Homeschooling: Late summer blues

As summer creeps rockets closer to August, and I start to think about school again, emotions flood through me. Dread is one, frankly.

That may not jive with what you’d expect from 15-yr veteran homeschooler, but I’m keeping it real here.  Two years ago we brought 9 and 11 year old girls into our family, which greatly increased my difficulty level as a homeschooling mom.  Before you can even think about reading and math, you’ve got to have some language, some way to communicate.  And guess what: it takes months to get even a moderate level of understanding.

You’ve got family-growing issues: kids jostling to find their place in this new family constellation. Just an example:  our newly arrived then-11-year-old had always been a firstborn.  She came into a family with two big sisters. NOT easy.   For anyone.

You’ve got kids who don’t know the first thing about how your family functions.  I never realized how much kids learn naturally about their family when they’re tiny, or how many unwritten rules our family has.  And to a newly arrived older kid, every rule is negotiable –or shocking/incomprehensible/ridiculous.  Makes for a LOT of challenging behavior.

Add to that grief and rebellion and bonding stuff– and also the simple fact that we had 7 kids being homeschooled that year– and it is pretty easy to see why their first year home was tough.

We spent most of the year on basics for the 5 grade-schoolers– language and love and limits, with a tiny bit of math and reading thrown in here and there.  The high school kids could and did work on their own, so their curriculum didn’t change.  But forget science and history and essay-writing for the younger ones– it was literally all we could do to read with everyone and do a little math.

Their second year home, afraid we hadn’t gotten enough academics, I plunged into a more involved school schedule.  Science was back.   Idaho history.  Crafts.  Korean.  Grammar.  Writing.  My intentions were good, but several of the kids were still not ready.  In two months I was so burned out by constantly pushing kids through academics that every morning felt like jail.   I scaled back.  Writing and Bible and reading and math stayed.   But once again, science and history were pushed aside.  You do what you can.

Looking objectively, we made a lot of progress in those two years.  All 5 of the younger school kids got definitively better at reading —  such a cornerstone to learning.  The two kids that I tested both years (with the Iowa Basic) scored many percentile points higher in 2009 than in 2008.  Indisputably they learned.  But I always felt vaguely guilty that we weren’t doing more.

So now I sit planning our next school year.  Wanting to chart a good balanced course.  Wanting to make it better than before.

Part of me wants to get kids caught up, whatever that is, to make up for a less than ideal last 2 years of school.   Pile on the science and the history and the grammar.  Get everyone reading at grade level and constructing sentences properly.

But can you really ‘catch up’ kids who have spent only a couple years speaking English?  And how crazy would I go, trying to get huge amounts of work done?  How cranky would they be?  I don’t want every morning to feel like a joyless slog.  But I’m not the unschooling type.  I need structure, and so do the kids. But is there a way to inject more fun and be more effective?

I find myself wishing summer was a month or six longer. I’ve even half-heartedly daydreamed about public school.  But then I walk among my big kids and see (by the grace of God) what wonderful, smart, NICE people they have turned out to be, and I remember all the reasons we embarked on the journey of homeschooling in the first place.  (Maybe I’ll blog about that soon?)  And the funny thing is, I’m even more convinced of the rightness of homeschooling for the y0unger kids than I was for the older.

So I guess I’ll chat with my hubby, and pray, and go thru my books, and see if I can strengthen my weak knees for the year ahead.  Even if I don’t know tomorrow, I know Someone who does.

{ 54 Comments }

  1. We’ve been home 3 months with our kids, 8, 5 and 3. I’ve done some homeschooling with the gonna be 3rd grader who’s never been to school. Thanks for reminding me that it takes time, and not to worry or rush.

  2. Probably everything has been said about this topic that can be said… But as a former ps teacher, turned hser, and adoptive mom, all I can add is that sometimes family togetherness/bonding is more important than formal education. You can get a lot of places without formal education, but you can’t get anywhere without a secure bond. And for adoptive kids, that’s pretty high on the priority list.

    ~from a mom who is alternately cringing and ecstatic, thinking about September!

  3. Wow! I needed this right now. Even the comments were a blessing to me. We now have an eleven year old daughter from foster care (adopting). She is Deaf and is sooo far behind in everything. English is a second language for the Deaf and she has no real grasp of it at all. Right now, we are perplexed with how to teach this child. I will read this post and the comments again. Thanks.

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