have time to go anywhere in the morning.  So hanging out with friends, trips to the supermarket and other errands have to get pushed to other time slots.

It's kind of like I've taken on a part-time job in addition to my already full-time job of mothering and housekeeping.  I need to remind myself constantly to be responsible and just get it done, and not be tempted by every possible excuse to push lessons aside until the next day.  I figure, if the kids were in public school, they'd have to show up every day, and they'd stay there until mid-afternoon.  At least we have more flexibility and free time than that!