I don't talk much about our homeschooling. We've been doing it a long, long time and I don't feel the need to talk about it any more. I just need to get it done. Five kids down, two to go. Before I die.
These last two kids are a challenge because they are so very different. I hesitate to talk about their differences in this public place because I feel like it would be disloyal to them but let's just say that these two brothers are opposites in nearly every way. This makes schooling them together a challenge. I just used that word again. I don't think there is another word that conveys the challenge of schooling two brothers together who are so different. It's more than simply having different strengths and weaknesses. They also have completely different learning styles. That means that because they have nearly all their classes together, I have to present what we're studying in multiple ways so that both can grasp and retain it. That wears me out. Also, being brothers makes any competition between them more emotional and potentially damaging to relationships. I have to mediate and try to keep things balanced. Boys have a need to measure themselves against other boys and when one is measuring himself against his brother it can have long term effects.
Many of our days in the last year or two have been bumpy. Difficult. Long and arduous. Emotionally draining. I'm just trying to be real here. Homeschooling is not all fun and games let me tell you. There are days when I want to stand out on the road in my pajamas and flag down a passing school bus. But my commitment to what I know and have experienced as being the best chance I can give to my kids keeps me going every day. I've learned a lot in over twenty years of home educating and the most important thing I've learned is that it is up to me to model self-discipline by not being lazy myself. We have an important job to do every day and we must do it.
The pay-off for the perseverance despite some really bad days has been that I have seen so much growth in maturity in my two little boys. Not a week goes by lately that I don't hear a complimentary word about these two from a friend or neighbor. Those kind words build us up. I have noticed that the boys are more self-disciplined about getting their work done. Their attitudes have matured and they don't kick at the responsibility of the task at hand. I have seen them buckle down for the satisfaction of getting it done. That is maturity.
Today was a good example of their new attitude. I was dazzled at noon when I couldn't think of another scholastic subject to lay before them. They had covered everything. As they completed each assignment they built a momentum that accelerated until they had completed everything before lunch. I'm betting that that satisfaction will motivate them tomorrow to do the same thing.
Are you interested in how a (good) homeschool day goes around here? Here's what we did:
9:00 a.m. (not early starters around this farm)- Breakfast and chores. This includes feeding and watering the goats, watering the chickens and letting them out, taking out compost and chicken feed and on Wednesdays, gathering garbage and taking the full can out to the road for collection. They also bring in firewood for the day.
10ish- The boys like to start with math. Peter is multiplying three digit numbers and Samuel is learning division. This morning they followed that by practicing cursive writing by copying the seventh commandment and its meaning (from Luther's Small Catechism). This is also their memory work and they practice it by writing it. Before bed they do additional work on their memorization with their dad. While they were writing this morning they decided to write their spelling words two times each.
Next is reading. They have become much more proficient and now can read chapter books to themselves. They are reading one chapter a day of an A Beka book called The Secret in the Maple Tree. The boys are also taking a literature class from a tutor in town. In that class they are reading ancient Greek mythology. I recently bought a woven cornucopia at a thrift store and Samuel delighted in telling me that the symbolic cornucopia descended from the goat's horn that fed milk to the Greek god Zeus. The boy is paying attention!
The boys are also taking a writing course with the same tutor and today they had to reread and edit their composition about their favorite object. They both wrote about a cherished stuffed animal. I love that they are retaining their childish innocence a bit longer. In just the few weeks that I have assisted them in typing their stories this term I have seen great improvement in their writing and most importantly for little boys, in their attitude about writing. It's worth every penny of the check I have to write for the class.
At this point today we sat down together in our comfy living room to read and analyze our Bible story about Samson followed by some time reading our history book about the original thirteen American colonies. This is when I had the boys read aloud to me so that I can see how well they are reading and comprehending.
11:30ish. How could we have covered so much territory in an hour and a half? There must be more to do. The boys took out their vocabulary list (which is also their spelling list) and did an assignment that analyzed sentences to discern the meanings and grammatical uses of the words. They got this done in a surprisingly short time and no errors. What is going on here?
In the past I have been slack about teaching geography and resolved this year to concentrate more on this subject. We are working on the states and capitals which is always a good place to start. Today I quizzed the boys on the western states. One child easily got everything correct and one...did not. But he eventually figured it out. More practice is necessary but we are making progress.
By noon we had covered math, memory work, cursive writing, reading, spelling, history, Bible, geography and vocabulary. Really? I have the rest of the day to myself?
The boys had a free afternoon. What did they do with it? They went to a neighbors to help her plant garlic which the neighbor turned into an enterprise for the boys. All the leftover garlic from the harvested crop (after the neighbor takes what she needs) can be sold next year to the local farm stand. The boys will be responsible for helping with the rest of the cultivation and for negotiating with the buying farmer. They won't see a payoff until next year. Are there a few lessons to learn here that they can't learn in school?
One more afternoon scholastic activity is working on a typing program on the computer. I have promised the boys that they can get their own email account when they learn to type. Motivation!
Tonight my young sons finished their educational day by practicing their piano lesson for thirty minutes. Being gone from them a month has really helped me to see the progress they are making in this area too. I am most delighted to see that they have crossed over that intangible line where piano is not just work but an enjoyable pastime. Today they were sight-reading through a new book just for the fun of it. It warms my heart like nothing else can.
It is days like this that give me hope for the future. I need days when everything goes smoothly and peacefully so that I can face up to the next.............Seven. Years. Teenage years. With boys.....
Pray for me.