Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When you question your methods

It's unsettling to me to think I am questioning what I thought was my "homeschool philosophy" or method. Yet, here I am wondering if the approach we've been using is going to work for the long haul. The long haul being through high school with most likely seven or more children. I still LOVE homeschooling. Lately it's been overwhelming though. I want my children to be filled with joy, but how can they be when the example in front of them day in and day out is often a crabby stressed out one? We had a great afternoon and really accomplished a lot. I did a fun Latin review game with Peter and Kate which involved candy- always a hit. And I really enjoyed doing science with the 3 oldest. Then Ella and Charlotte woke up and things just kind of slid down hill. At the table (without Pete here) Maddie dropped her entire plate of food- taco shell, sour cream, RICE! lettuce, and black beans all over the floor. I took a deep breath and asked her to pick it all up. I didn't even really care when I saw her eat rice off her foot- okay, maybe I cared a little bit. So after supper instead of having a calm clean up and get everyone ready for bed and cuddle on the couch with a book kind of time, we had a me yelling at them to hurry up and get their bedrooms picked and stop fighting and GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN while I mop up this disgusting mess kind of time. How does this have to do with homeschooling you may be asking? Well, we really like the Classical method (including being a part of a Classical Conversations community) and then try to add some of Charlotte Masons ideas. Classical education is typically rigorous and includes a lot of memorization. We appreciate and want to make the most of the "parrot" stage of our children in the early years. However, in a lot of ways I don't feel as though I do Classical education justice! I am just so busy with LIFE (like cleaning up dinner spills, changing diapers, giving baths to kids that are GROSS after even a short time outside, etc) that it is HARD to consistently read and recite in order to remember! And consistency is required if they are really truly going to memorize the information! Then there's the Charlotte Mason approach which seems to be completely the opposite- Charlotte is known as the "Mother of Homeschooling." She was a Christian, she loved children, and her life was devoted to both teaching young children and teaching others how to teach young children. She lived in England in the 1800's where she practiced her "gentle" approach to teaching. She believed in the importance of narration (having children tell back to you and/or write about what they read), nature study, short lessons, living books, liberal education.
So now I find myself trying to determine how exactly to combine the two. Or do I ditch one method all together? Or do I use one method for some students and another method for other students? And then what about the money invested in material that uses a certain method which I thought would be worth it because several children could use it????


dkt said...


just keep in mind that there will be good days and bad days--

days you get it all done and days you just don't!

your kids are still young, and you've only been at the memory work for one year? or has it been two? Can't remember, but...

you are training their brain to retrain. It won't be this hard in a year or two, to memorize such great amounts of information and the more they memorize, the easier school becomes.

I just read Leigh's new book "The Core" (it was a good read). She made the point that she put work into having her boys memorize the math facts up to 20x20, but then because they knew them so well, they could do 5 Saxon math sheets in 30 minutes!!!

You and I are still in the trenches though! Examine everything you are doing and cut back where you can (buy videos to teach some of it?) and get the memory work down--you'll get there!

And, on hard days like that, I always remind myself that God uses our kids to sanctify us. Even plates spilling on days that I thought were hard enough. I've learned to expect suffering and not try to avoid it; to let go and let God do his sanctifying work in me.

Praying for you!

dkt said...

oh, and I highly recommend the Core to you--I think you will find it freeing and it will help give some good ideas to lighten your load... :-)

Rachel Marie said...

thanks, dianna! i actually have that book and it's taking me awhile to read it because i have a bad habit of reading several books at a time and it's not the first one i pick up :)

Ginger said...

I highly recommend ditching Classical Conversations. HA!
Get the most out of the memorizing years by memorizing scripture! and poetry! not the periodic table or the timeline.
That would be Charlotte Mason. :D

I totally know how you feel. When your homeschool goals are stressing you and the kids out, it's time for new goals.

The Edgren Family said...

I've been trying to get MD ready for pre school home schooling and came across this really neat organizational system. You probably already know about it but if not it may help...especially with 5 kiddos. It's Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I have the Ebook if you want me to send it to you for a look see. I like house this blogger explains it in detail the best:

...she also has 5 kids.
You seem very organized and I know you're doing a GREAT JOB. Some days are certainly more trying than others. HIS grace will sustain you and HE will lavish HIS loving kindness on you as you call upon Him.

Daniel's Helpmeet said...

The first and most important thing to do is spend time in prayer. You may want to do this and that method, but is that what God is wanting for your family?

Homeschooling moms get and put so much pressure on ourselves that we have to turn out brilliant kids. What is the goal you and Pete have for the children? Have you prayed about making a vision for you school?

We had to step back and do the same thing. What is the goal of our home school? It is relationships. First with God and then with those in our home. Education comes further down our list. Once we had our goals in order we asked God to show us curriculum that would fit. It has taken us several years, but as we go into our 12th year, we have found a good combination for our children, me and our season of life.

We have bought lots of curriculum over the years. Some we have hated. Some we love and stay with for years. Others we have not liked, put on a shelf and now love. Right now you have lots of young ones, plus the stress of an upcoming adoption. What curriculum will fit your personality and season of life right now - not in 5 or 10 years - but now? Is it Classical? Charlotte Mason? Neither? Textbooks/workbooks? A combination of many things?

For a year or two we tried the Classical method,and still follow a few items from "Teaching the Trivium". We explored being more Charlotte Mason, and that wasn't a good fit either. We even turned to all textbooks for a season. What we do now is a bunch of everything. It doesn't even fit into a method.... We lean more towards textbooks for their stability, but throw in a bit of notebooking with Apologia Science. We use Veritas Press and Notgrass for History and Bible. Shurley Grammar for English. Horizons and Teaching Textbooks for math. We start our day with family worship and some time in scripture memory. Throw in spelling, logic, and reading and we are finished.

Most days go well, but there are days when everything falls apart or life just happens. Sometimes those days last more than a day . In the last 4 months we have dealt with morning sickness and then a miscarriage with 4 weeks of best rest and recovery, 2 weeks of illness with Sara, and Daniel traveling. When those days happen it is so easy to want to just sit in the corner and cry. And believe me I have done that way too many times. I have raised my voice at the kids way too many times. But God is sovereign. He knows our lives and give us these interruptions to sanctify us. Here are a couple quotes that I just love that put things into perspective:

“More and more the Lord is showing me what I consider interruptions are often divine distractions designed to reveal His plans for me…” Pricilla Shirer

“The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one's "own" or "real" life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one's life.” CS Lewis

When I look back and read this, it sounds like my life is just a bowl of pudding and that all my children are perfect. It isn't - trust me. I used to be obsessed with education and it still creeps up on me from time to time. I would get obsessed it things weren't just perfect. Yet over the years I can see that I have grown as a mother and wife through all this. I am learning to let things go and to be more patient. I still have a lot way to go, but I know I am getting there when I have people comment on my patience. That is a word that I never thought would be associated with me.

So my advice would be to Pray, step back, look at this season of life and put into it what God wants you to do. Put on the shelf what isn't working right now and revisit it down the road. Work on the relationships (God and family) and make them the focus. Down the road it will pay off more than any educational degree.

"All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children." Is. 54:13


Daniel's Helpmeet said...

Here is a great blog that may also help with some ideas. Especially with the younger ones

She uses the Classical method and has some really good ideas about having a circle time. I haven't met her personally, but hope to next year. The church she attends is part of our denomination and we'll be heading out to CA and attending presbytery.

Kristine said...

I thought you might enjoy Brandy's Blog, Afterthoughts.
She subscribes to a classical education (not Dorothy Sayers classical) and is a fan of Charlotte Mason. She claims that the two mesh beautifully. I'm ready to read a book myself she recommended about classical education called Poetic Knowledge by James S. Taylor.
I am an admitted CM fan and use Ambleside, which I love, but I am interested how CM is not the opposite of classical, but how a CM education is truly a classical education, in its original sense.

Wishing you a lovely journey educating your little ones.

Love your blog name :)