Next week will be 12 weeks that we’ve been doing school. It has been consistent and straightforward for the most part. What has blessed me the most is seeing how much we are able to accomplish this year compared to last year. When we started, the twins were still nursing babies and Chavah was a busy toddler bumbling around the house. It seemed like I was up and down every few seconds and could not get much of anything accomplished. This year is different. My active toddler twins still force me every day to breathe deeply and beg Yeshua for patience and the ability to press on. But it is different to face school with children who are more competent and able to understand clear instructions. Though the babies might not have the ability to play completely independently for hours on end, they can managed medium-sized chunks of time here and there and that has made all the difference.
The humbling process of homeschooling is realizing over and over again that I am human! I stumble often and there are days where I just want to throw up my hands and cry over not being able to do everything that I want to do with the kids. Sometimes it seems like they are just not getting it. It can be extremely discouraging to try to do this alone, but I have seen how important my relationship with the Lord is during these times. If I remain in a humble, quiet state in my heart, I will be able to hear Holy Spirit tell me when something truly is not working or if I am up against some attitude and character issues that need to be dealt with first. The blessing and difficulty of being at home with my children all day every day is that things like disobedience and disrespect can get to the point where they are so disruptive that we have to take time off school to address them. I have seen that it is important to take care of these little bumps in the road immediately, instead of letting them turn into a stinky presence in the background of everything we do. Part of the reason we took a whole week off last week was to have some change of scenery and some heart-to-hearts with the girls. I also needed to address my own heart attitude, to see if there is anything in me that is pushing too hard, not expecting enough, expecting too much, or not staying “in tune” with the hearts of the girls. The ultimate goal I have for my children is that they would be taught how to have a thriving relationship with God that will push them to greater heights all their lives long. Geography and Latin pale in comparison to true Christlikeness. But it is surprising how easy it is to lose sight of this in the midst of all the stuff!
The results of a week “away” from the schedule is that I have some new convictions and some new action items to get in order. I believe a main culprit for the girls’ need of an “attitudinal adjustment” was simply being overwhelmed and getting a little bored. We’d been going hard for the whole school year without taking any real breaks, so having a few days of free time did wonders for all of us. Pete and I were already planning to take Thursday and Friday off for an annual trip with friends, so in reality, we only took 3 unplanned days off school. It was fun to enjoy the summer, play, see friends, and not apply ourselves to a rigid schedule. Meanwhile, I addressed my perspectives in an honest way. I saw that some of the things I’ve been doing with the girls are not working, but sometimes my stubbornness to use something that we’ve already bought gets in the way of addressing a problem! I saw that there are a few areas that need tweaking.
Shurley English has simply not been working well for us. Week in and week out, I tried to like it but it just doesn’t fit with my teaching style. This is the second year I used it and I think it is a great program, but it’s too scripted and involves too much in addition to grammar. I have seen that I want something even more simplified and direct as it relates to grammar. Learning the fancy grammar terms is great, but the girls were not retaining it very well. Not to mention, it is very expensive! We decided to switch to Rod and Staff curriculum for grammar. It majors on grammar, not all the other things involved with language arts. After getting plenty of advice from moms who say grammar should not be a “core” subject until middle school since it is abstract and children don’t even think abstractly until 11 or 12, I realized that I was putting way too much pressure on all of us to slug through Shurley. I looked through sample lessons of Rod and Staff and it is exactly the style I was looking for. Yes, it’s a textbook (which I try to avoid), but it is simple, easy to understand, and the girls really like it. I still think some sort of formal sentence-structuring is important before middle school, it needs to be very simple. This program is. It was like a breath of fresh air! In fact, in order to stay caught up with the weeks of school we’ve already finished, we have to double up for a few weeks with Rod and Staff but it hasn’t been a problem thus far.
Institute for Excellence in Writing is still a favorite of mine, but I’ve had to adjust some of my expectations of the girls. The Student Writing Intensive Level A is too advanced for the girls at this point. I will be able to use it all, but I have to wait since I really want to take my time with each new piece. The SWI goes too fast – the girls and I are working on key word outlines and I don’t have a desire to stray from this even if we have to do it for the whole year. That will still give us a great introduction to writing. They like Andrew Pudewa’s silly style, but he jumps too quickly into many of the topics, and though I know I could break things down, I would rather focus on one piece of the whole structure in order to really get it perfected. I have started using more of the source texts provided in addition to the SWI material, and it is much more the girls’ pace.
The same sort of situation has occurred with geography. We really are enjoying using our Trail Guide notebooks for this section, and the girls are slowly but surely understanding vast concepts about our planet. However, trying to do the mapping has ended with much frustration many days. It is a struggle for them to write whole names of countries in the spaces provided. Since I have daughters who are just as perfectionist as I am, this equals lots of drama! Getting them exposed to the continents and oceans will be more than sufficient for the year. Additionally, they are learning how to find things on a map, which is an extremely valuable skill. We’re still using the whole book, but I can easily see that we’ll have plenty of material to work with in the years to come. Fortunately, Trail Guide is designed to be used many times over at differing levels. I haven’t lost any ground, but we won’t be gaining a whole lot this year either. That is fine by me – I can say that with a completely straight face, too! I would rather go slower and have the girls grasp concepts than rush and have to do it all over again.
Onward and upward! School wouldn’t be complete without some days of frustration, but the Lord is so good and faithful to me!