Category Archives: Homeschooling

Are You Ready to Homeschool?

Your Coronavirus-traumatized kids came home to you in March of 2020. You quickly learned what every homeschooling mom and dad already knew about teaching kids at home. It’s fun. It’s hard. And it’s worth it. You’re ready to homeschool permanently.

Let’s reiterate what you learned and throw in a little extra to make sure you’re ready to go live in Fall 2020. Let’s temper any unrestrained idealism. Time soothes many painful memories, and we forget. Yet true success requires us to be cognizant of our past pain and struggles, while curating ways to cope with or circumvent barriers.

Mental preparation is key.

So, for those who know, those who have forgotten, and those who want to know, when you homeschool:

Your house might be a mess.

For years on end. And you have to be nice about it. And actually be the one who disburses the tools of domestic destruction: paint, Play-doh, water, markers, pens. . .?  

Your eating and exercise habits might change.

Math steps and mental hula hooping don’t count as physical exercise. Kids are always hungry, so 3-5 times a day—YOU journey on the kitchen cupboard quest to turn out food for your scholars. When it’s all said and done, you might be a little heavier than you want.

Your kiddos might not accept you as “Teacher Mom” at first.

“You are NOT my teacher.” Teacher. Mom. Mom. Teacher. What’s the difference? Is there a certain look I put on when I homeschool? I don’t know. As I was beginning to homeschool eleven years ago, I clung to a nugget of information from a dad of a homeschooling family I admired: “Homeschooling was hard for my wife until the kids figured out she was their teacher.”

There IS a point at which kids transition into see you as teacher-mom versus mom-mom. Don’t despair if it didn’t happen during Coronavirus.

Learning might not happen linearly—and in fact will stall completely at times.

You might have watched learning at home during Coronavirus and wondered how learning happens at all for anyone. Never mind. It does. And I promise you, it is not linear.

You might never be alone again.

I am never alone. And I like to be alone. Coronavirus togetherness was like homeschooling togetherness on anabolic, high-dose steroids, and homeschooling isn’t as bad as that. But homeschooling togetherness is still a challenge for those who need silence and alone-time to recharge. Know thyself and prepare! (Note: Out of all the challenges on this list, this one affects me the most.)

The phone ruins school. (No “might” on this one. The phone ruins school.)

Do you think a wall phone with an answering machine would destroy as many productive opportunities as our cell phones?

You might feel overextended teaching different grade levels.

It’s hard teaching different levels. There are curriculums (curricula, if you prefer) that suggest teaching different grade levels certain classes at the same time, like history. Never worked too well for me.

You might sit a lot next to your child, pointing and redirecting and wondering why your pointer finger is so magical.

Case in point: I’m sitting there watching my daughter do her 30 math problems, most of which she knows how to do. But I have to sit there and make sure she doesn’t get lost in the world between problems. Between 12 and 13 she’s in Harry Potter World. Between 14-15 she’s having a sleepover with her best friend. Between 24-25 she’s in Lego Land. My magical pointing wand (right index finger) keeps her tethered to math.

Schoolwork for many kids is simply a portal to another world. They need your “magic pointing finger” to draw them back.

(During the beginning of Coronavirus homeschooling, a friend asked me for some advice on her freshman boy who was starting his biology in the morning and was still doing it at 10 o’clock at night. I told her to sit next to him, constantly keeping him moving forward to what needed read and done. I know she thought he was old enough to know better than to squander time and felt any person with average intelligence and motivation should be motivated enough to stay on track. But sitting beside him did help.)

Sit down and prepare to be bored as a parent while your kid works. They eventually transition to not needing and wanting you there.

Your books and methods often might NOT WORK!

Any experienced homeschool mom will tell you that about five back-up plans are needed to arrive at the learning destination. One way, one rigid method = tears and unhappiness.

Your school might not look like school.

Homeschooling does not look like school at home. You might start that way, but it generally expands to something beautifully different.

You might lose your temper and express frustration poorly.

It happens. I venture to say to all of us. Apologize. Investigate ways to get to the root of the problem. Regroup. Find your fear and anxiety. (Are you afraid your kid is lazy? Are you afraid they one day won’t hold a job? Are you worried you didn’t teach something well? Are you scared they might have a learning disorder or low IQ? Are you afraid you can’t juggle all if they take this much time every day?) Then use your words to help your child understand your concern. Or maybe you’ll see your concern is catastrophizing and overreacting and apologize more.

You might fight technology battles.

I know this is a hard one. We directly see physical activity and affability go up when we remove technology in our home. It’s worth removing. But then there’s that alone time, messy house, new method to research to help with reading. . . But regulating technology is worth it.

Closing

That’s it! Have a wonderful day. It’s a hard time to keep grounded inside ourselves. I feel like everything “out there” wants to polarize my emotion and your emotion. We are stressed by happenings in the world. If you can help it, don’t be polarized. Explore the middle ground. And feel free to ask my experience with homeschooling four.

Terri F

May 28, 2020

Pandemic Causes Questioning of Education

With the pandemic, I know that many families are in an educational conundrum and investigating homeschooling. I have seen increased traffic on my site, which I assume has to do with homeschooling. Parents wonder if school will be live in the fall. Will their kids have more e-learning? Will their kids bring home COVID-19 to an at-risk family member? What educational gaps will occur because school was missed or may continued to be missed? There are so many questions and unknowns.

I just wanted to take a minute to share that we are still homeschooling successfully. Eleven years strong. I am thrilled with my children’s education. They each speak two languages. They each play two instruments sufficiently. Our science work rivals my pharmacy school (I went to pharmacy school and then medical school.) biology and chemistry classes. Mathematically, we are on track to complete calculus in the junior year of high school. Athletically, each child has picked a sport they love and practice year round. They each know how to cook. They (can) help me with laundry. I have some fantastic art pieces hanging here and there. They love to watch a good historical documentary or a stupid, cheesy Hollywood movie. They are interesting PEOPLE to be around.

We have a bunch of fun, and I love my family dearly. This is exactly what I envisioned when I realized that I could not practice medicine and raise my family the way my heart wanted to. I had to make a choice. I am a bit particular, and there was not enough of me to raise my kids so that I had no regrets.

I keep very busy heading a gymnastics non-profit club and assistant coaching high school volleyball, and I have not made time to write here for a long time. I would like to. But no matter what, I want you to know that homeschooling can be an exceptionally successful educational platform.

I check my site for comments and questions routinely. If you have homeschooling questions, I can share our experience so you can hear one family’s personal experience.

Here is what I am telling myself during this pandemic:

I WILL see opportunities to learn from tough times. I will NOT FOCUS on the storm in front of all of us now, although I will do what it takes to weather it and see its reality. I WILL know that, although we cannot do what we did before, we can find things that we CAN do. I will know that, although it feels like nothing is going right and everything is going badly, if I am honest, I can find at least a couple of things that are good that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had to go through this storm.

Best wishes,

Terri F

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part II

Here are some pieces of our ninth grade curriculum. I’d be happy if anything I write helps you in your decision-making process for your own curriculum! I know I scour reviews and blog posts as I look for ways to teach.

Mathematics: Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics (Second Edition)

I selected the Second Edition of Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics because I want the program the way John Saxon designed it, with geometry integrated. Newer editions break away from integrating geometry.

Back in my school days, I used Saxon math from sixth grade Math 7/6 through senior calculus, and so I use my own positive Saxon experience to help teach. Art Reed’s valuable newsletters on his website also helped me tremendously: which books to select, how to address transcripts (You might find it interesting that my own high school transcript titled my year in the Advanced Mathematics book as “Trigonometry,” but when I read forums now, it is discouraged to call the class “trigonometry!”), how to handle bumps in the road using Saxon math, and other fascinating stories to get lost in!

Saxon’s math curriculum routinely defies all mass education norms, and his book Advanced Mathematics (second edition) is no exception:

  • It is not designed to fit neatly into a 180 day school year. (Was math designed for school–or school to teach math?) It is intended to take 3-4 semesters.
  • It mixes material from four different math classes: geometry, advanced algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. (I did supplement geometry with a mix of some extra on-line materials I found for proofs and geometry terminology.)
  • It is incrementally and cumulatively taught such that material from the first lesson will be phased out and then brought back many lessons later for review. It’s not “learn and forget” with Saxon!
  • It continues to be graphically “boring.”
  • Its story problems contain advanced vocabulary and are quite humorous, if you get Saxon’s kind of humor.

My ninth grader seems to pick up math easily, and she has pushed through the Saxon books at a good pace, arriving at Advanced Mathematics. She does half a problem set one day and the other half the next. Since every student deserves a little autonomy (Ha! Such freedom!), she gets to pick if she does even problems one day and odds the next–or if she does problems 1-15 on the first day and then problems 16-30 on the second day.

In years past, since she grasped math quickly and fluently, I would selectively allow her to skip problems (which she knew how to do in her sleep while running from an axe murderer). However, when these old “easy” problems were brought back for review 15-20 lessons later, she had to do them to keep retention. Saxon discourages skipping problems, and I understand why.  This year, we have not skipped problems (and have even added in some extra geometry problems).

Composition: Time for Writing

We tried something different this year for writing, since I’m not a very good writing instructor. I tend to go a lit-tle crazy marking up my kids’ papers. They go a lit-tle crazy defending their work. It gets a lit-tle crazy around the house. (Best to find a new way, yes? Yes.)

We tried out two classes at Time for Writing, a program offering on-line writing classes. (I actually used it for two of my students this year.) How was it? I think that both students increased their writing skills, and I only had to put up with a lit-tle grief– instead of a lot!

  • Work was graded by a teacher, not me.
  • Concise, sequential lessons
  • Helpful deadlines
  • The classes are priced at $119 for 8 weeks, which divides out to be about $15 a week.
  • When I had to correspond with teachers, they were very helpful, kind, and seemed to like communicating with the students and their parents.
  • Actual grades were assigned.
  • Grading seems to be done on a rubric.
  • Variety of writing topics
  • Immediate start date
  • Can extend or pause a class a little bit if needed
  • Most of the actual work is paper writing. There is not much busy work, although there are reasonable on-line assignments and quizzes.

Now what about more of the cons?

Well, if you have a student who struggles with significant writing blocks, I do not suggest this program unless you have a writing tutor or the ability to work cooperatively with your student yourself. For a writer who is afraid to write (or who is motivated to start and has great ideas, but gets writer’s block as soon as she has to type, handwrite, or dictate words), this will still be a tough class and will not address that stumbling block.

However, if you have a student who has no problem getting started with the writing process when he or she puts his or her mind to it, but just doesn’t appreciate your awesome parental feedback or believe in your deadlines, then this certainly could be the program for you. It provides those things! It just doesn’t provide any help for writing block.

Speech

We used Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Speech Bootcamp. Loved it! A small group of students met every Friday morning for one semester. The course comes with DVDs, a teacher’s workbook, and a student’s workbook. We followed the syllabus closely. It was clear and easy to follow. Very well designed and user-friendly! The videos were fun and painless to watch.

We added in extra, too: fun speech exercises; some psychology to think about that interferes with our ability to be ourselves in front of a crowd; watching and discussing some famous speeches and speakers; and a scientific presentation. Parents and siblings were invited to class to watch the students’ speeches.

This was a fun class. I liked the IEW Speech Bootcamp because it was so well planned and put together. As a teacher, I could have just followed the workbooks and videos without too much planning. Adding in more was super easy to do without interfering with the flow of what Andrew Pudewa (the Speech Bootcamp teacher) was trying to accomplish.

Closing

Ninth grade has been lots of fun, and it’s stimulating to see the teenage spunk and spirit culminating and exerting itself.

What I have written is not all-inclusive of what we read, do, or learn. We round out our curriculum with history, grammar, music, PE, and classes offered in our community.

Guess that’s all I have to say for today! If you have any questions on our use of Saxon math, Time for Writing, IEW Speech bootcamp, or anything else I’ve mentioned, ask below!

Take good care!

Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part I

De_Re_AnatomicaHere is what our ninth grade curriculum looks like. The ability to tailor education to the individual is by far one of the greatest strengths of homeschooling. Simply amazing!

I love to talk homeschooling and education, so if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I know it can be hard to decide which resources to use to educate your child. There are SOOOOO many out there!

Curriculum

Spanish: We use Spanish Honors Three with Señor Ray Leven via Pennsylvania : Great, intense, live on-line class which meets once a week for a year. During class, Spanish is spoken, and conversation is in Spanish. There is a lot of homework. Expect it. Students read Spanish literature, and they write papers in Spanish. Younger students may need to be coached on time management skills to ensure they keep up with Spanish and their other courses, especially if their other courses are a bit tough. Señor Ray Leven is an amazing teacher. He is honest, frank, and willing to work with you and your student to get them fluently speaking and writing Spanish; his expectations are high, so the student must be willing to give it all he or she has got. But his passion for teaching, Spanish, and student development is unparalleled. His classes are fun, interactive, and witty. If your student really loves Spanish, the financial investment in this class is exceptionally worthwhile.

Biology: We use Miller and Levine’s Biology curriculum. I bought the textbook, the worksheet book, the test book, and the lab manual. Sometimes I do not like the way the textbook presents things. There are gaps or the writing is not clear. When this happens, I supplement with the Campbell Biology book and the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam. I really like the Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book a lot. It takes everything that needs to be known and condenses it into outline form. I use this book to check myself as a teacher at the end of a Miller and Levine chapter/unit. Did I teach my student what was covered here? If not, do I need to? If I am not sure the depth to cover certain topics in, I try to find someone who might know. For example, I don’t like teaching about plants. I didn’t do much plant biology with my pharmacy and medical school background. So I found someone I knew who had a plant emphasis in her background and asked her. She kindly sent me her botany class notes so I would know what to hit well.

The Preparing for the Biology AP Exam book roughly follows the Miller and Levine topic sequence. It follows the Campbell Biology sequence even better, but the Campbell book is written at quite a high reading level and contains too much information.

I find the Miller and Levine worksheets very good, but my student gets bored if we do them for every chapter. So I mix it up. I find worksheets on-line for some chapters. I also use on-line videos and documentaries to try to keep biology interesting for her.

Lastly for this section, you may be wondering if my student will take the AP Biology test since I am using the AP Exam book I mentioned. I may suggest to her that she does this. However, I find the concept of AP classes and exams somewhat repulsive. I feel like it is a money-making scheme which boxes students in and squashes the creativity and fascination of learning. If my homeschooled students can do well on any AP exams, fine. But I feel like my whole 23 years of institutionalized education did nothing but make me a monkey who follows orders. I am hoping for better for my children.

Closing

I’ll get the rest of the curriculum up in posts which follow. I adore homeschooling, and I am super grateful that our country (the United States) allows it. I mean, it should allow it! But there are many countries in the world which I consider fine countries, countries which I love (or would love) to visit, which do NOT allow homeschooling AT ALL. But American independence and free-thought thrives, and I’m proud of that. Love to all. Be proud that your neighbor can have such radically different thoughts and opinions than you do. It is a neat thing! Go for curiosity, not animosity! Curious minds LEARN! Angry minds shut down.

Terri F.

Image attribution: De Re Anatomica is in the public domain. {PD-Art} {{PD-US-expired}}

How Long Does it Take to Teach a Fourth Grader?

Syllable notesA while back, a non-homeschooling mom friend was intrigued that my homeschooled, elementary-aged children were mostly done with “formal” school by lunch time.

To me, it was no big deal. It’s just the way it is with homeschooling. You move forward by capability rather than blocked off time and required busy work. But she thought it was fascinating, so I thought I would share how we get through a fourth grade school day in about 3-4 hours rather than 7-8.

We spend 20-30 minutes on math.

We spend 20-30 minutes on language arts (grammar, spelling, and writing).

Ten minutes on handwriting (cursive).

We spend about one hour on Spanish.

About 15-20 minutes on history and geography.

About 15-20 minutes on music.

We incorporate daily silent sustained reading.

We cycle through art, science, and poetry at different times of the year in different ways. Doing a sporting activity is important to our family, and we make sure the kids are exposed to and find a sport they enjoy.

That’s about three or four hours of school. A little more if you count the evening sports activities.

With the rest of the time, there are playdates, meal cooking, some laundry, plenty of giggling in the family, Lego building, and some technology time.

Not everyone would want to homeschool, but if you get the chance, it’s an amazing experience. If you love to learn, and you can share that with your child in such a way that sparks and inspires them, what a gift. I try to push my kids as far as they will allow me to, but pull back just before they burn out.

There are a couple of things that I’m really pleased with about our curriculum. I am really happy that we have time to teach cursive, which is being removed from the modern public curriculum. I really would like my kids to be able to read any old fascinating family letters and also historic, legal documents. (I would like my kids to be able to read the Constitution first-hand.)

I am also happy that my kids will be bilingual because we have started their Spanish instruction at such a young age. It does take the longest of all the subjects taught.

Lastly, although this post summary reflects the time it took my older kids when they were in fourth grade, too, it no longer reflects their current schedule. In addition to a fourth grader, I also homeschool a ninth grader and seventh grader (and a preschooler). The older kids’ work takes much longer.

Have a great day!

Stop the Homeschool Tears and Yelling, Part 2

Scathing words. Hard crystal eyes. “It’s your fault, Mom. You asked for it. If I was in school, we wouldn’t have this problem. If you can’t teach me, you shouldn’t have homeschooled.”

Well. Huh. This isn’t going well. Accusing responses build loudly, sounding like a jackhammer in my head. Somewhere in the house I hear doors softly close as siblings retreat out of the fray. Do I take the bait? I know this path. It’s easy to follow.

Nope. Not this time. I’m done with that. I make a mental HARD STOP. Immediately. I am not a fish! I do not jump on dirty worms hiding nasty barbed hooks. It is my job to bring out the best in my four children. It is my job to bring out the best in myself as I bring out the best in my children. (So help me, God. Because I am going to need it.)

I have been homeschooling for ten years, and I love it. And I’ll tell you what! My kids do, too. We have had our moments, months, or even years. There have been maybe two or three times when I finally broke down, couldn’t think of another thing to try, and offered to send a child to school for classes. (It is my full intention to homeschool all four of my kids through high school, but I am not here to ruin my children’s lives. I am here to help them thrive, learn, and be the best they can be, inside and out.)

However, my children have always turned me down in the end. They decided they liked the homeschooling education and opportunities, and they wanted to find a way to work together. I know I am the adult here. I know I can find a way to understand the dynamics. I was gifted these human beings. In today’s post and in the last post, I explain some important thoughts that I consider to keep me from antagonizing my children.

The Reflection of Me I Refuse to See

I am consistently beginning to notice that when my kids irritate me as I teach them, it’s because I am looking at (often subdued) pieces of myself. Every time tears glisten in my children’s eyes, there’s a good chance I have provoked them because “Big Terri” (that’s me) is reliving “Little Terri’s” life and school inadequacies. I’m not teaching math or grammar anymore! I’m covertly “teaching” my child what I had to squash out of me (or call forth out of me) in order to “succeed” in school.

Be quiet. Sit down. Do math faster. Lose math facts chalkboard races again. Quit counting on your fingers; you’re too old for that. Stop talking. No whining. Pay attention. You’re a good reader, but not good enough for that class. That’s bad handwriting; look at Melanie’s. Be number one or nobody will care or notice. How can you be so smart and not be able to add fractions? You talk too much. You’re trying to learn German, and we’re working on spelling. We’ll spank you because strong enough to be an example.

These are voice loops from my school experience. (And the paragraph got way too long, so I took half of it out! Laugh till you cry! And I was a good student! What kind of voices do non-conforming adults carry in their school memories?) Anyhow, I see an awful realization:

My teachers and lessons have become my kids’ teachers and lessons nearly thirty years later!

So often, whatever it is that I am losing my temper about is really about me. I am looking at a piece of me or my life somehow. It can take me months to see that I am so angry because my child is:

  • doing something I do,
  • doing something I have done,
  • doing something I have been reprimanded for or embarrassed over,
  • or showing me a trait of mine that I have squashed down so deep in me that I don’t even know the struggle is there anymore.

When I finally do see how it is not my child that I am punishing, but me, I’m dumbfounded. It takes courage and curiosity to see it. I have asked my friends sometimes about traits that I see in my children and if I have any of that in me. “Hmm. Never seen that in you, Terri. You’re perfect.” Thank you, dear friends. I know perfection surrounds itself with good company.

I must see that I’m judging myself when I judge them.

Stuff a sock in your thoughts and compliment your child.

Kids thrive on accurate, TRUE praise. I have very high standards, so I begrudgingly compliment my kids about their schoolwork. It’s expected work. But I KNOW that my kids do better when I tell them, “Great job!” Or, “You’re really good in multiplication.” The hard thing is, compared to all that is stuffed in my brain, they’re, uh, well, honestly, they’re not good at reading, writing, and math.

Whoa. I know. It sounds horrible to read. But I subconsciously base my evaluation of my kids on my brain after successful completion of thirteen years of public school, five years of pharmacy school, four years of medical school, and a medical residency. Plus living over forty years.

So, yeah, stuff a sock in your thoughts, Terri. I have to consciously tell myself that I need to encourage and compliment my children each day in each area. Sometimes it feels fake and like flattery, but I know that’s because I am thinking about it from a brain that has been educated already.

I must compliment more.

Sit with them.

This is the hardest for me, actually. Strangely, it’s even harder than all the others! And it requires nothing.

Sit. (That’s hard.)

Sit. Quietly. (Oh, just give me a kidney stone already.)

I’ve got lunch to make and supper to plan. Laundry to fold. Bills to pay. Mom’s birthday coming up. Other kids’ lessons to teach. A four year old to pull away from the TV.

I don’t have time to sit here for thirty minutes, mostly in silence, just waiting for my child to move forward somehow. What sixty minutes now? What? Two hours? Are you kidding me? She has accomplished nothing and brought me down with her.

No! This won’t work! I need to show my student how to her work, hurry her along to show me she’s got it, and then move on. Check-box marked.

But homeschooling doesn’t work that way. When there are struggles, especially coming out in anger and tears, I have learned that I must sit quietly with my kids as they work. I must not ask inflammatory questions or hastily push them along. I must be there to help. Not degrade. When they’re mad at me and trying to explain themselves, I must not interrupt. I must not even interrupt their silence! I must sit in silence as they formulate their words, sometimes requiring long, long tens-of-minutes of silence. I must sit next to them as they struggle through math, keeping my voice and thoughts calm and focused on them.

I must sit in silence.

School is an Option

When I’ve exhausted everything, every opportunity, and I still feel like what I’m doing is making us both worse people, then, I ask the hard question. “Do you think you need to go to school to learn this? Would you and I be better together if you took this class, and others if it leads to that, at a school?”

There has come a point in which I knew my parent-child relationship was deteriorating due to homeschooling interactions. I knew that in a particular area in homeschooling, I was letting a child down. I knew that even though I was trying my best, I wasn’t doing a good job! And I told my child exactly this. I think because of my exceptional honesty, my child decided that whereas she had been unwilling to budge before, she wanted to try it again with both us trying even harder.

I must be willing to let go if I have to.

You Should Have Made Me Do It

When I meet resistance in my children, I usually stop and assess the situation. I make some tweaks and changes in what we’re doing to coax them along. I don’t usually just plow through and make them do things “because I said so.” I’m a very strong-willed person, and this is a sure-fire way to lose me; therefore, I am cautious to treat my children how I would like to be treated.

I recently was in combat with one of my older children who was pointing out that I had let her slide through a school subject in her younger years. (I had tried everything throughout the years, and it only created resentment and anger. So I put it off till I could put it off no longer.) I asked her now that she could look back, what should I have done? She said, “You should have just made me do it.” Sigh. Easy for her to say.

At select times, I must be willing to push my child past the point she thinks she’s capable of.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Since they were born, I see my children as PEOPLE with futures. I just got lucky enough that these people got put in my arms to tend. When yelling and tears happen, I step back and take inventory. WHAT can we do here? WHAT is REALLY happening here? WHAT am I missing? God gave me these people. Their His people. What does He want me to know about them? What does He want ME to know about ME?

Best wishes to you! Find a way!

Terri F

Stop the Homeschool Tears and Yelling, Part 1

Listen. I love my kids so much. We all do. I mean mine are the best. Shine like stars. Thanks for loving them, too.

Okay. Kidding.

We all love our own kids immensely. We want the best for them. If you homeschool, you’ve decided that your home is the best place for them to learn their academics. But sometimes, there’s a kid who always makes you yell, even if you just won a million dollars, tax-free.

There’s one who you always make cry. You tell her she’s pretty in a harsh voice and she tears up. And you tell her she stinks in a soft, loving voice and she glows. Kids are crazy.

We have tears and yelling sometimes in our homeschool. It happens. Some years more frequently than others. Some school topics more frequently than others. Some kids more frequently than others. We have had tears or yelling over:

  • Where to put the apostrophe in English contractions
  • Whether to add or subtract numbers in elementary school story problems and pre-algebra problems (Example: Solve for X when X-357 =120)
  • Writing thoughts down on paper to construct paragraphs or essays
  • Failed crafts
  • The feeling that too much school work has been assigned
  • My voice
  • Their voice
  • Their eyes
  • My eyes
  • Critical remarks from on-line teachers
  • Not fitting in anywhere

Yep. We’ve had tears and yelling. Yelling and tears, to me, mean something is wrong. Something is not right. It does not mean my child is defiant. It means something is wrong, and the buck stops with me.

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this that you have tried the take-a -break, go-get- coffee, hold-hands-and-pray posts. You’ve learned all that. You’ve remembered to use your resources and identify learning styles. All that jazz.

Today and the next post, I want to point out a few ideas that I have internalized which have helped me through our trying homeschooling experiences, so we can stop the tears and yelling. I could write an e-book on this one day, I think. 🙂 But I’ll keep it somewhat short.

When I have to repeat myself, we’re heading for trouble.

From tricky (to the kids) math concepts to writing expository essays, when I hear myself explaining things I’ve explained before, I can tell you one of us will come to tears, exasperated words, or yelling. Whether it’s explaining something repeatedly in four different ways over the course of ten minutes or explaining it in thirty seconds reminders repeatedly over the last month, if they can’t remember important information or processes, I get testy.

The condescending questions start insidiously, “Why aren’t you getting this?” and “Why is this difficult for you?” They’re asked innocently enough, but they are the START flag to the race. My kids commence looking down at their papers, doodling, looking away from me. In their own ways, they’re trying to avert this situation, too, although it’s usually counterproductive.

So when I see myself explaining something multiple times, I know I’m on thin ice and I have to make sure I’m using every single adult neuron in my brain. I know if I don’t change my past behaviors, we will not move forward in any way, shape, or form. And that’s not okay. When the sign says, “Bridge out.” It means the bridge is out! When the signs say, “argument coming.” That’s what they mean!

Evaluate the fear in the situation.

Why do I deteriorate as a teacher and parent when my kids aren’t “getting it?” I have tried my hardest! My kid (yes, whether I believe it or not) has tried her hardest (as she perceives it). Why are we both so frustrated that she’s not getting it?

FEAR. And it is said that fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate. Whether it’s hating me, hating our homeschool, or hating writing, I don’t want my child to have anything to do with hating anything!

What fears do we have?

Mom’s fears:

  • My child is getting behind and is not keeping up with her peers.
  • Grandma and Grandpa are keeping tabs on our education, and here is another example for them to say I’m not doing a good job homeschooling.
  • My child won’t perform well on standardized tests (and college admission tests).
  • My child might have a learning disorder.
  • My child will never get this!
  • I can’t think of any more ways to teach this!
  • My child does not listen well and is going to grow up to be an absent-minded or insolent adult.
  • I must be a bad teacher.
  • My child does not try and will be lazy and not get a job in the real world.
  • My child will not be prepared for college.
  • I’m running out of time to get lunch made.
  • I’m running out of time to help brother and sisters with their homeschool topics.
  • I’m running out of time before we have to make this appointment.

Student’s fears:

  • I’m letting mom down.
  • I’ll never get this stuff. I’m not smart enough.
  • I really can’t remember what I’m told.
  • Mom is mad at me.
  • I won’t make it in college.
  • I will do badly on standardized tests.
  • I won’t have time to play with my friends if I have to do all this stuff.
  • Mom is going to give me more homework if I can’t figure this out.
  • Mom is disappointed in me.
  • Mom and Dad won’t love me if I can’t do school right.
  • I’m not as smart as my parents or brothers and sisters.
  • I’m going to have a late lunch because we’re working on this, and I’m so hungry.

That’s a lot of fear going around! Once I identify the fears, I come from a place of compassion for myself and my child–and not anger. That’s a healthier place to parent and teach from.

Conclusion

To summarize today’s post: 1) If you have homeschool tears and yelling, well, join the club! 2) Try the usual suggested things to head them off. (Take a break, change curriculum, find a friend to teach your kid, modify the environment, etc.) 3) Know you are responsible for finding a peaceful way through this homeschooling dilemma. 4) Identify the signs that pop up every time you have homeschool tears and yelling and heed them! 5) Give words to the fears behind the tears and yelling!

Kids are amazing. And so are you. Figure it out! You can do it!

Part 2 on Monday!

Terri