ONE HUNDRED FIFTY SEVEN…the pitfalls of homeschooling

I was unpacking our bicycles from this mornings ride when Phoebe approached me in the garage with a serious tone in her voice saying, “Mommy, something’s wrong with Abby. She is saying she doesn’t want to play dolls with me. I don’t think she feels good. I think she’s really sick.” Little Phoebe and Abby are separated in age by 3 years and 1 day. It is amazing to me how much time these two spend together and yet how completely different they are from one another.

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I love the quote from Bill Murray’s character in ‘Lost in Translation” … when he says, “…when your first child comes along your life, as you know it, is gone. But they soon learn to walk and talk…and you want to be with them….And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet.” Something like that. I took some creative liberties. It’s true. Even now, I love spending the majority of my time with my kids. Teaching my own kids also gives me a window into who they are when it comes to taking on new challenges, how they learn and what motivates them.

There were many reasons we chose to home school, The major one being I had always wanted to home school. Another reason was the fact we love to travel and have a very difficult time staying in one spot.

Being my children’s teacher is probably a little bit of a pitfall for them, especially Abby in particular because I know when she is dragging her feet purposefully or giving minimal effort. In school, she would get away with it because the teachers had 20 plus students. But boy I have to give her credit for trying every excuse in the book. Constant negotiations about how she will clean her room if we skip school today. Or how If we do school today, she is not going to try her very best and she will not clean her room.

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One year ago, I would have taken it personally. Now I just laugh and joke (not so sweetly) that, “If she gives me attitude like that, I will gladly add more work to her already busy schedule.” Usually she straightens right up and we are good to go. She tries it every Monday morning though. It’s become a Monday morning ritual. I wake up, look at Greg and we place our bets on the amount of time it will take her to come into our bedroom and beg me not to do school that day.

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I have to remember how getting her ready for school every morning and physically getting her out the door, was such a chore. Not to mention there was a day a couple of months ago where she actually came to me and said, “I want to go back to school. I miss having recess with my friends. We do school at home all day. I want more time to play.” It was the turning point for me as far as my sensitivity about whether or not the kids like homeschooling along with the inevitable, “Am I doing the right thing” mental drama. I actually laughed at her remark. The first time in a year I was not second guessing my decision but standing by it. I immediately reminded her that she would go to school for 8 hours a day. And recess lasted a mere 30 minutes. As opposed to now, where she plays outside, rides bikes and basically has free rein for around 6 hours of the day while “school” lasts as long as she wants it to really.

“What do you mean ‘lasts as long as I want it to’?” I was glad she asked. I gently reminded her that when she chooses to *try* her very best, we can cover Math, History, Reading, Grammar, Spelling, Intensive writing and Handwriting all in around 2/3 hour window, sometimes less depending on her concentration level, not to mention the fact that she never really has “home work”. The other times, when she twiddles her thumbs and attempts every excuse in the book, it takes her all day to finish her work. I saw the ‘ah ha’ moment and consequently she began her work immediately. She timed herself and it took her exactly 3 hours to do 8 subjects including a science experiment with a balloon, baking soda and vinegar. Here we are 2 weeks later and she hasn’t whined about not having enough “playtime”. She surely whines about actually having to do school at all though. I’m still trying to figure out a way to combat that one.

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Of course, developmentally speaking, Abby and Phoebe are on different levels… I have to wonder if their different attitudes toward learning is personality driven or age/development driven. For Abby the prep work or anticipation of getting ready to sit and ‘do’ school is agonizing. Of course, her negativity transfers to Phoebe. However, once we get started, Phoebe really gets into and enjoys the work and always ends up trying her very best. Abby through praise and CONSTANT cajoling will drag her feet and do the bare minimum to get by. Monday’s are a real bear for her…but come Friday, she is rushing to the finish line first thing in the morning. Phoebe on the other hand, wants to become independent. She will ask for help and then once I nudge her over the hump, she will start from the very beginning and insist on practicing on her own. And for that reason, school begins on Monday in much the same way it ends on Friday: on a positive note and a strong sense of pride for her.

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And here we are on a Wednesday. Today should be a fairly productive day. With their birthdays being tomorrow and Friday, I thought about giving them the day off, but when we only take 2/3 hours, what’s the point. “Happy Birthday kids, now sit down and tell me your math facts!” “Oh you’re not going to try your very best today? Ok. Fine with me. You probably didn’t really want that birthday gift I got for you anyway right? Since you’re not doing school today, you can come with me to return it.”

Yes I think Homeschooling is definitely a pitfall for the kids. Is it cruel of me to quietly chuckle? That was rhetorical.

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