A New Case of the Februarys


Homeschooling / Friday, February 8th, 2019

After months of packing, cleaning, repairing, unpacking and organizing, we’re finally moved and settled into our new house, and have renters successfully settled into our old house. When we first had our offer accepted in October, I had no idea how long everything would take or how it would eat up all our free time for the foreseeable future. Since September when Fulton had his surgery, our lives have been in a state of upheaval between surgery, recovery, and then just when he was starting to feel good, moving! And then of course there were holidays in the mix that had to be celebrated as well.

This week I finally felt like our lives were settling back into some sort of routine. Teddy started at the local elementary right after the Martin Luther King holiday, and Fulton returned to his school with no disruption in busing (a miracle!) the same time. Fulton of course had only started attending school this year in December due to his surgery recovery. Then his school moved to a new campus at the beginning of January. When I went to transition both boys from our old district to the new, I was concerned about problems, but thankfully, everything went much smoother than anticipated. Our new district agreed to continue to send Fulton to the special school he attends, and they’ve been really great about accommodating Teddy’s needs at the local elementary. Plus, we came from a very rough district. Part of the reason Teddy continually asked to be homeschooled stemmed from a lot of discipline issues at the school that distracted from education numerous times during the day. Teddy was frustrated, and while we tried to explain that these kids probably had difficult home lives that manifested in bad behavior at school, Teddy was the one dealing with kids fighting, disrupting class, teachers yelling, etc. on a frequent basis and he didn’t like it. He didn’t enjoy leaving his class several times a day so one student could be calmed down. He didn’t like seeing other second grade students regularly argue and fight in class and at lunch. Being in a new school where these types of incidents have not happened at all have helped Teddy see that public school can be more fun and educational than what he’d been used to.

When I finally rechecked the work for Edie and Byron, I realized we’d already come to the end of the second semester- half the year was already over! And of course I had new lesson plans to create. I figured I’d also write up a mid-year school review to cover some thoughts that have arisen in the last few months. Typically, February is burnout month. I’ve usually fallen out of the homeschool routine, assignments are routinely missed, winter is making me grumpy, and I want to completely revamp everything we’re doing. Last year at this time, it was a bit easier because the younger two were in school, and we broke up winter with a sweet Florida trip.

This year, February is also different from those in the past because I’m no longer running at the frantic pace of the last few months. Sitting back and JUST focusing on school work during the day seems like a freaking luxury. And it was time to think about problems I’d noticed for the last couple months, but really didn’t have the mental space to deal with right then and there.

As mentioned at the beginning of the year, Addie does an online school, and this year, Byron and Edie started doing a large amount of online classes themselves. Addie continues to do well in her junior year, maintaining a GPA I never could’ve imagined. Byron and Edie work independently, and until the move got really intense, I only needed to sit down and check their work weekly to make sure they understood the material and keep them on task. But at some point in there I realized we weren’t really homeschooling any more, but recreating school at home. My kids were learning material for quizzes and tests, but then quickly forgetting the items to cram in more information for the next quiz. They were taking short cuts to finish work and pass, but had no interest in learning the material. Techniques they learned in a writing class were not applied to writing assignments any other time. So yes, school was happening, but so many of the things that I didn’t like about education, things I wanted to avoid by homeschooling, were cropping up in my homeschool.

And while Addie’s grades are fabulous, I saw the hours and hours she’s been putting in behind the scenes. With each passing year, more and more hours to keep those grades up. There was less time for fun, family, and any other interests. Tony and I finally realized that her study and time management skills were making it harder on her. I never sat down and taught my kids how to take notes from a lecture or text, or the most effective way to schedule their own time. Addie’s grades convinced me she’d successfully figured these things out on her own. But in reviewing her methods, I realized her techniques would fail her, and lead to burnout, if she tried to apply them to a rigorous college workload.

For my older three, there was no longer a love of learning. School was something that had to be done. You spent lots of time at it if you wanted good grades, and just enough effort if you simply wanted to pass the quiz and move on. Certainly there are benefits to doing school at home, but so much of what Tony and I aimed for was simply not happening. And I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out the balance between learning that needs to happen, and how to balance it with the part of homeschooling that encourages wonder, curiosity, and learning for it’s own sake. And especially as I look at Addie, who will be moving off to college before I know it, I realize how little time I have left to provide them with the education Tony and I want them to have.

Maybe people will read the above paragraph and wonder what the big deal is- school and education isn’t meant to be fun; it’s just something you do. Why am I overthinking it? If my kids are learning grade level material, and passing, why mess up a good thing? I guess because I believe it can be better than it is. Every year, I learn a little more too, and though my own failings I learn how to be a better teacher and hopefully inspire my kids on their own journey.

So, what do the next two semesters hold? For Addie, she will continue with Queen of Heaven Academy. I will continue to work with her individually on time management and study skills. With even just a bit of guidance, she’s done much better, and as we think about her senior year course load (with a mind towards the colleges she’s eyeing) I will see where we can pursue more interest led learning and leave more time for breaks and the pursing of more outside activities.

For Byron and Edie, they are continuing with their respective math programs, but for the third semester we’re stepping away from tons of online classes, resuming our morning meeting (which I’d done away with this fall since they had so many other classes) and relying on these journals to document their work. I’ll revaluate at the end of the semester and we can go back to online classes for the fourth semester if need be, or continue with the journals. Together we’ll study Shakespeare, poetry, Latin, and watch more educational videos (and practice note taking in the process). There’s also a great art school in town I’m hoping to enroll them both in soon. I’m mindful of what Byron “should” be doing as a ninth grader, but I’m not letting his eventual need for a high school transcript keep us locked into what isn’t enjoyable.

So it’s a different case of the Februarys. But instead of tossing everything in a crazed, overwhelmed, madness, we’re going to use the calm after the storm to hopefully remind ourselves of what makes homeschooling so great.

What about my two kids that I’m “depriving” of homeschooling? Well, for now I need the calm that comes with having them in school, even with a new basement schoolroom that allows the older ones to work quietly while screaming and speeding ensues upstairs. But, while Fulton’s school is great, the middle school and high school years are spent preparing kids for the workforce and living independently in ways that aren’t going to jive with Fulton’s abilities. I forsee bringing him home at some point to continue with his academics. I had him evaluated by Secret Garden Educational Pathways while on homebound instruction because while his school works on reading and math, there’s no push to improve his abilities. It’s just a “Whatever he can do is fine!” type mentality, when I believe with more specialized instruction he could indeed read better, and do more math. If you’re homeschooler is struggling I recommend Secret Garden Educational Pathways, and I’m excited to have the owner Margaret submitting a talk for the online library of my upcoming ‘Accepting the Gift’ conference. We’re also going to do some additional testing in the coming months to see if we can pinpoint why Fulton still struggles to learn.

So that’s the latest on schooling here! Probably more in depth than what many of you care for, but useful at the very least for our own review down the road.

Now write down your own takes and link them up below! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!

7 Replies to “A New Case of the Februarys”

  1. I would love to see more posts in how you work out these homeschool issues because I’m struggling with the same things. I feel like it’s been a long time since our homeschool was fun in any way. Too often I’m just trying to keep things going and trying to get kids through their checklists and I just don’t have the energy to schedule a lot of unit studies or projects or trips.

    My oldest went to 10th grade in public school this year and we discovered that he also was not great a note-taking or studying for tests. This semester has been better but I want to help the the others. So anything you find that works, please share!

    1. I’m also very naturally organized, so it’s been hard to pass on a skill that comes easily for me to my kids who may not find it so easy, or may need to discover their own time management groove. I also discovered that all the narrations and outlining we’ve done through the years doesn’t necessarily translate into good note taking skills when you’re dealing with high school level courses. So while I felt like we were doing the correct classical approach, the connection between those skills and preparing for say, an 11th grade World History exam, weren’t being made for some reason. Ideally, I guess they should, but we haven’t seen it, so I’ve been going over how to highlight and take notes with Addie and for the next semester, when Byron, Edie and I are watching educational Ted Talks, we’re all going to practice taking notes, probably using the Cornell method. Plus we’re going to work on more memorization for Latin because, while short term memorizing (just for a test) isn’t useful, storing up information so when a new word presents itself, you can more easily figure it out, is. There’s been a lot of short term strategies being used and once you hit higher levels, you start to fall behind because that foundation isn’t’ there for easy recall. We’ve allowed them to keep moving forward when we should’ve pushed for more memorization of the basics. So lots to work on!

      1. Yes! There are things that I just do and didn’t think to explicitly teach. I love the idea of practicing with Ted Talks and will check out the Cornell method. I know that two of my kids will probably have wildly different note-taking preferences. I guess your kids at least have practice with test taking with their online classes. Our state only requires annual testing and when it comes to testing subjects, we usually just do a project or I use the test as a family review session since I figure it benefits all of the students. Guess I need to work on actual test taking skills. Always so many things to work out….and once you do, there are new things to work out, lol!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this all out and sharing. It’s so helpful to see another homeschooler’s thought process! I’m so glad that things are finally calming down for you– what a year!

  3. I think that learning SHOULD be fun, to an extent. Some things just aren’t fun to learn, like, say, geometry. 😛 (At least not for me!) It’s a balance between the “fun” and the “I have to learn this” that’s important to me, and was one reason I loved high school and college courses–because I got to pick, to an extent, which made it fun.

  4. Funny how personalities are. We have done SO MUCH WORK on time management, breaking down a project into steps, and pretty much every other aspect of executive functioning with my 14-year-old. She just needs lots and lots of “scaffolding,” as my wise mother-in-law once called it. Her sister seems to do it naturally on her own without ever having been taught, I’m genuinely amazed and surprised when she’s got it all planned out and doesn’t need us to sit with her for a half hour helping walk through the process. (Of course they have other weaknesses/strengths that are reversed.)

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