Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Homeschooling Vortex

Who hasn't heard of the Polar Vortex?  You know ,its  that crazy cold that we had the pleasure of getting from our neighboring friends from the north. The Polar Vortex has  shut down interstates and towns, kept school children from leaving their schools in the south.  Made your furnace work over time because it was so cold out that your house just couldn't stay warm . Yes, that Polar Vortex.

 Living closer to Canada we've had the 'pleasure' of having temperatures dip into the negative numbers, having air so dry that you become numb from being zapped by static electricity so often.  Yet, this event pretty much happens just about every winter that I've been alive. Its just been given a different name.  I mean hearing the same phrase " its a cold  winter" over and over every year gets old. Its time to spice it up and give winter a new name. Polar Vortex sounds catchy to me.

So now that we know that the Polar Vortex truly does happen every year ( I mean really when isn't it cold and snowing in winter?)  there is another event that happens every year , right around the same time the Polar Vortex seems to circle around and its called : The Homeschooling Vortex.

I bet all  of the school supplies I have in my home that you will never hear about this on the news.  What is the Homeschooling Vortex you say?  Its the time of the year when the sparkle of Christmas is over. That  time of the year when we marvel when we see that golden orb in the sky,  that we call the sun, only a handful of times. Its that time of the year its so cold that you can't send your children outside when they are driving themselves and us crazy.  The Homeschooling Vortex can come in other names : Such as the Vortex of Misery, The Vortex of Wanting to throw our children into public school, and the Vortex of Shame.
Admit it, we all start the year looking just like this picture. The magical first day glow. Being a 10 yr veteran of homeschooling the one thing I find is most first time homeschoolers, and even some veteran homeschoolers think we are all  going to start our year, and end our year like this:
The sad reality is there are stages to the Homeschooling Vortex. We may start out like the picture above. Everyone is happy, ready and willing to learn. Sifting through their crisp new school books,checking out the newly cleaned and decorated school room(if you have one) , and those happy smiling faces for the camera when we dress them up and make them hold a sign of what their age and grade is for the year ( admit it, you do it and if you haven't yet, you will).
  Isn't this a cute face?
The next stage of acceptance that the Homeschool Vortex is beginning is the stage where it starts to look like this:
This level  of the Homeschooling Vortex can inevitably begin and last for quite some time. It starts with , "She's looking at me!", " This is to hard!" with tears, stomping , and  yelling included. You can also hear other things such as , " I hate school!" , " I don't want to!"  , " You can't make me!", " I'm tired," and the teenaged " When am I ever going to use any of this in my life?" Your wonderful little student may procrastinate with assignments. They may not do them at all.  You find yourself yelling at them, yelling at their father, and ultimately yelling at yourself.

The third stage of the Homeschooling Vortex that sometimes creeps up into the second level or just slides into third: is the stage of doubt. This level looks something like this: When we are sitting down at the table with our child while they are crying for the fifth time that week that they still don't get adding fractions , or that algebra problem that is just giving them fits and you can't figure it out either. This little voice in your head says to you, "  Hmm, I wonder if putting them in public/private school would be better? I bet someone else can do a much better job than I can."  " I bet if I just put them there true homeostasis will return to my home,  and the Homeschooling Vortex will just disappear and we'll look like that family in the first picture again." 
" I bet if I put Junior in public school he'll do his homework and quit giving me a hard time." That will show them!
The question is:  Will that make it all better?  The answer to that is most likely , no.
Each and every family is different. I always say that homeschooling isn't for everyone. Homeschooling , like all other things in life is a choice. One that we are thankful for because its what works for us. I know though its not for every family.

 The question though you should be asking yourself before you do take a leap such as throwing them into public/private school   is, " Have I done everything I possibly could before I chose to do this?"  We did have a few year stint where my children did attend private school.  It was a good little school with caring teachers. It just wasn't for us , it didn't solve the issues we really had, and it was more stressful than what I was dealing with at home. It did make my girls more thankful for being homeschooled and they have no want to go back to a brick and mortar school for their formative years ( college is a different beast).
 We still have our days where I get " I can't do this , I don't understand that, I don't like math, I'll never get this." and it goes on and on.  So I can't be the one to give you a magical answer as to if this   level of the Homeschool Vortex should win in your home or not.  What I can tell you is  though that there ARE things you can do to defeat the beast before going that route.  I bet I would get a lot of responses from people who thought sending their children to school would break the beast only to find out it made it grow larger than it was in the first place.
This level of the Homeschool Vortex like I said can last a while but once you get past it you will get back to your happy place.

How can you get past the Vortex of putting -my -children- in -public- school- because- I- think- that's the- answer- to- all- my- problems?

The first thing you need to do is STOP!  Yes, I said stop. Stop everything. Put the books down, put the worksheets away. Get off the computer. Whatever it is that you are doing now , stop.

The next step is: to think.  What is it that is causing the tears, the arguments, the misery? Is your teenager putting off a writing assignment that was due a month ago? Are you yelling at your child to get their work done ,and spend all day doing it, and finally when they do, it takes them two minutes to finish?  Or you just have shouting matches to get the work done and it just doesn't? 
Then its time to change up what you are doing. Period  There is no two ways around it. If you are determined not to allow the Homeschool Vortex  to suck you and your family up.The only way to defeat the monster is by change.  If you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then this is the best way to go about it.
First thing to do is take all those textbooks and shelf them, put them in a box. Anywhere but on a table or in a school room. If textbooks and worksheets send your children into tears, and sends them crying from the hills. Please put them away.  Now your saying, " Now what?"  Go the the library or your own book shelf and get out a good book. I'm not talking about Dear Dumb Diary book, but a good book. Classical literature. Whether its the Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown,or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Cuddle up on the couch , in their bed, on the floor, and just read. Read to them whether they are 6 years old, 10 years old, or 16 years old.  My oldest just turned 16 this year and she still loves to listen to me read out loud.
 Then if you particularly liked the book be adventurous and do a Unit Study.

Which leads me to Unit Studies. Is your son just balking at another worksheet page? Find out what he likes. If you have daughters like I do. Find out what they enjoy. Maybe a Unit Study that incorporates cooking or  Do they like to fix things? It would be a great time to pull up a Unit Study on different occupations that require you to fix things(carpentry, janitor etc).

Have an older student that has a writing assignment due? Then have them write about something THEY want to talk about. Have them pick a subject THEY know about. If your son enjoys fixing cars, then have him write a descriptive paragraph on how to fix a motor. If he likes to build things have him right  and essay on building materials.  If you have a daughter or son that loves to cook  have him look up information on what he or she needs to do to start up their own restaurant. Do they love a certain style of music? Have them write about the history of how their music began. If your young ones are frustrated with writing. Pull out some books and have them copy sentences. Copywork is an excellent way to learn sentence structure , and how to write. 

Play educational games. You can find them online and purchase them. I know I've collected some through out the years. Whether its a card game working on math facts, or a board game . They break up the craziness of textbooks. If you don't own any. Make one up of your own. There are free file folder games online that you can google. If you own board games make up flash cards, or cards with questions and answers and just play the board game but make a rule that they can only move their piece if they answer the question correctly. 

Are your children the arts and crafts type? Lapbooking or notebooking all the way! There are tons of websites where you can find free printable lapbooks and has tons of freebies.  For your older children, have them create a poster about a subject they are learning.

If all four of your walls are driving you up them. Get out of the house!! Go the library, go to a museum, go to a homeschool co op class. Anything is better than being cooped up in the house.  Just that change in environment can change attitudes and liven everyone up.

When does the Homeschool Vortex lift?  When three things happen.
 1. When there are smiling faces,
 2. Better attitudes
 3. And  spring comes back
   Will the Vortex then magically disappear and never come back?  No,then, and only then, will the Homeschooling Vortex have passed, and you will learn to conquer it for the upcoming years ahead. As long as you homeschool the vortex never completely goes away, but the suggestions can make it more manageable when it does rear its ugly head.

 In my ten years of homeschooling we've had better years than others. Sometimes, like the weather the vortex comes, and sometimes it stays away for a year. Homeschooling is not easy. We all have good days and not so good days. In the end YOU have to decide whether you want to defeat the Homeschooling Vortex and not let it defeat you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh my, how did this happen?  I am now a mom to a 16 year old? No way!  I certainly do not feel like a mom to a 16 year old.  M is now old enough to get a job, drive a car. Well, right now she's just worried about getting her school work done and getting through these next four years of high school. They are going to go by very fast and my baby will be all grown up.  How time has flown. 

M is doing well in her studies , she's doing well with her Chemistry course and really likes it. She says she wants to take an advanced chemistry course next year. I'm hoping to make that happen for her. We're trudging through math. Algebra 1 is NOT the same as when I was in school. Not at all so we're both just barely making by with it. I'm hoping to find some more resources to help her get through the class with at least some understanding of it.  I've been looking at the Life of Fred books to see if it could explain the math more , so it gives some meaning to it for her so she knows why she has to take it. 

How I miss those early days of when the girls were little , and when we first started homeschooling. We had so much fun, we still do , but there is no one left to save curriculum for or to look forward to the next little person.  So for now I just savor life and enjoy the girls the best I can before they are all grown and moved away. Sniff, sniff.