Beginning a new school year

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This is from a few years ago, but totally captured how I felt beginning this new school year.

This school year has had so many ups and downs that I am scared to see what the next 8 months bring. I just couldn’t get everything going. I had no motivation. Plus I was lost trying to homeschool 3 kids at 3 different levels. This was a first for me. Even when my girls were all home, they were close to each other that I could teach them all and then give different activities. But this year was different.

I have a High schooler,Cailin, as if that isn’t stressful enough. All the questions of am I doing the right thing? Am I screwing her up for life? Am I giving her enough classes or too much? What about college?!?

Then I have my special needs daughter, Brianna. She learns something but still struggles with 1st to 2nd grade math. We haven’t moved past basic division because she get so frustrated. She loves Science and Nature but hates writing and history. She gets frustrated if I try to help and then in the same breath frustrated that I didn’t help. *SIGH*

Last is my darling son, Dakota, who is extremely smart and retains things very quickly, but HATES SCHOOL!!!!! He would rather play with video games and toys or watch Disney Jr than pick up a crayon. He can write his name and recognize most letters. He just learned to count to 25 but would rather learn adding and telling time. Like I said extremely smart, but also my “I can’t” kid, which I have never had to deal with before.

Needless to say in the last month and half that we have been suppose to be doing school, there were a lot of struggles, tears and me saying I was done. I sat down with the kids a few times and tried to brainstorm what would help all of us. What I heard was

  • I hate being in my room reading from 10 different textbooks (Cailin)
  • I want more science ( Brianna and Cailin)
  • I want more projects or hands on stuff (both again)
  • I want more art (both again)
  • I like stickers, painting, storytime, circle time, fun games and toys, BUT NO COLORING! (demanding  darling son)
  • Cooking (all 3)

For me, it was research time!

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Maybe we were unschooling all along! Snow ball fight in Florida!

 

Unschooling
Unschooling was one of the first methods I checked out. I knew I was tired of worksheets and blah reading. And I also knew I was burned out. And I knew I just didn’t have it in me to be stressed out and worrying about curriculum deadlines. But I was worried about Cailin not having enough credits or requirements to get into culinary school. I knew she would read and learn on a daily basis, but what about Brianna. During the weekends all she does is sleep, walk around the yard or sleep and watch TV. She has no goals, interest, hobbies or independence. She needs me to lead and direct. Then there is Dakota, who as I stated earlier would play video games all day long.
I didn’t like the couple of days we tried it and neither did the kids, except Lil Man. At the same time, there were some readings about how unschooling is letting go of everything. No chores, no rules, eating whatever they want, basically letting them make their choices. Again this is not going to work in my house.
  1. I am a control freak and so is my hubby.
  2. My kids will eat junk food instead of making healthy choices.
  3. I am trying to go organic and that stuff is expensive. If I let my skinny mini special needs child go on free will by the end of the day my groceries will be gone. She doesn’t eat because she is hungry. She eats because it is 8 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 5 o’clock or because she is bored.
  4. I have a VERY hard time getting the kids to do their chores as is, if I let them choose then nothing will be done, other than me listening to Hubby complain.
  5. I have a large family and I am only 1 person!

So some of the ideas didn’t sit well with me.

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Doing a fun project just because we can!

 

Project based learning
Project based learning was next. I liked how it was very hands on and I knew my kids would love that. But it was once again child led. We tried this for a few days. My oldest began a project, did very well, but hasn’t touched it since. My youngest just wants to read the Mo Willems Pigeon books, but no activities to go with them. And Brianna refused to read the book, picked out a cat, started to make a cat but then got frustrated. Once again I helped too much and then not enough.
Meeting time
We sat down again and went over everything we liked and didn’t like about the last few weeks. The things we took away from this meeting were pretty simple. My kids liked when I was teaching them and planning the activities. They didn’t want to have all that responsibility, but they do like a say in what we learn. Which is fine because I love Pinterest and planning all those activities.
My kids hate writing! So I will include that in with other subjects.  Brianna loved Little House in the Big woods and Cailin wants to read Shakespeare. UMMM OK!!! Everyone wants more science. Heck, if all day, everyday was just science they would be happy. Cailin was doing Biology and she liked what they were teaching just not how and Brianna is very interested in animals, insects and plants. Take away textbooks, add some hands on activities, videos, interactive notebooking and field trips~ you got yourself and very fun science curriculum.
I struggled with History and Art. That is not my thing. American history, YES! World History, NO! So I have my mom helping me to put that together and make it more hands on. They liked our curriculum, Story of the World, but wanted art tied into it and more videos and hands on. I have to admit in my we have to finish this now, I would skip a lot of hands on activities. Yup bad mom of the year here. But it’s okay, because I am reformed now! And again, thank God for Pinterest and lovely homeschool blogging moms who have the answer to my struggles.
This helped with my older kids, but what about Dakota. Well for one, he likes to say he is smarter than his sisters. So I being the mom I am told him if he doesn’t do school and they do school eventually he won’t be smarter. Don’t judge! He is my stubborn one and if it works it works. But seriously, I also noticed that if it is something that catches his attention, he will participate. The other day, the girls were observing and drawing in their nature journal outside, which was his idea (a miracle). He had to have a nature journal too. And so he sat, drawing and from time to time running to catch butterflies. That in my book is a success!
In the end
We can’t and won’t be labeled. We are Unschoolers. Everyday is learning if you really pay attention and think. We think we are just living, but living and learning goes hand and hand. So me explaining why the dumbass who just cut me off in the car is a dumbass is learning. Or why we need to go get this for the chickens or why we don’t buy this brand or version of the food. It is valuable information that they are soaking up and storing away.
We are Project Based because we love using our hands and really being able to observe and process it. We love a good project but also know when to move on. It doesn’t consume our lives.
We are Teacher led because my kids want to spend time with me and listen to my knowledge. And let’s be honest, I don’t know how many more years I have with them and I am going to enjoy them. They are getting older you know.
We are Curriculum Based meaning we follow a curriculum but it was set up based on suggestions from the kids. Which must mean we are Child Led also.
Look I don’t know about you, but recently the reality has hit that my kids aren’t staying little. I have a year and a half until my oldest public school daughter graduates and goes off to college and 4 years with Cailin. Those years are going to fly and I just want to enjoy. I want to make memories and laugh. I want to have fun and live. I want to enjoy this season of my life before the next comes around. So I am not looking to check off a box of another school subject done. The only boxes I want to check off is moments lived!
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Picnic time

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