Category Archives: Home education

Home School Burn Out-Coping- part 1

Burn-outMaybe it will take a year, maybe it will take a decade, but one day it will probably happen. You wake up and simply realize that you can not face one more day of home school. Maybe it’s the school work, or it’s not having the energy to do fun stuff with your kids, because you used up your daily quota during the school day. It can be just the sheer exhaustion of having your kids in your house, and messing it up- all-the-time, or the exhaustion of being final arbitrator of all things scholastic.  Maybe it’s time to explore other options, there’s no shame in that, but what about when there aren’t other options?  Or  maybe you are committed to homeschooling, but your heart just isn’t in it anymore?  There is no magical cure, that I’ve found, but there are some effective coping strategies.

Coping strategy number one. Breaks

Take a Mom Break.

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”  -Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason wrote a long time ago, to class that considered a nurse, a cook, and a maid to be standard issue. Even without this level of domestic help we, the moms, still need to clear our brains and play.

What would you do for a whole day without the kids if you could do it?

If you’re a fun person and you come up with something fun easily, good for you. If you’re like me and you think “Read a book without anybody talking to me” that is okay too. Just figure it out and do it when possible.

Take Daily Breaks.

Usually big fun breaks without our kids are infrequent, therefore carving out some planned alone time each day is important. Having a few minutes alone for my quiet time before the kids get up can really make or break my day. A regular ‘room time’ where your kids are all in there room (or you are in yours, whatever works) is another practice that can be a sanity saver. Now that my kids are older, I feel like I’ve spent the day with people, instead of children, so this hour is just as important to me now as it was when they were two. Figure out what daily rituals you need to keep yourself sane, and try to work them into your routine. Coffee with your spouse, a quiet time, a cup of tea with a little British television, a soak in the tub, they don’t need to be expensive or complicated, if you pay attention and enjoy them.

Take a School Break.                                                                                                                                                                  

 In “The Well Trained Mind” Jesse Wise says she learned to take a week off when she felt like quitting. For mild burn out this is an excellent strategy. It may mean an extra week or two of school this summer, but it’s usually worth it. Use this extra time to take care of any household organizational issues that may be making your life inconvenient. Few things sap your energy and focus faster than having to fight your space.

Hang in there, and start by giving yourself a break! Home school burn out does not a failure make.

So, what would you do with a whole day to yourself?

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Review of Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy

Science can be a homeschool mom’s favorite subject if she likes messes and pointless projects. Not for yours truly, I was never too keen on the way children’s science was taught. When the girls were younger we kept nature notebooks after a fashion, read a lot, and discussed the world in general as it came up.  The goal with younger children, according  Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, is to teach them scientific thought process.  Makes perfect sense to me, and worked splendidly for a while, but as the girls got older, the need for a more formal program arose.

Enter Apologia’s Exploring Creation series. This series is authored by Jeanne Fulbright who subscribes to a number of CM philosophies. Her texts are meant to be used with narration and note booking. The books we have used in the series have been a perfect fit for us. This year we are using Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology, which is coauthored by Brooke Ryan M.D. We are over half way through it and it has been the girls’ favorite subject. The human body is amazing! Let me tell you, we are just a mass of bile and acid.

Each system in the body is covered. The hands on projects are reasonably relevant and not outrageously messy. A project should never take longer to clean up than to do. We still pick and choose projects according to our time and interests.

This week’s chapter was on blood. We built a model of blood. That sounds so brilliant, but really all we did was drop things in corn syrup while we read. Half of being a respectable teacher is using the correct jargon.

The notebooks/journals designed to go with this program are not mandatory, but they will save you time and headache. In past years we’ve just used binders, but sometimes a woman can just not stomach one more binder! The girls have done some of their best work ever in these quality notebooks.

Every chapter has a couple of lined pages, with inset drawing boxes, for ‘Fascinating Facts,’ a vocabulary puzzle, a verse for copy work and a mini-book. Don’t expect to fill up every page!

My second grader has the Jr. Notebook. It has helped her have an idea of what mom expects from schoolwork, and gives me time to work with the older girls. There are coloring pages for each lesson, big writing lines, and easier puzzles.

Everyone’s favorite part is the ‘personal person’ on-going project where each of system gets glued on a figure one by one.

Plan on a total of 4 to 5 hours per chapter. We usually take about 45 minutes to an hour to do Science. We read, write, and narrate three days of the week, the fourth day we take about two hours to finish up writing, puzzles, and an easy project. If they want to do a more involved project they do it on the fifth day.

These books are not a spiral approach to Science, so you may feel the need to supplement some general science reading. My girls do not believe the world is flat despite having no formal general science before 7th grade. (Although they may have believed in fairies for a while…) We still discuss science-related and the world in general as it comes up.

Apologia is a Christian publisher and their books reflect this strongly, Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology possibly more strongly than the others, as the authors use the blood and heart lessons as a jumping off point for some evangelizing and theology discussion. Atheist families will probably not be comfortable with the frequent references to a Creator, and non-evangelical families may feel the need to skip bits here and there. Then again, I don’t mind using Usborne books, which are not Creation based at all, so it would all depend on your level of comfort.

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Homeschooling takes up so much of my life that it is difficult to write here without making a regular feature of it. As much fun as my goats and chickens are, the sad truth is that most of my everyday oatmeal existence is wrapped up in home educating my children and the kitchen life cycle of cleaning, cooking, eating, cleaning, cleaning, cooking, eating, cleaning.

Homeschooling is the most complex relationship in my life. It is a love/hate thing.

I love homeschooling for the time it gives me with my children; I hate homeschooling for the time it takes from me.

I love homeschooling for the childhood time it has given my children; I hate the way it prevents me from getting ahead with my projects.

I love homeschooling for the way it is organic and holistic; I hate the way it permeates my whole house.

I love it for the way my kids are engaging in real learning; I hate it for the way it is a consuming passion.

There are days when I long to be normal, and there are days when I wouldn’t trade homeschooling for the world. Ultimately, I won’t give it up, because I know it’s the best choice for my children, and because I would have a very difficult time fitting into the systems schedule after all these years. The teachers should be glad our kids are kept home. Years of making your own holidays would be hard habit to kick.

With such a complicated emotions on the subject, you may well wonder why I homeschool. Funny, but of all the questions I’ve fielded on the subject that is an unasked question. Perhaps, it is because people think they know why you homeschool. Perhaps it is because they fear an attack on their particular educational choice.  Most of the comments received are positive: “O, that’s great, my sister’s old roommate’s third cousin twice removed homeschools her kids, too.”  Some are slightly veiled expressions of disapproval: “Will you continue through high school?” “What about Algebra?” “What other activities do your kids do?” The first two are sometimes curiosity, but feel like mistrust in your academic ability. The latter is just another way of asking the socialization question. Rarely, one encounters clear hostility: “Well, I guess some people do that.”  I make a point of not being offended by anything less than point-blank attacks from strangers.  The one comment that puzzles me is: “I could never do that!”  Strangely, this comment sometimes comes from women working demanding jobs which require serious organization skills.

Homeschooling isn’t easy, nor is it mandatory for good parenting, nor is it the right fit for all families. But if it is a good fit for you and yours, or if  you had to homeschool, it would be doable.  This comment always has the unintended effect of making me feel like a disappointment to the homeschool mom race. Not only do I not even own a denim jumper, I do no impossible feats, I don’t grow every veggie we eat, and I don’t feed my family on $50 a month.

The short answer to why we  personally home educate is: because we like the lifestyle; because my philosophy of education is completely different from the system’s philosophy; because it is the most efficient way for my kids to get the whole education I feel responsible to give them.

I was homeschooled for nine years of my education, and I have homeschooled my children for nine years as well. Over the years I have discovered what works for us and what does not, and it still a learning process.  I would like to share some of that here, over time.


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