23 January 2012

Dear Mothers of Traditionally Schooled Children

I sincerely don't know how you do it. 

Homework in the evening? Oy. It just doesn't work for us. I can't imagine having to do it every single day of the week. Any educator will tell you that children do their best work in the morning. This is why if you have the opportunity to see the schedule of a primary grade child, you will not see things like art, music and PE happening in the morning. Reading and math need the morning.So why do they send all that homework for you to oversee with your child in the evening hours? When they are mentally exhausted from a day of schoolwork? When their little bodies need to run, ride bicycles, skate and climb trees?

I sincerely don't know how you do it.

We generally have a pretty good school routine in our house. The kids do things like piano practice, typing practice, personal devotions and basic chores before school starts. After our morning family Bible study, they do their independent work which usually includes copy work, handwriting practice, writing in their journal and math (depending on whether or not a new lesson is being introduced that day). While they are doing their independent work, I have my daily quiet time with God. I love that time. If the kids finish before me, then they quietly play upstairs or in the basement until I am done.

After my quiet time, I usually read-aloud to the kids. Right now we are reading Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. This is my favorite book ever written. We then move onto Five in a Row, which, technically, Lukas doesn't have to do, but he loves being a part of it, so he does it with us every single day and sometimes even reads the story to Ava for me. Five in a Row is a primary grade curriculum based on literature study. You read a picture book five days in a row. Various activities are completed with Five in a Row that can span any school subject. Last week, we read The Salamander Room. One day, the kids drew their own salamander rooms complete with everything the salamander needs in its environment. Art. Science. Check. Another day, I read math story problems to them all based on the book. Real life math. Check. This time of read-aloud and Five in a Row is our favorite time of the day.

After Five in a Row, we move onto the things which my children each need my direct attention. Reading, language arts, new math lessons for Ava (Lukas uses Teaching Textbooks, a computer program, and is completely independent), science, history, writing exercises, art or whatever is in the plan book each day. Sometimes, reading gets pushed to the end of the day. Today was that day.

Did I mention that I sincerely don't know how you do it? This is why.

It is as if my daughter's brain shuts off around 3:00 each afternoon, which is interesting since she has never been to a traditional school and that is the same time that most of your children are turning off their brains for the day as well. As I said, educational theory tells us that children do their best learning in the morning. I know this. I do have a piece of paper acknowledging my education degree lurking in a box around here somewhere. Maybe if I hung my diploma on the wall where I could see it I would be reminded to actually use this knowledge of educational theory? Or not.

If I know that I know that I know this...then why do I do this to myself? Why do I ever allow reading to get pushed to the end of the day? Why do I not insist that she read to me every single day, before lunch, before read-aloud and Five in a Row? I don't know. Or maybe I do. We like this routine. We really do.

But...it may be time for a change. My children don't go to a traditional school. They are homeschooled. I have the great privilege of changing the routine when necessary, of tweaking it whenever it isn't working. As my child continues to learn to read, I don't have to have her read to me in the late afternoon or evening hours because of this great privilege I have.

And I am glad. Very, very glad.

Because, as I said, I sincerely do not know how you do it.

Today, my daughter survived her reading lesson. I survived her reading lesson. I briefly considered that she might be able to get through life reading like a first grader, but then I bucked up and listened to her finish reading to me from her reader. She did so standing in the middle of the living room because, when she was snuggled next to me on the couch, it took her 10x longer than it should have. She read 4 pages while standing in the middle of the room in the same amount of time that it took her to read 1 while sitting. Can you see my frustration? It wasn't that she couldn't read the lesson. She. Just. Didn't. Want. To. Do. It.

And if she were traditionally schooled, I would go through this every single day. You know she would be required to read every single evening, and it would be torture for both of us. You get so little time in the evenings with your child. If your child doesn't like reading or math or whatever other subject they bring home for you to oversee each evening, you know what I'm talking about. And because of that...

I sincerely don't know how you do it.

I am grateful for this calling and privilege I have to homeschool my children, to meet their educational needs as they change and grow with freedom. If ever my children have to attend a traditional school, I will figure all of these things out, but I hope that doesn't happen because...

I sincerely don't know how you do it.

Yours Truly,

One very harried but happy privileged homeschool mama

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