Thursday, September 25, 2008

Anyone Else Feeling a Bit Tired?

Last year at this time, Sadie was 3. This year, predictably enough, she is 4. Last year, she wasn't interested in school. This year she is.

Benny needs my almost constant attention when he's doing his school. Beyond the teaching of new concepts, he also needs help and encouragement in word and gesture as he's doing... anything. Put your finger under the next one Benny. What is this question asking you? Etc. He can't be left on his own to read a chapter of a book -- I have to listen and remind him to keep going. He can't be left to finish a page of math, or practice his violin. There are also a lot of things we're doing right now where I just need to be involved, like the elections class.

Now, I don't grudge him any of this time, obviously. I've tried rewarding him for working independently, I've tried setting time limits and natural consequences (if you're not done with this by 10:00 we can't go to the YMCA), and I've tried punishments for failure to perform (if you can't do this math on the computer, I'm taking away your Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 disk). I have just determined that it's not a decision he makes to be inattentive and unfocused, it's just what's going on in his head. The unfortunate thing about setting time limits and natural consequences is that Sadie then also gets punished.

Speaking of Sadie. She wants to do school this year. Desperately. She asks every day to practice her violin, do her math, read. I have her on Right Start kindergarten math, and we're doing phonics, and we're reading together. I need to be there with her when she's doing her lessons, obviously, because she's four.

So, I have two kids doing multiple lessons every day, and I have to be there to supervise all of it, and suddenly instead of "We don't spend much time at the kitchen table," we're spending a lot of time at tables, or next to each other on the sofa, or on the floor in the front room, or whatever -- doing school. This is not what I imagine for us.

The other new development this year, with Sadie a four-year-old and Benny an eight-year-old, is that they both have their own violin, they both have their own dance, they each have their friends and -- the "baby" is not just a tagalong anymore, she has her own agenda and activities and life.

I'm tired. I want them to have free time to play and chill. I feel like I'm drowning in school.

I need an unschooler to kick me in the head and say, "Step away from the lessons."

I need an experienced schooler of multiple children to say, "It gets easier and more normal and less time consuming."

I need someone to say, loudly, "Putting one of them in school is not an option."

I know that part of it is all the other stuff I've put on myself that's heavy -- editing novels for people, doing web sites for the dance studio, volunteering at church and violin, doing political work, this, that, and the other thing. I am trying to eliminate a few things -- the Bash will be over in a month, and I'm quitting the novel editing, and eventually the ballet web site will be done, and the elections class and canvassing will be over on November 4. Maybe at that point everything will just look more open. But then there's Nanowrimo and Christmas and, and, and.

Thanks for listening. Maybe I just needed to stomp around and yell about it so that I can take a deep breath and get on with it.

We have our house, our health, our gorgeous children, our glamorous interests, and we are never, ever, ever, bored. This is something to be happy about, right?


  1. Anonymous1:57 PM

    You're starting to echo my life motto which is, "Often desperate, never bored." ;D

  2. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Do you realize that the one you support, Obama, is against a parent's right to homeschool? found on

  3. Anonymous6:47 PM

    From a relatively new "unschooler" - it sounds to me like you should follow your kids lead. Your daughter seems to love the lessons, so do them with her. Your son seems to have lots of other stuff on his mind, so let him follow whatever that may be and just be there to encourage and gather resources when needed. Kids learn differently, which seems very obvious in your case and one of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that we can let them learn in their own way.

  4. Anonymous #1: Yes, I knew I got it from somewhere. ;D

    Anonymous #2: Wow, thanks for your supportive words. The link you provided did not work, and the news sources you cite are propaganda drips.

    Anonymous #3: Maybe I will try that for a while! :) That sounds like a good solution actually.

  5. You ain't just whistlin' dixie, sister.

    It does get easier.

    Unschooling can be fun and easy.

    Kids do wind up able to work on their own, even kids with challenges.

    And my mom's famous last words are "this too, shall pass."

    I am trying to remember that as my marriage falls apart. You can do this. It will get better. This too shall pass.

    Remember potty training and how that seemed awful? And before that, getting them to sleep through the night?

    Yeah, I remember too. This too shall pass.

  6. I have the link for "Connect the Thoughts" and for "1st Step" courses
    I am not affiliated with the program, just fond of the way he supports homeschooling in a way that truly supports the child learning and thinking on their own. I thought I had posted earlier, but I was a little bleary eyed from sleep issues. It may seem strange to tell you about these programs. I read some of your blog and I was really impressed. I liked your line of thinking and I thought that you might appreciate knowing about this program now. I wish I had paid better attention and checked it out years ago. If I had I'm sure my DD would be more autonomous now and would already have the thinking tools to pursue whatever she wants.

    There is also a yahoo group for us. The author asked which programs we would like to see on sale and he did it.

    In his open letter to parents, his fifth reason for creating the curriculum is this quote "The world's a mess. It's the mess our children will inherit. I want them as prepared as possible. I want them to do far more than survive the mess we will leave them...I want them able to fix it."
    Steven Horwich
    Connect The Thoughts™
    1st Step™

    That is a powerful thought. I love the idea of unschooling too, but I would certainly read a bit about this. I wish I had done it sooner. I know you are tired, overworked and under appreciated, but you are doing a great thing for people you know, for people you don't know and the consequences of your willingness to try could be an incredible gift to our world. Thanks for sharing your true feelings.

  7. I forgot to mention. My son just turned four, he also loves trains and my DD is now 13. One keeps me up and the other wakes me up. I'm grateful for being able to be with both of them while I can.

  8. Tracy, thanks. I think I'm coming to an understanding that this is just a bigger adjustment than I thought it would be, and I need to think about it more.

    Tasha, I will definitely look into this program. It certainly sounds valuable and interesting. I also appreciate your kind words -- and you're right -- the upside is that I get to spend time with my kids, which is a glorious luxury, most of the time. Like 95% of the time. Hehehe.

  9. Whenever I read your blog I always marvel at all you do. You seem to be a high achiever with equally bright children. Maybe the hardest thing for you to do is - relax? :)

    I totally hear what you are saying though. I hit a wall from time to time, and I tackle the exhausting times two different ways. One: I get busier. It sounds crazy to take on another task when overwhelmed, but sometimes a short-term goal that is unrelated to the things stressing me out, revs me up again - like an adrenaline rush snapping me back into perspective. Or...

    Two: Cyclical homeschooling. I 'get' unschooling and see how it works, but personally I don't like to unschool all the time. (All based on my personality here, not philosophy. I like some control and structure.) There are benefits to both ways of educating. So I embrace both. I typically do an eclectic structured curriculum, BUT reserve the right to switch to unschooling when life dictates.

    Since I set yearly, monthly, even weekly goals - I can keep an eye on whether or not we are 'on track'. Certain activities are best experienced through unschooling and self discovery, others through structure, coaching, etc. This way they get the perks from both methods, and so do I.

    Oh, I forgot one other thing... sometimes it all just feels better after consecutive nights of good sleep! :) Okay, done taking over your blog now.

  10. Anonymous12:06 PM

    Please consider this your friendly kick in the head. :-)

    This only gets worse, love, as they get older. Sometimes I feel that I am stretched so thin with everyone's social, academic, emotional, nutritional, and misc. needs that I am going to RIP INTO A THOUSAND PIECES. This is, apparently, quite normal.

    May I suggest a regular moms-night-out or date night with your husband? I go crazy without those two things. CRAZY, I tell you. If you ever see me wandering around in my night gown with a bottle of Vodka, it's because I missed date night.

    I also highly recommend random vacation weeks. While unschooling may not be your "thing," taking a week off, for no reason other than that you need it, could be fun for everyone. Drive to DC and go to museums. Go camping. Let the kids play with dirty socks while you read a good book.

  11. Okay, so that last comment did not inspire me. I'm in a similar boat -- eight-year old, four-year old, and six-year old in the middle, and suddenly homeschooling takes all day. I'm considering housekeeping help (assuming DH makes it through the layoffs on Friday). And I'll be easing up for NaNoWriMo. And I'm hoping that my MIL will take the boys on lots of Fridays, like she did last year. But let us know if you find the answer!