Monday, September 27, 2010

Second-guessing

This year I tried something new. I've always said that I take things year by year, and after last year I felt that while I was largely successful I also had room for improvement. My biggest wish was to "combine" more. Up until this year, I did separate math and reading/grammar/etc. for each child, combined the oldest two in history and science, did the same for the youngest two, and combined all four in art and music. Another big wish was to reduce the amount of planning that goes into organizing each year. While a complete boxed curriculum made me nervous (tempting though it may be), I thought I could try something that was partially ready-made. As an added bonus, it seemed like my middle two would fit into the same level so instead of four levels I'd be able to get away with only three. And at least three subjects would be planned for me.  Lastly, I really wanted something more independent for my oldest and this program is written directly for the student starting at the level of my oldest child.

After much (MUCH) deliberation, I decided to keep doing my same approach with phonics instruction, math, music, Greek/Latin roots, and art. The only new bit would be a ready-made language arts and ready-made social studies/science (as opposed to our classical approach doing history and science, and pulling literature from those). I figured that if I didn't like the break from a classical approach I could always go back next year. The product I chose integrates the Language Arts with the Social Studies and Science (something I love from the Classical approach) and is project-based (something I try very hard to do in our homeschool, and I believe I do a good job - it just takes a tone of planning). This was a very pricey endeavor as I purchased for the entire year, but I thought I'd be able to unload a lot of planning and make my life simpler.

I could not have been more wrong. We are currently in week three of school. I did more planning and organizing this year than I've ever had to do. I feel like our days are longer and I've got less time than before. Part of me thinks this will adjust as we get into a groove, and that this is normal as the kids get older and older and have more and more school work to do. But another part is nagging and whispering that I made a huge mistake. I'm actually starting to wonder if I'm cut out for homeschooling the middle years, whereas before this year started I wrote about how I actually felt comfortable and confident as a homeschooler. My experiment has totally wiped away all the good feelings I was having and I'm left feeling inadequate.

Well, that's not completely true: I know I'm being thorough and doing a good job. The kids say they enjoy the projects, like the new curriculum, and love doing school. So it's not all bad. But the bad part is seriously getting me down. I feel like I'm "doing school" all day long. And I'm second-guessing having talked myself and my partner into spending more money than I've ever spent on homeschooling product. I am cranky and grumpy more than I'm happy (this is totally unusual for me) because it seems like my oldest can never stay focused on her work and get anything done in a timely manner. Then I wonder if it's because there is too much for her to do. At the same time, I wonder if any other approach would really be any better? Maybe this is just how it is when you have four kids, close in age, and are responsible for their education. When I do less, I second-guess myself on that and worry that I'm doing them a disservice. When I do more, I worry that I'm trying to do too much and am doing them a disservice. Like I said, before this year started I was feeling very comfortable and confident with myself as a homeschooler. Now, not so much.

Maybe I just need to ride out the first "quarter" and re-evaluate before making a judgment call on my decisions.

Sigh.

6 comments:

  1. That's a tough spot to be in. I can definitely see the value in combining as much as possible where you can.
    One of the things that always sooths me when I'm feeling like we haven't done very much is to go back over my logs - see how much we're REALLY accomplishing. Even on days where it doesn't feel like very much, we've usually done at least as much as they would have done in school, so that help me let go of most of the rising panic.

    I think that you have a couple of good ideas - either re-grouping now or waiting a bit more. I don't know you well enough to say what fits you best one way or the other, but if you know now that it's not working, is there a way to revamp or restructure within what you're doing to make things flow a little better?
    ~h

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  2. Thanks for the encouraging words! Upon reflection, I think I had a really bad day on Monday. everything was off. Yesterday was much better. I think I need to (a) let some time pass so we can all get in a groove, and (b) figure out a way to make our schedule work better. I realize that there's got to be a better way to manage our time. I spend a lot of time working one-on-one with the kids, but I think there's a way to do it smarter so that at 4pm, I'm not still working on school with someone. Plus we have several outside activities. I don't feel like we are "over-scheduled" when I list our activities, but in the day-to-day rush, I feel very over-scheduled. Time to put my thinking cap on! =)

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  3. Visiting from secular homeschool - I think it can take quite some time to work out how you want to homeschool. I know we spent a good 5 years experimenting with different approaches and it's only been in the last two years that I haven't done much 'tweaking'.

    Sometimes I found it helped to only pull out of a program what I felt was most important and skip some stuff :) Maybe you could have a week just adapting to the new programs and then start adding back in the other subjects ? Decide to have a focus for a month on a particular subject and put a lot of the planning/energy into that, not so much into the others, then swap ? Ditch the program ? Schedule only 1 extra subject per day (after basics of maths/LA done ) ? Do a 4 day week and have a day off ?

    Anyway, sympathy to you - btdt! I think it's really normal to try out new ways of doing things and then feel overwhelmed and less confident as a result. It's great that you are able to be so flexible about trying somehing new and then asessing/working with it. Hope it goes well.
    Oh, and the art projects you've been doing with your girls are lovely.

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  4. Hi! I'm so glad to find your blog -- seems we have things in common and I've enjoyed reading your posts so far.

    I followed you over here from the Secular Homeschool Forum where I was thrilled to find a good discussion about Moving Beyond the Page. Like you, I was so thrilled when I first found it the other night and surprised too, that I had not come across it before.

    I stayed up late and listened to the little videos for several levels and looked at a bunch of the sample lessons, and read about the authors. I couldn't wait to show it to my son this morning and see what he thought. It is very expensive though and I have never bought a boxed curriculum before, so I wanted to be sure. And then I posted about it to my local hs'ing group and also found discussions on the Well-Trained Mind forum and the Secular Board. Lot's of people were very critical.

    I am a former elementary teacher who mostly taught a combined K-1st grade class at a very progressive Montessori school. I've always tried to "follow the child" and maintain a balance between freedom and discipline with our lessons. I've never been completely comfortable with unschooling but have always eschewed boxed curricula on the other end of the spectrum. I love the idea of a secular Classical curriculum but it seems to require a great amount of discipline and planning ahead -- not my strong suit.

    My daughter (almost 8) attends school now, but I'm still homeschooling my son Jack (10 1/2) who has Asperger's. He is way ahead in some areas and a little behind in others. Sometimes I'm OK with this and sometimes it freaks me out a little. Now that he is older, there is so much more to be "covered." And he's so smart. I feel like I'm doing him a disservice if I don't push him a bit. Both of us seem to need more structure than I am current providing. We both have a hard time staying on track and I never know each day when we are "done."

    I thought MBtP would help us pace ourselves and accomplish more, while still allowing us to do projects, experiments, and finish lots of good books. I'd love to chat with you when you've worked with it a bit more and see how things are going.

    Anne Marie Blackmon
    (uuhsmama on some groups) I'm a UU too.

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  5. Hi Anne Marie - Thanks so much for reading! It's great to hear from you. I have to say, my kids LOVE MBtP for the most part. Your son is the same age as my oldest daughter. She especially likes the program. I feel like it's a bit hard b/c I'm balancing so many levels, but as we're now in week four I'm starting to get into the swing of things. I'll definitely post more after we get into it a bit more. It is hard to find that balance between pushing too hard and not doing enough, isn't it?? Good luck with everything, and I hope to 'see' you around more! =)

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  6. this may be a totally ridiculous suggestion, but i wonder if you could just take one day or half-day and just leave it blank .. keep doing all the things you like but at a one-day-slower pace, and leave the blank day or half-day as a buffer. something like that. ;^)

    xoxo

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