We're seven weekdays into our homeschooling adventure, which seems like a good time to mark my initial thoughts on it all. In twenty weeks or so, I can look back at these first observations and either laugh and shake my head at the adorable naivete of this early perspective, or maybe use it as a reminder of the reasons we took on this crazy experiment.
Because here's the thing: Seven days in? I really, really like it. I mean, I'm trying not to be overly-effusive about something we've barely begun, but I think I kind of love it.
1. I'm tailoring Maya's days to what she needs. Last weekend was packed full of constant activity and a super-late night, and by bedtime on Sunday both of my children were melting down to an extent I have never experienced. Crying, flailing, fighting, grumping ... it was epic. So I decided there was no way I was going to wake either kid up the next morning before their exhausted bodies decided they were rested enough to feel human again. Which meant Maya woke up at 9:00 - far later than usual. She needed that. And I could do it.
She also needs time to process as she works. One of her complaints about school was that she often didn't have time to finish a story she had started in creative writing. I really enjoy giving her the freedom to write and imagine and take all the time she cares to take in crafting a story or paragraph that says everything she wants it to say.
2. It's a major time-saver. We're done with our official "school stuff" within 2 1/2 to 3 hours every day. And that time includes random breaks for a snack or board game or other general life stuff that brings natural interruptions. Even the day Maya woke up at 9:00, we were done with school by 11:45, with breakfast in there somewhere too. A schedule like this gives us the freedom to head to the library or run errands, ride bikes to the park or just play at home, without needing to cram those activities into the late afternoon or before-bed hours around homework, etc. I thrive on this kind of daily flow, and the kids do too. I'll appreciate it even more when we add in piano and dance lessons over the next few months.
3. No morning rush. Oh my. I cannot express my love for this change. No more mornings spent dragging a sleepy, snarling kid out of bed and hounding her through the getting-ready process before racing to the bus stop. Instead, I get up and have my coffee, curl up on the couch with the laptop to get some e-mails sent, and then when Maya wanders out, she snuggles up next to me. We open up her daily Bible reading and devotional, then explore a few pages in one of her history books. Noah plays and glances over our shoulders at the pages, fiddling around at his train table. Eventually we get off the couch to make breakfast, work on morning chores, and gather back at the table for a math lesson and other subjects. But this new way of beginning the day is the polar opposite of the old one, and it is priceless.
4. It's ... fun! We're reading Charlotte's Web (again) and Homer Price. Learning about different cultures and how people have lived throughout history. We're studying maps and playing with magnets and going on nature walks to observe how animals move. I'm learning things too!
5. I'm actually doing a better job keeping up with housework than I did before. This one is weird, and completely unexpected. But I told Mark the other day that (for me, at least) focus begets focus. Staying on task produces more of the same. When I'm in focused mode, I'm less likely to jump online during a break and get distracted by my Google Reader, and more likely to take those few minutes to unload the dishwasher. If Maya's working independently on a section of her math lesson, I'll throw in some laundry and pick up a few things in the living room. There's a steady, gentle pacing to our day now that feels both free and organized.
Now, obviously there are difficulties that come with this new arrangement as well.
1. While I still have times during the day where I can relax and do my own thing, I'm never really alone. I'm not someone who needs loads of alone time, but it's definitely nice to have some. Yesterday I dropped Mark and the kids off at church and ran to grab something at the store before heading there myself, and I was sort of startled at what it felt like to be walking around on my own. My sister-in-law and I are going to start a child-swap arrangement soon so that each of us will have some kid-free time during the week, so that will help give me those little rejuvenating get-aways.
2. Big questions come out more naturally. This is a good thing, but challenging too. With all of this learning together, you're bound to field some inquiries about hard concepts. Like attempting to explain the Trinity to your 7-year-old before the coffee has completely entered your system for the day.
3. Maya and I have different ways of working. While our personalities mesh pretty well for homeschooling, we approach tasks in contrasting ways. I like to tackle a project efficiently and focus on getting started and done quickly. Maya likes to take her time, stopping to chat or watch a rabbit out the window, humming a little tune as she moves her pencil. This can drive me a little bit bonkers. And I'm trying to walk the line between teaching her to stay on task (an important life skill) while also allowing her to work the way it comes naturally. Sometimes that means getting up to do some work in the kitchen so that I can do a little bit of efficient countertop scrubbing while she sings her way through her math worksheet. I'm still working on the balance.
4. I haven't figured out the best way to involve Noah in our school time. Sometimes he enjoys just playing on his own, but I know he also feels some boredom. I usually have us take a break at some point to let Noah choose an activity for the three of us to do. And it will help a lot when he starts preschool in a few weeks, giving us three mornings a week to concentrate fully on school.
To make a long story short ...so far so good!