I am overwhelmed, feeling like I am doing, doing all day long for my kids and fall into bed at night exhausted, with little accomplished. We seem to get farther and farther behind on homeschool. How do I get out of this hole?
I so understand. All moms who homeschool with a lot of children have felt what you are describing, I believe! But, one woman doesn’t have the energy to do it all. Although it is a gradual process, you can work towards directing your children’s energy to move the family forward.
God has modeled the best pattern for the growth of his children—never doing for us what we can do for ourselves. And so it should be with our parenting, including our homeschooling.
Stop right now and jot down a list of what you are doing for your children that they could do for themselves. Are you getting them up in the morning rather than training them to use an alarm? Are you explaining and re-explaining lesson instructions that they could read themselves and figure out if they just concentrated? Are you typing their papers rather than teaching them to type? Are you correcting math papers that could be self-corrected? Are you outlining the day or week’s work on a planner page or are they coming to you for every little thing? Are they getting out their books and supplies and putting them away each day or are you left to clear up the “homeschool mess” so you can get lunch on the table?
Start with the most basic thing: getting oneself up in the morning. Alarm clocks are cheap for the independence they bring! When a child feels autonomous in getting himself up in the morning, his whole attitude is affected. Nothing feels worse to me than being hopelessly behind. Getting up late (or worse, being dragged out of bed by someone else) is a bad way to start every day. Even a five-year-old can learn to set his alarm every night when he says his prayers and hops into bed. The independence he feels when he gets himself up for scripture study or homeschool is amazing!
Take an attitude during school time of “you can do it!”. Of course, you are the teacher and are there to teach them, but it only weakens a child to do for him anything he is capable of doing for himself. And usually our children amaze us at their capability! Louisa was consistently writing rather sloppily in her school journal, and had “trained” me to think that was the best she could do. One day I asked my older children to help me address envelopes. Louisa wanted to help, but I didn’t want sloppy writing on them. “Let me just try it, Mom,” she begged. So I let her address one, and I was amazed! When she put her mind to it, her writing was at least as good as the older children!
When things were particularly out of control in my homeschool, I found that instituting a “rotation plan” worked well. I had each child choose a spot. If you have desks, that is their “spot”. If not, each child chooses a spot to sit and do their work. The further away these spots are from each other, the better this works. Then, I required the children to stay in their spot and do their silent work (math, reading, journal writing, handwriting, etc.) while I rotated from child to child. I set up the little ones (who didn’t want to be held) with puzzles or other toys within view and checked in with them every time I rotated to another child. If a child got stumped on a problem, instead of whining, “Mom, help!” (which can be deafening when 7 children all call for mom at the same time), they were instructed to quietly go on to the next problem, just circling that one and when I rotated to them, we would take care of it. Rotating through the children every few minutes made it possible to get through a few hours of homeschool work with everyone quietly working, impossible as it seems! If a child called out to me while I was on rotation with another child, I would remind them to be quiet and go on to the next thing and soon it would be their turn. Eventually, the older children dropped out of needing me so very much. They had learned to work on their own, with just a few check-ins with me at the beginning and end of the quiet work period.
Sometimes we get caught up so much in the mode of being parent that we forget that our children are “in training” to become a parent/teacher themselves and need experience learning this role as well. They can help you! Any child who can read can listen to a younger child read. Every child can correct his own math paper, or a sibling’s. Children can give spelling tests to each other, with Mom just checking the final test (as children are prone to miss their own mistakes). Family read aloud can be rotated between children that read well—polishing their skills while giving Mom’s voice a break. When I had many preschoolers, I would list “baby duty” on my 8 year and up children’s school schedules. They would take the youngest ones into another part of the house or outside in the yard and teach them. The “baby duty” box had puzzles, picture books to read aloud, playdough, educational games for little ones, etc. For 20 minutes, they entertained and educated the little ones, giving me a much needed time slot to work with a beginning reader, and giving them a pleasant time with little ones. Even if they just swung them and walked around the yard looking at bugs, it was a mutually beneficial experience. Children who homeschool should not be spending much time babysitting, but a 20 min. baby duty is just right!
I tell my children when they are about 11 or 12 years old that they have come over to the “adult side of the family” and we need them on that team desperately (as we were so outnumbered with little ones for a long many years). Once on the “adult side”, they are supposed to be contributors, solvers of problems, not creators of problems. They are supposed to be peacemakers and help the little ones get along, and take on the adult position of helping out rather than creating more work. If you have a family of 2 parents and 5 children, just getting two older children over to the “adult side” can put a family back into balance, where there are more “helpers” than “little ones”.
So, breathe deep . . . things are going to get easier!
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