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Thursday, October 23, 2008

homeschooling:schedules, timing, and breaks

I know our homeschool days seem odd to other people. Sometimes my kids and I get lovingly teased about our scheduling. We often "do" school so differently than the public schools that it throws people into a tailspin when they see our schedule.

For example, last week our local public schools were out on fall break. The first thing that happened, as I predicted, would be our ps friends calling to see if they could come over and spend the night or vice versa. It is so hard to explain to these children (and mine) that we weren't taking the whole week off. Lest I sound like a "big meanie" who never gives her children a break, let me explain. I am very busy with lots of side ventures: crafting /soap making classes, helping coordinate a homeschool Fall Festival, reviewing products for The Old Schoolhouse magazine (this past week alone I received access to KinderBach music, Spears art curriculum, and got a free nativity toy set in the mail, plus I am already reviewing Time4learning.com, ALEKS math, and a few other sites--it is to the point where our regular curriculum may have to be temporarily shelved so we can really use these wonderful freebies we've been given!), co-coordinating a co-op and teaching a weekly co-op preschool class to 12-15 2-5 year olds, trying to get my home-biz off the ground (where it has been for months now, etc) that I sometimes find we need to take off on a different day to fit homeschooling into our schedule and really give it 100%. So I like to say that we don't follow the school's schedule because it wouldn't work for our family. What I try to do is meet the kiddos halfway. When their ps counterparts are free, for the most part, I try to give them some time off to be with them. But in the end, I make our schedule fit our needs because I have no other choice. If I didn't plan our homeschooling accordingly, something on my to-do list wouldn't get accomplished, and it'd likely be our actual schooling. I know homeschooling is my calling and it must come first and foremost and so we make life fit that schedule.

On top of our extracurriculars piling up on us, I suffer from migraines that have gotten worse in my thirties. More and more I find myself awakening with one rather than it coming on in the evening as they did in my youth. It is nothing unsual here to have to get up, take a Maxalt, and go back to bed a few times monthly. If this happens on a school morning, we lose a few hours. Same thing with having to be at appointments /meetings on school days. We try to schedule events after school but that can't always be accomplished, so if we have to be somewhere at 2 pm, that cuts a few hours off again. These hours have to made made up somewhere, resulting in weekend time or late night time or taking fewer days off during a public school break time.

Then there are the fun days we take off. I always take off one day during the week of each child's birthday. I use it to plan the party and shop and decorate and the kids just have fun!

Sometimes our local schools let out for inclement weather, like a sprinkling of snow or flooding. We may choose to go out and play for a bit and then come in and do an hour or two of work. Snow days are great days to alternate playing in in the cold with some educational board games (which we buy and then never play) or reading aloud around the fire. So we may do workon those days but it doesn't always feel like work. Art/science projects, which I too often neglect, are great on those days, too.

Or if the weather is truly nasty, why take off at all? We can do our work that day and then take off on a sunny, nice day and go the park.

Another way we differ is our daily timing, We have a fairly set schedule of what we'll do each day. I know that for the most part we'll begin with Bible, move into core subjects/computer schooling and work for two hours there. Then we'll take our lunch and play break, and finish up two more hours, doing unit studies, independent work, silent reading, additional projects for 4-H/scouts/co-op homework, etc. But the time we begin each day sometimes varies. I have never been a morning person. For a lenthy digress on this and sleep disorders/circadian rhythms, see my other posts. Anyway, I know that every now and then, my family and I too, need extra sleep. Other times I just need some personal quiet time to get things done online (we share a dial-up Internet line so only one person can be online at a time even though we have 3 computers....it is my thorn in the side, especially with so much computer schooling to be done, but I try not to be ungrateful because we have been blessed with so many other things).

I also know that teens especially, need more sleep as they grow. This is scientific and documented, much to the deligh of my almost-13 year-old.

Last night we had church/youth and our Wednesdays are particularly full each week, with little rest. On Thursdays everyone seems sleepier than usual.
Last night the boys came home and did an extra hour of schoolwork before bed and Ashleigh (who has been exposed to an illness) began complaining of stomach ache and nausea, so this morning, I decided to let them sleep later than usual. And we already sleep later than most families I know. :) But still, I added on an extra 2 hours of sleep for the kids today. I have enjoyed my free time online to do research, test products, and blog. Now, its true we'll be behind all day today and have to do school way past the time the ps kids come home just to stay on track. We 'll have to rush dinner in order to get it all done in time to be at karate. But its okay with me, because we needed this kind of day.

I used to often feel guilty when we got to sleep in and arrange our schedule the way we wanted. Afterall, it's not exactly fair that the ps kids have late night sports and activities and they don't always get the extra rest they need. I myself recall going to school half asleep very often due to a terminally-ill parent with Alzheimer's (who was often up into the wee hours walking, yelling, and disoriented), and my grades certainly reflected it. I know the ps kids don't have the choices my kids have. But I also know that being with my kids 24/7 is a demanding job that not everyone can handle (or at least that's what I hear from many parents who seem to think I'm some sort of super-woman...ha ha---the truth of my life is simply this: anyone God calls for a task, He equips, and that includes everyone I know).

So I look at it this way: my kids get some benefits from homeschooling that other kids may not, but look at the amount of personal time that I put into our day. If envy of my life ever begins to creep into your mind, remind yourself that I do sleep late...but I am often up working until 2 am. My house looks neat 50% of the time...but you don't see the many messes we make in it repeatedly every day that get cleaned over and over again, nor do you see the clutter from having curriculum for grades pre-k through 8th hidden in every nook and cranny of my home. You might see that we start our day late but may not know that we often don't end our school day until 4 or 5 pm. I do get the joy of being home as a full-time wife and mother with a husband who cares for us wonderfully, both financially and emotionally, but you get vacation days, extra spending money, kids who go to school that you don't have the sole responsibility of teaching every subject, every grade level. If my children turn out to be less-than-genius, I cannot blame anyone but moi, which is a very sobering thought. I sometimes get envious of my non-homeschooling friends' lives! :)

I guess sleeping late and taking alternate vacations could be considered the fringe benefits of my 40-hour-plus week job. :) It is always easy for us to look across the fence and see that greener grass! I know God blesses us in different ways and He calls us to serve in different ways... this just happens to be my way.

So I choose to do things a little differently so we can get the benefits of more rest, less stress, and still get in our legal amount of academics and extras without killing ourselves in the process. I am totally cool with that. Maybe this will clear up any confusion.
Take care!

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