Friday, November 18, 2011

Freedom through Structure

Playing hair salon during school.

Impressive, no?  My 8 yr old is already better at doing hair than I am.
This has been a rewarding, but challenging year of homeschooling, thus far.   I've shared with you a little about my visual learner.  Another challenge I'm facing this year more than ever before is keeping my kids on task.  I think there are several reasons why this has been a challenge.  First, I have a low tolerance for disorder.  It may be that given another mom, my kids would not be considered disorganized or disorderly.  Granted, they do get their work finished every single day.  But, their proclivity for breaks, talking, playing the piano every five minutes, playing with little siblings whenever they get the chance is driving me crazy.  Then add my husband to the mix and complete chaos results.  It makes me want to swing too far in the other direction and become Nazi mom who straps her kids into their chairs and doesn't even give bathroom breaks.  I know there's a happy medium where my kids diligently and quietly get their work done while allowed to take short breaks between subjects and of course go to the bathroom when needed.  My husband reminded me of the one room schoolhouse model.  He said it worked in this country for hundreds of years, there's no reason it shouldn't work for us.  (Um.  Did they have infants and toddlers in the one room schoolhouses?  Just checking.)  I'm thinking two rooms might work better, one for the school and a padded cell for the little ones.  Just kidding.  The padded cell would be for me.  Seriously, I've come a long way from the imaginary string that trailed along behind me and couldn't get tangled, but this year has been a challenge.  Let's just say there have been lots of tangles.

Doing crafts during school.
The second reason I think I struggle to keep my kids on task, especially Monk, is that he is just easily distracted.  I remember the days when it would take him 30 minutes to sharpen a pencil.  He's doing MUCH better now and really accomplishes so much every day, but he does still get distracted.  The piano is a major distraction.  Monk loves to play the piano, even if only for 30 seconds.  Some parents make their kids practice every day, we tell our kids to get off the piano all day!  (Their real practice session is in the afternoon at their Nana's house.)   And there are the little siblings that are too cute to resist.  I love that my three big kids get to interact with their little siblings during the day, but sometimes it's too much.  Monk seriously cannot walk past Calvin without picking him up.  In the old days when Monk was 6 or 7, I used the kitchen timer to help motivate him to stay on task and focus for short periods of time.  That worked well.  Kids in school have 50 minute periods to help them divide the day.  Charolotte Mason recommends shorter, more intense lessons rather than expecting kids to sit still and pay attention for longer sessions.

Our solution:  To create a one-room schoolhouse feel in our own home with 30-50 minute periods for each major subject before lunch and electives after lunch.  The kids will not be tied to their chairs, although I still think masking tape over their mouths might be a good idea.  Just kidding. 

I've revamped their checklists to include times so that the kids now have a detailed schedule of their school day.  I realize many homeschoolers don't need this.  I do want my kids to learn to organize their own time, but for now I'm going to clamp down on them in the hopes that our homeschool will run more smoothly and be more peaceful.  Perhaps by 14 or 15 they'll be able to get everything done on their own timetable.  And perhaps by the time they're 14 or 15, I'll be able to handle that.  Hey, we're all a work in progress here.  It was either get on a strict schedule or plug the kids into Switched on Schoolhouse all day.  I've been seriously drooling over that curriculum, lately.  Can't you just see them all in a line plugged into their respective computers with headsets on?  I'm not knocking it.  We might go to that before it's all said and done.  I've got to keep my sanity, but I so value the time spent reading with the kids each day!  Hopefully, the new schedules will help us stay on track.

What do you do to keep your kids on schedule?  Do you dictate when they do each subject or do you let them organize their own time?  How many subjects do your kids complete each day? 


  1. We've been struggling with this lately too. YES, SOS sounds really tempting and euphoric sometimes! :) I had a stricter schedule, then tried having them pick what to do when...and now we're back to the middle. As long as it gets done! We've been trying all week to do every subject every day but it's impossible. If I do a GOOD job with physics, then I run out of time for something else. I guess you just have to alternate what subject you do a really good job on?

  2. We have the same struggles and for us it depends upon the day as to how much we get done. Some days, I will just read many chapters at a time and get way ahead allowing time for other subjects on other days. My husband reminds me that school happens over 12 months, not 9 months and to keep our minds focused on why we really homeschool in the first place. Is it to just graduate an intelligent child, or is it about teaching them to be able to function independently when they leave the house?
    I think that it is a great thing that Monk is interacting with his siblings and that he has a genuine love and compassion for them. It is also a great thing to see enthusiasm in hair styling, crafting, and music. It is all about balance and I think that you are doing a great job. Sometimes, we just have to take a step back and ask ourselves, not how much did everyone accomplish today, but what did we learn today. Even if you are having a bad day with Calvin (or anyone else) and all that you can learn is one thing- that is one thing that you or the children did not know yesterday. I am speaking to myself as well as you as I write this and need this reminder!

  3. I'm not the only one with a kid who used to take 30 mins to sharpen a pencil?!? Phew...

    We're schedule people, too. I have Nazi mom tendencies that must be kept in check, but at the same time, my boys have to have the structure or they go bonkers. I've always said I'm a rabbit (from Winnie the Pooh) who gave birth to two Tiggers!

    I bought SOS for science this year, since I'm such a terrible science teacher. It's not as dreamy as you might think. PM me if you want more details. I may blog about it soon, too. :)



Related Posts with Thumbnails
My photo
I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.