Archive for the ‘Homeschooling’ Category

Chores for kids…with simcha!

Chores are important for kids. They are  part of the family, and part of being part of a family is help out!

But giving the chores to kids doesn’t necessarily mean the adult in charge gets to take the day off and lounge in an easy chair. It actually takes more time to “train” the kids in, and then to correct sloppy work (occasionally). It’s definitely an investment in future relaxation, though.

My chore methods for my kids is something I am updating often. Here’s how it goes right now: each kid does two chores (or groups of smaller chores) each day; one upstairs (bedroom and kids’ bathroom care) and one downstairs (common area care). This is because they should help with their own stuff (upstairs) as well as something that may not be directly tied to them but is a family area (downstairs). Each one has something different, but usually related.

For example, Wednesday’s upstairs chore for each of the older boy is to prepare their room for Bot and then clean up after. (Bot is our WONDERFUL robotic vaccuum cleaner who I love! Here’s a link to what I mean: BOT) That means getting things up off the floor, setting Bot loose when no one is currently napping, putting him back on the recharger, and putting everything away again. The downstairs Wednesday chore is sorting socks (one kid) and kid underwear (the other), folding appropriately, and putting into the owner’s room.

I have our playroom cleaned and vacuumed twice a week (each given a specific area of responsibility), the kids’ bathroom and our downstairs powder room cleaned up twice a week, their rooms cleaned up once a week, their school area cleaned up once a week, entryway cleaned up once a week by each, etc. For each of these, I have specific measurable tasks that they need to do, both written and depicted so they can fully understand.

Each child’s chore cards have the day along the top, the child’s color down the side, the chore(s), and then a checkmark on the back. And each is laminated (have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE my laminator–or as my 4 year old used to call it, my lemonader?) The cards are hung on two side-by-side hooks – one for still-to-be-done chores and one for completed chores. Each child can tell at a glance what comes next (see photo above).

Where does the simcha come in? It comes from the child knowing what is expected of them and following a routine, and doing it both correctly and independently. This system minimizes nagging and encourages the child to do their work on their own. (The kids know no playdates until their chores are done and just do them. Yay!)

When you assign a child chores, it pays to go through it exhaustively with them, explaining what you want done. Then do it again. Then check their work and explain whatever needs more work. Then check it randomly, always gently correcting when needed. It’s a lot of work for the grown up, but really worth it when that easy chair calls…in a few years, I guess! 😉


One of those days…

I find it helpful to reread my reasons for homeschooling every now and again, especially on days like this. 🙂

Yes, it’s been one of those days. I’ve been feeling sick, thanks to the cold and tummy bugs around our house for the last week or so, and today, everyone has been grumpy. We had a really frustrating trip to the grocery store where the older kids were loud and didn’t listen well, and I had to make a meal for someone tonight, so I couldn’t leave without the things I had come for. By the end of the trip, I was so upset I wanted to yell. This, too, is part of homeschooling!

The kids are always around. Most of the time, that’s wonderful! Sometimes it’s not. I could have used a break today. When we got home, I put everyone straight down for a nap, literally from the car. My 2 year old and 4.5 year old both slept, as did my 4 month old toward the end of their naps, and my 7 year old read quietly in his room for a while. Is it sipping something with an umbrella on the sunny beach somewhere? Nope. Not even close. But the quiet recharged me enough to get through and play with this kids this evening.

So homeschooling – and parenting! – have good moments and the not-so-good. Everyone has days like this, and we are all not alone!

Homeschooling this year (2011-2012)

I am a fan of Montessori methodology. I love enabling the kids to do for themselves! So that is really what I aim for. This is an overview of my system for this year. I’ll update with what I’m using for what subject in a future post.

This year, I have a 2nd grader (ds7) and a kindergartner (ds4.5, he’s not quite 5 yet, but really wants to do K work, so we’ll see).

Here is my system: each child receives a card with a list of their weekly assignments on it. They have a box with their own work in it (re-used cardboard box, which they will decorate as a project later). They also get a M-F worksheet, and for the first few weeks, we’ll budget their time together. They can do a little from each book each day, or do all of one book each day, depending on their choices. They have a few things that they need to get me involved in a lesson, which are marked, and they have a book of maps/geography that they will complete together. They need to schedule in time for each of these lessons that works for everyone, too. I am available before lunch to help with any questions and teach anything else they have trouble with for sure.

Each weekday, they are also responsible for davening (praying), doing their chores, and completing their daily four (from the book “Daily Five”, ) which includes 15 minutes each of reading to self, reading with someone, writing, and listening to reading. Each item needs to be checked off each school day. They also each get to “teach” something to someone younger. This helps the older student learn the material better and helps introduce the younger student to the material. Plus it fosters a sense of family and community that I LOVE.

Once they’ve done something, they bring it to me and we check it out together. I sign off on their cards and we keep track of the whole thing. If they do everything by their deadlines and get their daily chores done, we get a slushy at the end of the week together.

In general, I try to plan about 30-45 minutes of work a day for my kindergartner (not including art or other fun projects) and 1.5 hours or so for my 2nd grader. Again, they break it up and plan it themselves, so it could work out differently. I have a lot of this as independent work, and it is meant so each child is “in charge” of their learning. I don’t like coercion, and it isn’t good for anyone to fight or bribe through schoolwork! So I give it to the child to get their work done. There are consequences if/when needed, but so far, this has worked very well for us.

Here’s a photo of what I have in the cupboard so far (up top are books we aren’t currently using (gifts, too old, too young, etc), the bottom empty box is for “work” for ds2):

Yay for (home)school!

The other homeschooling socialization

One major concern that people bring up about homeschooling is socialization. I don’t think that is usually a problem with the playdates and homeschooling groups out there. Kids do not exist in a kid vacuum!

But there is another socialization that is important and easily overlooked: the Mommy’s! It can be really hard to keep up with life, whether homeschooling or not. But add in educating your children at home and all that goes with it (from shopping for supplies to lessons, prepping for reviews to coordinating projects) and it gets even harder to keep up. Any time during the day with relative quiet goes to other things, like phone calls for business things (car repair appointment, swim lessons coordinator) or chesed work (I coordinate a lot of new baby meals). Or things like straightening the house and maybe even sitting down to a meal myself!

Since I became a homeschooling mom, things like calling friends and even e-mailing have been hard to do. If I’d call during the day (when other moms have their kids in school), someone would likely be shouting–most likely one of my two under 2, but still. So it falls to after bed time, which means it doesn’t get done because by the time the kids get down and I get myself together, it’s too late! I e-mail, but actually socializing is hard!

I had noticed this trouble connecting with a homeschooling family that we know well, and had actually been frustrated by it. Now it’s me, trying hard not to do it but falling behind.

What do other homeschooling moms do?

Why homeschool?

I am blessed to be home full time with three small, energetic, and amazingly bright boys. My oldest is 6, and is in first grade–at home. On some days, I ask myself “Why?”

Why do I do this to myself? “Everyone” else gets a break with their kids at school, to run errands without toting the whole crew, clean up without the immediate destruction, maybe sit down a little during the day, to avoid burnout by getting a break. (Of course, I believe that a lot of the chaos comes from my constantly exploring 16 month old. He really takes his baby job seriously!) For a while, we had a regular sitter for an afternoon every week, and that was great–until she found full time work recently (while dh was away for a few weeks on a business trip, of course!) So no break was in sight…

But it’s important to revisit the reasons we decided to home school our kids in the first place!

1. NO ONE loves, cares about, and knows my children like I do. I am the most invested in them and have the most experience with their personalities, weaknesses, and strengths.

2. I want family to be the center of our lives. Spending 8 (or more) hours a day at school, plus another few getting there and back, plus the fun stuff–playdates, lessons, and activities take over the child and the family’s life. The child sees siblings between activities and on weekends, but the family life feels fractured–everyone has different directions to go. Why should the center of our weekday lives be school?

3. Homeschooling allows for the gift of time. Once schools are introduced, they take the best hours of the day with a child–40 or more per week! It’s a full time job, not including commuting time and carpooling hours. Homeschooling children allows time for individualized lessons, but also down time, time to think, time to sleep, time to interact with siblings, as well as time for playdates, activities, and lessons outside of the home. This balance is critical, and missing from many lives we come into contact with.

4. Homeschooling allows children individualize their study – to go where they are interested. I’m not fully into unschooling (I’m sure some would say I’m too stuck on the need for lessons). But I do believe that children, and all people, in fact, learn from everything they are doing. It might not be what is on the calendar to learn, but lessons that are really learned are very valuable. I also have no problem teaching writing while working on a science experiment–scientists have to track their experiments accurately! I do work toward specific goals with each child, but I let them led more than a traditional school experience would. And if something isn’t working, I can start again in another way!

5. Homeschooling is just plain fun for all – most of the time. Joy can so easily be taken from learning, and I love that we can keep it throughout our learning. We can enjoy each other, figure things out, and work on projects with no required breaks. We can plan to make cinnamon rolls and roast marshmallows over our fire on a spur of the moment when schools are getting canceled–and get a lesson on the mechanics of fire! We can decide to stay a day longer on a trip because the kids won’t be missing school, we can take a break to drive to see family during the less busy seasons, we can follow a rainbow until we can’t follow any more.

Will we continue this forever, or even for next year? We’ll take it a year at a time. But despite the messes, it has been a great journey so far!