January 31, 2012

homeschooling: the struggle & finding what works for us

IMG_8385how we keep up with books/assignments/pencils x 4 : $4 Target workboxes

Homeschooling four littles is an enormous challenge {and struggle!} for us. I’m not naturally inclined to teach little kids- I don’t have that kind of awesome gene. :)

I really enjoy being around my children, but when it comes to sitting down to do school, within an hour my heart starts racing, I can’t breathe, and my stress level goes through the roof. I kid, but I’m kind of serious too. Teaching phonics to little boys has done that to me.

Sometimes I think I want to live in a foreign country and serve Jesus under trial- and then He totally slams me with the fact that homeschooling is my trial right now. Biting my tongue, praying for sanctification, crying out to God for help- those are the things homeschooling makes me do. And I see that I’m weak. Terribly weak under trial.

When I was in school, I always did my work very easily and ended up helping other people with theirs, so I really struggle with them lingering over their work- not understanding, not getting it. I’m hoping once we get past the phonics/reading stage, things will get easier and I will enjoy it a little more.

But when my creative 6-year-old wrote his name the other day in perfect mirror image and never could see what was wrong with it, it dawned on me again that my situation might actually be different than what I feel should happen with the average homeschooler. He is left-handed, doesn’t remember simple directions, consistently writes his numbers out of order, and makes amazing play-doh creations like this:

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He can draw, he is a people person and a great helper, he can understand the deepest of conversations, and plays the best game of “guess what I’m thinking of.” He is so smart, and we are slowly seeing progress with his schoolwork. I think it will click for him one day soon, because we faced the very same struggle with his older brother when he was 6.

I’ve kind of taken the approach these days that their little boy brains aren’t ready much before the age of 7. It was very close to 7 that it “clicked” for older one, and he is a dream at homeschooling now- he whizzes through his schoolwork and the hardest part of school for us is his attitude now. 

Both boys impress me so much with their creativity and interest in how things are made- they even like helping their daddy work on microchips! I think they will be amazing builders and inventors just like their dad. They think outside the box.

So I’m waiting- hoping for that moment, and trying to figure out how to let him enjoy school that he doesn’t always do well at. In the meantime, we are finding things that he can do well, and enjoy.

The boys that built these all by themselves:IMG_8062 (2)

Like projects like these along with their “book” work:

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And as much as I don’t like media {video, computer games, tv}, it works for them. It worked for their dad too! They learn differently than I expect them to, and I’m learning that’s okay.

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We’ve fallen in love with TeachMe for the iPad. Noah loves it- and he writes so much better with his finger than with his pencil.

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And of course, they all love coloring and cutting projects:

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Those are the things that make school fun for my boys. And as much as I struggle with homeschooling and the trial it brings me, I can see the beauty of it. I get to live with my children- I get to know who they are outside of the school setting- and it helps me to know how to teach them the things they need to know when we sit down to do school. I get to tailor their education to their strengths instead of having to plow through it with all of us in tears, just for the sake of getting done.

And so deep down inside, I really love homeschooling. Honestly, we are blessed beyond measure to be able to do it. It may not always be what we do, or what is best for us {or anyone else, for that matter}, but I know that we are here for a reason, and I am thankful for it.

Even knowing that, it still makes my heart race.

The upside: I get to do cardio without moving. :)

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Do you homeschool? It’s so much harder than I ever thought it would be! Has it been a trial for you too? Or better than you expected?

41 comments:

  1. What a great post, Mandy. No, I never home schooled my children. I don't think I had it in me.

    I was interested in your observations about your boys' strengths. My brother was forever taking things apart and putting them back together (or at least trying to!) . What did he become? An auto and diesel mechanic....and a very good one at that.

    Your children will always know how much you loved them. Doing what you are WITHOUT the "gene" makes it even more a labor of love.

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  2. I just found your blog and I love it. I love your ideas.....the $10 experiment and writing down weekly goals. I am going to start writing down my goals each week. I LOVE that idea. I am homeschooling for the first time this year. My boys are 6, 4, and 1. Oh it has been a struggle. Everything from organization to motivation (for me and my son). It is encouraging to hear others have the same struggles. Thank you!!

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  3. I am considering job from home so I can be available to homeschool my youngest if it should be laid heavier on my heart. Working from home and homeschooling I am sure will add such a different element to the homeschool environment but I am trusting Him for his provision in this decision and in the ability to make it work. Anyone else out there work from home and homeschool? I feel God is leading me in this direction so I trust in His providence to make it work :)

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  4. I was an elementary school teacher for over 20 years and felt like a complete failure when I had my son in my 4th grade class. I would recommend a good charter school for you, it will save your relationship with your son that struggles. Nanci

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  5. Great post Mandy! I am only homeschooling our oldest (5 years) "officially" right now and I do preschool things with my 3 year old (coloring, counting, letter sounds). It is a blessing and a humbling experience. It certainly makes me examine my own character every day. If you have any great tips or books on how to teach a lefty how to write please let me know! My 3 year old is left handed and writing is going to be a challenge for us!

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  6. Oh, I'm so sorry. I hope tomorrow is better! I feel the same way! It's such a hard thing to keep them on task constantly. Praying for you, friend!

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  7. Oh, thank you for your encouragement! My boys are just the same! and I can't wait to check that out on NF!

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  8. Wow, that's so cool! I never thought of that! I'm going to have to look into it and give it a try!

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  9. i don't get to "officially" homeschool mine, but I do a quick overview of what they did that day after we do our homework each night. Cor learns best with "hands-on" (computer, learning games, etc and just doing it) me i'm an audio/writing learner. one of the best sights for learning sight words for him is www.abcya.com it's interactive learning games. they have all kinds but sightwords are by far the most challenging for him (and me when I went to school we learned by sounding out now they teach by memorization), he luvs sightword bingo and i enjoy it because we are struggling with one another for him to learn. if you have any websites or apps that help with kindergarten please share i would luv to check them out!

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  10. Today was a bad day homeschooling-wise. I forget so quickly that the reason my boys aren't focuses is because they aren't INTERESTED! I want them to learn to read because I feel like the whole world will open to them to learn with ease if they can read and write. So I get frustrated. But they need to move, to explore, to build and create. I need to be patient. Thanks for the reminder.

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  11. Hi, my colleague and teacher of All boys is a master of learning with movement! Phonics skills written on tennis balls and boys repeat, sound out, etc. when they catch the ball or throw it! :). Pull out those tennis balls, ping pong balls, beach balls, toy cars, and whatever moves through space and start planning those lessons! Good luck!! Perfect for math drills, fact recall, and unlimited......

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  12. This year began my 8th year of homeschooling and I have been there. My two youngest are boys and they sound a lot like yours. You're are right about it "clicking" with them. My two girls loved school and loved "doing school". But my boys just wanted to run, play, build, make noise....things that drove my scheduled, must-finish-the-book mind crazy. I have come to realize that they learn more by doing. My 7 year old has learned more about history from watching "The Story of US" on Netflix than any other curriculum I could have purchased. Keep finding what works for them and be strong.

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  13. What a cool post! :) I hear ya. My son is brilliant with lego creations and drawing. He's written his name perfectly in mirror image too!! Weird! He also builds circuits with daddy and loves LeapFrog and Starfall. So -- bottom line, at this age {5-7} they are learning while doing most anything...so we shouldn't sweat as much about homeschooling them just right. They'll get it. :) Courage to you!

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  14. This was my first trip to your blog but I think you might have been watching me homeschool my 7 year old daughter:) Her learning styles and attitude are SOOO different than mine were at her age. I did everything fast but my best to please my teacher so I'd get a star, sticker, "atta girl". My DD could care less about those things and she goes at her own pace. She's a total perfectionist and can't stand to get anything wrong so if she doesn't know something she shuts down. If I didn't know I just made it up:) I wrote a post awhile ago about teaching my daughter to read (http://storiesfromtheshoe.blogspot.com/2011/12/homeschool-confession.html) Thanks for such a great post! God Bless

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  15. I just told someone that it has been one of the hardest things I've done, but also one of the best. I see the Lord working in my life and the lives of my children daily. We take it year by year, but for now it's working. And we enjoy it (most days ;) )!

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  16. We just brought our oldest boys home this year to do school. We love it. It's hard, it's time consuming, it's frustrating but it's so worth it! I love having them home. I love giving them a firm foundation in Christ, I love having even more time to help shape their character. I just love it!
    My oldest is very academic. Learning comes so easy to him, as it does to his father and to me. My middle boy struggles! He's also 6 (almost 7!) and has such a hard time. The whole phonics thing stresses me out too. It's so frustrating that he can't get it! But like your kiddo, he's so smart! I see it in so many other areas! It's just the academics he struggles with! I'm learning that that's okay. He's such a sweet boy with an incredibly sensitive heart for others. He tries his best all the time and has a joyful spirit while doing it! He can memorize Scripture like nobody's business! It's really impressive! I know the Lord is going to use him to do big things for His kingdom, even if he isn't the best reader around!

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  17. It is a challenge! Some of the very things you listed as challenges are some of my primary reasons for wanting to homeschool. I know with my three girls we are going to encounter different learning styles. My oldest daughter has already made it clear that she will not be a self-motivated learner like I was. I struggled with that, but I see her creativity and I have been so grateful that I can literally watch her "get it". The middle daughter still eludes my categorization. The baby daughter... who knows! God is good to allow me the opportunity to get to know them better in this way and learn how they are "bent". I'm challenged, but grateful!

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  18. I'm certainly not trying to put labels or kids in a "box", but have you considered the possibility of dyslexia? My sister had the exact same problems with writing, numbers, directions, etc. Luckily my mom was on top of it and did her own tutoring (during school hours) along with public school. That's part of the beauty of homeschool, that you can catch things and decide how to deal with them in a one on one setting, and help them to thrive rather than suffer.

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  19. Thank you for your honesty. What a beautiful post. To encourage you...my middle son (who fits your description to a T) is now almost 12. We did nothing but phonic and reading until he was 6 1/2 (with some simple math). I learned quickly that he is very much a hands on learner. He can operate a drill, jigsaw, and compresser and small nail gun with ease...making beautiful bird houses. However, he struggles with bookwork. Now, we balance bookwork with hands on projects to "drive home" the major lessons we are learning. (Mostly history/science). When he was younger it was as simple as tracing his spelling words in sand with his finger. Now he draws elaborate pictures or makes models about what he is learning. It really is the beauty of homeschooling. My son is very bright but he doesn't learn in conventional ways. That is ok. I can help him find his learning style and how to adapt it to his everyday world. Now, at 12, reading isn't his favorite past time but he does it everyday. Sometimes without even being told. He's a good reader but it took him a bit longer than my other son and daughter. We have to search a little longer to find a good book that will keep his interest. I would stress and worry but I've learned that it's ok. I kept praying and God has given given me wisdom and creativity that I need to help him succeed. He is learning. That is what is important. It really sounds like you are doing a great job!

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  20. I love hearing your story. If I've learned anything so far in our homeschooling, it's that some days are great, others not so much. Day by day, God says. :)
    friskpartyoffive.blogspot.com

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  21. Very inspiring. I'm keeping my heart nice and open to what He brings to our lives and even though I myself am not thrilled at the prospect of homeschooling because I fear I am not cut out for it, it's nice to know that there's lovely women like you that can share your stories.

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  22. i don't know you and you don't know me. i just found your blog (and have been loving it) a couple weeks ago. so funny that this post came at this time. my husband and i have been in prayer for awhile about homeschooling our children. they go to a public school (an arts integration public school.). while i can appreciate the teachers and free schooling for all...i also have serious issues with public school. i am not a mom who wants my kids to be in school 10 hours a day. i don't think the socialization they get at school is the socialization they really need. on and on..... fear is something that is stopping me. fear that i'll go crazy (also have a one year old), fear that i'll mess up their educations, fear that i'll set them back. thank you for being honest and real....and encouraging. i think what you are doing is admirable. carry on warrior! blessings....

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  23. Oh, I just love what you have to say- it's so true- we get the privilege of giving them the most important education- the one in Christ! How cool the way God makes them so differently!!

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  24. How true! i love that: challenged but grateful!! It's such a journey isn't it?

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  25. I so know what you mean! it's such a strange thing! :D

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  26. How funny!! I think you're so right- they are learning while doing and thats what matters- no way is the "right" way! thank you for your encouragement!

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  27. We have definitely considered it- and looked at the symptoms/investigated it with the first one too- and luckily he grew out of them after he got it, which is something we are hoping will happen with #2 as well. you are so right, the nice thing is that we can choose and work on their problem areas before they get out of hand.

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  28. Oh wow, that is so encouraging to hear! Thank you! That is so funny how similar they are! So, so true that God grants us the wisdom- sometimes I need a reminder like that! Thank you for your sweet comments!

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  29. Thanks, Jennifer! I love the way you said it too- blessing and humbling at the same time! I will keep my eyes out for some info- I could really use some too! :D

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  30. Thank you for sharing, I will check it out! They like Starfall for phonics, and it sounds like your Cor is a lot like my boys!

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  31. so true- no worrying about tomorrow or wishing for the past! love that!

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  32. Oh thank you for your encouragement! It's so awesome that you are open to it!

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  33. Oh, thank you for commenting. I so understand those fears- they won't go away when you decide to do it, but it's something that I think we can trust God to take from us. He gives us courage to do hard things and the realization that man has no power over us. I need to lay it down at the cross more often, I think- I get so defeated in the short term sometimes- but really, HE is so much bigger than this, and my primary responsibility for these children is to love them and point them to God. I have to remind myself that eternity is the bigger picture, and when or how well they learned phonics has really zero importance in the grand scheme of things. Thank you for your sweet encouragement- your comment made me remember so many things!

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  34. how very interesting that you posted this today. I just copied and pasted my first guest post for a series on homeschooling.....you should be a guest post??? I was doing mainly small down homeschooling moms but hey...it's not like your town is gigantic!!! Let me know what you think..we can talk about it on our date..which I'll email you about soon!
    Homeschooling is kicking my rear, to be honest. But, I'm seeing glimpses of why and how I'm trying to mold them into making it easier for me instead of studying them to know God's bent for them....he is nudging me and showing me itty bitty hints of seeing inside their hearts and brains and how I need to adapt to how they are wired.....my rear kickin' is coming to an end....praise God. I'm thankful he knows how he made me too...even when I don't realize it sometimes!

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  35. This is my 4th year homeschooling, and this year has been the biggest struggle. You're not alone! My middle child has decided he'd like to try out traditional school (he's 7 yrs old now) so for third grade, he'll be testing out a private school nearby. It's going to be tough but if it's what he wants and it's not harmful, I'll let him go for it.

    I'm a new reader to your blog so I look forward to seeing more!

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  36. Can I identify with this post? Amen. We homeschool as well, although I only have one "officially" in school.
    I can SO SO SO see what you mean about boys "clicking" later. I really wish we had started Landon later so it wouldn't have been such a struggle. I also get antsy, sweaty, etc. because I also was a fast learner so the thought of "wasting" 20 minutes on reading a few words is so foreign to me!
    But. I love that my kids are with me about 90% of the time. I get to see just about everything- the good and the bad. And that is worth any sweat. :)

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  37. I've homeschooled our kids for the past 5 years, and I'm pretty sure they've taught me more than I've taught them! The Lord has used this experience to show me parts of myself that I didn't know was in me! Turns out, a couple of my children learn in the completely opposite way that I learn (and teach). I had to let go of my own agenda, and try out new things that weren't a "natural" fit for me and see what works. Thanks for the posts like this (and the more lighthearted ones about clothes too!)I really enjoy reading your blog!

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  38. I think I will enjoy helping my kids with homework et.c. but I wouldn't choose homeschooling even if I could. Right now though I am a SAHM with my son Noah who is 20 months and he is totally fascinated with numbers so we're working on that and it's fun. Sometimes he just randomly picks a number and says that about any number he sees but when he gets them one by one he has now started to name them all correctly. I am totally fascinated. :) He also likes me to draw objects and then he names them. It will be fun to see if the fascination with numbers continues. (After all both my husband and I have a MSc in Engineering Physics degree. ;) But children are unique so it will be fun to see what the kids will be interested in and good at as they grow.)

    Homeschooling has been a rather rare phenomenon in Sweden and it's got even more rare the last few years as authorities have become even more restrictive in allowing it. They can make exceptions but rarely do. So now pretty much the only cases where you are allowed to homeschool is if your child has some sort of medical condition making it impossible for him/her to attend regular school.

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  39. I homeschool all my kids (I have 9). I have only graduated one and another one is actually not in school yet. It is far from perfect but I must say that as I now have "big" kids and can see the fruit of all the years of struggling through, it is such a blessing. More than how smart they are (and they are :)) they are all such good friends. That is the biggest blessing of all.

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  40. Hi Mandy! Are you sill homeschooling? If you are I would love to hear about your schedule and how you break up your day, curriculum, discipline, etc. Thanks! :)

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  41. Hi Mandy! I have been following your blog for a few months now so first of all... Thank You! I genuinely look forward to receiving your new posts in my email! :) I have decided to homeschool my son in September and was wondering if you had any curriculum recommendations. I'm hoping to find something Christ centered... And something that I don't have to spend hours prepping every night. I have 2 other little ones and am hoping for more :) I know this is an old post but if you happe. To read my comment I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks again!
    Amanda

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