Thursday, October 16, 2014

When is enough enough?

    I'm really having one of those weeks where I'm questioning if we're doing enough in our normal homeschool routine.  I think partly I'm feeling guilty that our traditional schoolwork is taking a backseat to life learning.  I typically love when that happens but every now and then I question how much higher learning we'll ever get to if we barely cover the basics in our daily living.  We've had a very busy fall and we're loving it but I feel like a workbook page here and there can't be enough.  I know that once the snow & cold weather come we'll do more schoolwork since we'll be home more but I can't help but wonder if it will ever feel like we're doing enough.  I can't gaze into my crystal ball; I have no idea what my boys future will look like and I often fear I may not be adequately preparing them.  Most of the time I am able to plug happily along in our daily lives celebrating all their little achievements and accomplishments but other times I really start to think of  what their public school peers are doing (OK I know that's making comparisons and I'm not supposed to do that but I just can't seem to help  it!).  On those days I forget what grade they're "supposed" to be in I happily revel in all that they know and have learned through me, through life, and through schooling.  On those days when it's pointed out to me that they should be in 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades I cringe!  My first grader can't read (well, not like I think he should be able to anyway).  I know he's making huge strides and I revel in the fact that even though he gets frustrated at times he's not pressured and rushed and feeling bad.  He's happy and loves listening to stories of all kinds.  He's trying to read words here and there and I know one day it will all click into place for him without him ever feeling like he hates reading or hates stories.  But I also cringe that my fifth grader can barely subtract multi- digit number with borrowing and don't even think about asking him to multiply or divide double and triple digit numbers. He could do it but he has no confidence in himself or his abilities.  He gets so anxious and upset we typically put away higher math for "later."  My 3rd grader who was reading at a 3rd grade level in kindergarten and was so advanced in math and science they didn't know what to do with him doesn't look all that much more advanced now and then I start to wonder if I need to push them more.  Am I challenging them enough? Am I hurting them by homeschooling them?  Should I force them and fight through tears and anxiety to get them where they "should" be?  Partly I get frustrated because I know my boys are smart enough to do all of this but in my heart I know pushing, threatening, and fighting with them will just lead to discord and a dislike of all things learning and school.  But I'm a mom and so I worry.  I'm a homeschooling mom and that seems to multiply my worries.  It was so nice to meet so many new and veteran homeschool moms these past few weeks and realize that they all feel the same way at times! 
    I love spending time with my boys and I marvel in their areas of expertise.  Alec, who could tell me, without thinking, what was the skunks biggest predator.  We have seen an unusual amount of skunk activity in our area lately and I was asking Alec what animals hunt them and should be helping to regulate their population.  Without thinking Alec was able to give me the same answer as Google (I know because after I asked Alec I did look it up just in case he was wrong-- really I should have known better!).  His answer was so scientific and he went on to tell me the whole food chain in our area involving skunks.  I marvel at all the animal facts that Alec knows and continues to absorb.  He devours reading books and most of them are non-fiction books about animals.  He loves learning about all animals-- mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, etc.  He loves learning about how they interact and affect life on our planet.  He also teaches me about how we affect animal life and life on our planet.  Many people we meet are often taken aback by his knowledge and skill level and just assume he's older than 8.  I love that Ian can tell from, what feels like miles away, the exact make of each type of heavy equipment or truck he sees.  He knows how the machines work and can compare the differences in engine, size, and haul capability.  He can drive excavators, loaders, and tractors better than I could and he's confident in his knowledge and what the machine can do.  He reads about all types of planes, boats, jet skis, construction equipment and just about anything else with a motor.  He can build anything he can imagine using his Lego pieces, building blocks or even sand.  These are skills I wouldn't have been able to teach him.  These are skills that wouldn't have been taught or even noticed in a school setting but for a boy who would like to work in a quarry, gold mine, or construction site these skills may just be the thing he relies on the most.  Homeschooling allows us all to have the time to pursue what we're interested in, build up our knowledge,  and explore new areas of interest.  I know all of this.  I know we're lucky.  I know my boys are smart.  I know I'm doing my best and my boys are thriving; it's just trying to drown out those voices in my head pushing me to do even more. 
    I was worried we weren't going to get any schoolwork in again today either.  We had plans for some of our friends to come over to play and we were so excited.  It was a yucky, rainy day and the perfect day to hang around inside and play.  I did ask the boys to help me clean up the house a bit before our company came and I warned them I wanted to get some schooling done.  Each of the boys pulled out their math workbooks and picked a page to work on.  Ian worked on figuring out elapsed time using real life word problems, Alec counted up money and change, and Evan added up Star Wars droids and wrote a number sentence to go along with the pictures.  I was slightly mollified to realize that the pages the older boys chose were found at the end of their math books (which to me means it's work for later in the school year).  They also both passed another math minute test today-- Ian took his 4's division test and Alec was so proud of himself that he passed his 9's on his first try with 7 seconds left to spare.  The older two boys did a page in their Draw Write Now books. getting in some writing, spelling, and punctuation practice as well as learning a bit about tigers and Antarctica.   Evan worked all by himself on a page in his Star Wars Phonics book with the th- sound and then we completed his 3rd lesson in his reading book.  He has asked me if he could start reading through all of his leveled books again and started back at level A.  He pulled out a book we haven't read in months and I warned him that since it was a level A book and he's learning to read so well I didn't want to have to help him read it at all.  He had a few stumbles here and there and had to stop and sound out a few words but he read the whole book by himself.  Looking back we actually did quite a bit.  I guess I just felt inadequate because we were finished school in an hour!  Yep, 1 hour and all three boys did 3-4 activities. 
   Once school ended I sat down at the computer to try and figure out why my printer wont work and Alec and Evan sat huddled together on our couch reading their Minecraft book while Ian chose to play Minecraft for a little while and then watched some Alaska the Last Frontier, finished watching Yukon Men,  and even managed to watch a bit of an old Gold Rush episode.  He's just fascinated with the idea of homesteading and living off the land.  I think they must have asked every 15 minutes what time it was since they knew their friends were coming over around 11.  They squealed when the car showed up and they were off and playing. 
    For the next 6 hours or so the 5 kids played-- they played Wii, played Kindles (they linked up a new Minecraft world and played together), played made up games, played outside on the swings and all around the yard.  They had battles indoors using our foam swords, shields and walkie talkies.  Some of them road scooters, some played board games, some played hide and seek.  Sometimes they all played together and sometimes they broke into smaller groups.  A few times Ian went to his room and chose to be by himself.  We had a few arguments and a few tears but for the most part we had a great day.  Us moms tried to limit the amount of video games they played and encouraged them to play together using their imaginations as much as possible.  As hard as I find it to regulate my kids video game time I find it even harder to find that balance when they have friends over.   I know they want to share what they love to do with their friends and it's great to see them work together playing through the video game levels but, at the same time, I think having friends over is a great time to get away from the screens and spend time together.  Their friends came armed with different Skylanders people and their own Wii remotes so you can imagine how dismayed they were to find that the Skylanders games are only designed for two people to play at once!  They worked it out and had fun and I think we struck a pretty good balance between video games and real life playing time.  They were all sad to see our time together end and that's always a great sign. 

   It was just about dinnertime by the time our company left and we headed out to our library to drop off books and movies and pick up some that had come in; unfortunately the library's computers were down and so we'll have to check back another day.  While we were out we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant.  Evan grabbed for the children's menu and asked me what it said and I encouraged him to try and read it himself-- with a bit of help sounding a few of the words out he read the WHOLE thing!  We came home, got ready for bed and I realized that in just this past month of starting back to school my older two boys have completed more than half of their division facts!  When I think of it that way... maybe we are doing enough! 

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