Beauty in the {Homeschooling} Mess: The Family that Learns Together

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I learned a lot our first month homeschooling. I was able to take what I learned and make some changes for our second month. The results have been wonderful for our entire family.

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The first thing I learned was that Little Brother was going to be the biggest homeschooling challenge.

My approach the first month was “Okay, we just have to grin and bear it until we can send his fussy butt back to preschool” – but that left us all very frustrated. At the beginning of our second month, I purposed to change from a “teach-Ezra-occupy-Little-Brother” mode to “we-are-a-homeschooling-family” mode.

In other words, I began homeschooling Little Brother right alongside Big Brother.

The Family that Learns Together: Beauty in the {Homeschooling} Mess ~ Edition 08.01.19

Our kiddos are five years apart, so it’s the not easiest thing in the world. There are some things that Ezra needs to work on and/or learn that simply are not accessible to LB. It is what it is. But I have tried to look for ways to include LB in the education as much as humanly-with-God’s-amazing-help possible.

For history and social studies, we have been following the 50 states. Theoretically, we complete one state a week. Realistically, we are taking 2-3 weeks per state. Which means it will probably take us four freaking years to get through the entire United States. We shall see if things speed up once we get off the east coast. But there’s just so much RICH history that we are really taking our time on. I have to continually talk to myself when it feels like we are standing still, because WE ARE LEARNING and that’s all that matters.

For the first few states, I got out book guides from our library with riveting titles like, Connecticut. These books contained content like geography, history, state symbols, etc. “This is the geography…this is the history, etc.” I quickly realized that this was a horrible approach because it was 1) boring for me 2) boring for Ezra 3) impossible for LB to access which meant that I had to occupy him with something else (read: Netflix) while I read to Ezra.

Around the beginning of July, we had moved along to the state of Maine, and that’s when things really took a turn upward. Instead of books with highly-interesting titles like Maine, we read books like Hello Lighthouse and Time of Wonder and One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal and Going Lobstering and Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man. I was able to sit there with BOTH of my children on either side of me and read beautiful books. And we ALL learned. I know this because last night we had dinner with a couple who used to live in Maine, and I may have gotten a bit too excited to have a conversation with them about lobstering because NOW I KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

My favorite memory from our unit on Maine came from Little Brother:

We were reading Hello Lighthouse, a book about a Maine lighthouse keeper who keeps track of all lighthouse happenings in the logbook. LB asked me what a logbook was, and I told him.

The next day, we were reading My D Sound Book together, and there was a diary in it. He asked me what a diary was, and I told him. His response was, “No, mom, that’s a logbook!”

The other part of our curriculum that I am making more accessible to LB is science / Bible. I didn’t decide until yesterday on a science curriculum, but instead found an out-of-publication mini-curriculum on Amazon that I really love. Creation: Thirteen 6-In-1 Comprehensive Curriculum Lessons, Grades 1-4 follows the 7 days of creation and provides activities for science, Bible, spelling, language arts, math, and more. I loved it so much that I bought it’s preschool companion, God Made the World & Me: Thirteen Comprehensive 6-in-1 Curriculum Lessons. The two are basically the same, but have different activities for the different ages. The preschool has a lot more art, singing, finger-plays, and coloring pages. However, many of the concepts presented and activities really bridge both age ranges I have to teach. The results have been truly blessed.

Creation Day 1 is a study of light, including color!

Glitter craft to represent light. LB’s is red, because, of course, firetrucks:

Creation Haidle Masterbooks

Magazine collages for our favorite colors. Ezra’s favorite color is “rainbow.”

Mommy may have had a little too much fun with this one and her skating magazines! 

Creation Haidle Masterbooks

Creation Haidle Masterbooks

Other things I am doing with Little Brother are getting him his own books on alphabet, phonics, numbers, etc. And firetrucks. Because the obsession with firetrucks grows with each passing day. LB is actually READING Bob Books, and I made him his own fire-related CVC and CVCC flashcards with words like “wet” and “hot” and “red” and “man” – which were a HUGE hit! So while Ezra is working on more independent tasks like penmanship or math, I am able to do “lessons” with LB as well.

Firetruck CVC Cards

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The second thing I’ve learned (read: am learning) is how to structure our day around Ezra’s medication schedule. While medication has been life-changing for Ezra (since age 5), there are a lot of drawbacks as well.

One drawback is his physiology: he metabolizes medication very quickly. Even extended-release medication only lasts him about 5 hours, and short-release about 3.5. (It’s technically 4 hours but he will almost always have a meltdown if we push him to 4 hours.) Thus he gets medication 3 times during the day (as well as before bed). He is most engaged and focused around the 1-2 hour mark after taking medication, so we end up having three “pockets” of time during that day during which we do school. We plan our breaks, exercise/play, and outings during the more volatile times because trying to get him to work during those times is futile.

It’s still hit and miss. We still have random meltdowns and work refusals. Then other days, he truly amazes me. His academic capabilities are dependent on his focus and emotional regulation capabilities, which change from moment to moment. This is one of the reasons I started June 1st, because I KNEW that we would not be able to have a 6-hours-per-day-180-days-per-year schedule. That just won’t work for him.

Instead, we did schoolwork every single day in July except for the 4th, but averaged about 1.6 hours of school per day. Obviously, some days were a lot more than that, other days less. While it feels like we are doing school constantly, there’s also a lot of break time and down time, and I’m still trying to figure out how all of this works and will work the best for him. Plus, it’s still technically summer and he had two week of summer camp in there as well; so I’m not too worried (yet).

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The third thing I learned was that I have to maintain a routine for the boys – and expect much from them as far as what they contribute to the household.

I have never been the greatest housekeeper. Dishes and laundry pile up, and there was just no way I could continue in those habits and successfully homeschool. Instead, I’ve had to don my {figurative} 1950s-era apron and make the hard decision to be better and do better than I ever had before.

I know how that sounds. I kept telling myself, “I’m not this person! I promise I’m not this person!”

But for the first time in, well, pretty much ever – I’m keeping a clean and organized house. Simply by doing the little things I need to do every day and making my children participate in the housework. So every morning, after breakfast, we do chores. ALL OF US. I sweep floors, sort laundry, fold laundry, and pick up stuff. Ezra unloads the dishwasher, takes hampers downstairs, brings up clean laundry, washes the kitchen table, and uses the Swiffer on whatever room I swept. Little Brother uses disinfecting wipes on the toilets, picks up 20 pieces of “tiny trash” off the floor (which is, by the way, a FINE MOTOR WIN!), and collects dishes from all the rooms that need to go into the sink. On Fridays, before we have “Friday Funday,” they also have to pick up their bedrooms and Ezra vacuums them both.

Every morning they whine and complain and argue and backtalk. Every morning, I tell them that this just is what it is and they have to do it. Every morning, it takes forever. But we don’t have anywhere to rush off to, we are seeing the fruits of this more-disciplined approach to our lives, and I have a clean house too. So there’s that.

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Finally, as a way of wrapping up this post, I’ve learned that my kids are capable of more – SO much more – than I ever thought possible. In fact, this past month has been so transformative for our family that we decided NOT to put Little Brother in preschool in the fall. We are starting to get into the swing of this new routine and I just can’t imagine going back to having to rush out the door every morning.

Dr. Duke Pesta Quote: The Dr. Duke Show, education quote

On Thursday, after our morning chores and morning lessons, a grocery run, and a library run – I was beyond exhausted. I put them in their rooms and plopped down on the couch with a TV show. Ezra was listening to Grandma Jeannie’s version of Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims and LB was listening to his favorite firetruck stories. About an hour later, LB called me into his room. He said, “Mom, can I have a pretend camp out in the basement with my brother?”

I shrugged and said, “As long as Ezra is okay with that!” and sent their butts downstairs.

A few minutes later, I heard them rushing about and Ezra saying, “Okay, LB, get your shoes on!” 

I called down to ask what they were doing. Ezra said, “We’re going hiking!”

I asked, “Where are you going to hike?”

He replied, “Oh, just around the yard. We are going to hike to our camping spot!”

They ended up camped out in the front yard with blankets, pillows, a cooler chest of toys, and a play tent – where they played for about two hours. I was in awe.

Watching them from a distance:

The only time they bugged me is when they wanted marshmallows!

They are growing in their sibling-hood and developing a sweet friendship. One morning, they decided to do all of their chores TOGETHER – each child teaching his sibling his own chore and demonstrating to the other how to do it. If you ask them (LB especially) what the best part of their day was, they will often reply, “Doing (such and such) with my brother.”

Ezra reading a firetruck book to LB:

Working together to get LB’s room ready to vacuum:

There are still plenty of times I have to break up fights or keep them from screaming at each other. They are brothers, after all, and are five years apart.

I am exhausted, but this exhaustion is different. I’m not going to bed at night exhausted AND feeling guilty about the dishes in the sink, or the laundry pile, or the fact that I didn’t really want to be around my kids. I am exhausted, and it is GOOD.

This transformation – I don’t even really have a way to describe it. I can ONLY credit it to an AMAZING God who has blessed me with this opportunity and given me the desire (when I had absolutely NO desire to homeschool), the strength, and the resources to accomplish this.

Our church introduced a new song this morning that I was blessed to do some extra arranging for. Our entire music team loves this song, and it really captures my heart at the moment.

Because this is NOT me. I’m not this homeschooling, chore-doing, love-spending-time-with-my-kiddos person. I’m not. But He is bigger than my inadequacies and is renewing my heart day by day for this role.

What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer

There is no more for heaven now to give.

He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom

My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace.

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus

For my life is wholly bound to his.

Oh how strange and divine, I can sing: “All is mine!”

Yet not I, but through Christ in me. 

 

The night is dark, but I am not forsaken

For by his side, the Saviour he will stay. 

I labour on in weakness and rejoicing

For in my need, his power is displayed.

To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me

Through the deepest valley he will lead

Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome!

Yet not I, but through Christ in me. 

 

With every breath I long to follow Jesus

For he has said that he will bring me home

And day by day, I know he will renew me

Until I stand with joy before the throne

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus

All the glory evermore to him

When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat:

Yet not I, but through Christ in me.

2 Comments

  1. Lee

    Great post! Very much enjoying hearing how things are going, the ups and downs, what you have learned etc. Well done!

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