All good things must come to an end, and this week I forfeited my ability to milk sympathy for non-first world problems. Specifically: in a historic move, we've moved our house's technology 120 years forward by installing air conditioning.
You may recall that we have no ductwork, and that our casement windows make it impossible to run window units. The answer to this is a ductless mini-split -- air conditioning that runs directly to the outside. Welcome to the future!
|I confess I did not sleep well last night with this box hanging over my head, but doubtless I'll get used to it.|
Last week, on Monday, we had a great reckoning in which we summoned each child with appropriate schedule and schoolbooks and binder, and reviewed the year's work. Yes, February is rather a late time in the year to actually be looking at output, but the year so far has had some unexpected energy drains (cough*pregnancy*cough) and the long and short of it is that we left the older ones to follow their schedules, courtesy of Boxed Curriculum, while I focused my attentions on the younger ones who need more guidance. Well. Children wept as soon as the books were cracked, explaining why it was that in some subjects they were weeks or even months behind the schedule, how math took forever, how science was so hard to understand and the lab books were tedious, how the religion workbook didn't match up with the textbook, etc. Darwin and I listened gravely. I was not without sympathy for the children trying to navigate their way through schedules sometimes overpacked with busywork, but I also recognized something very familiar: the guilt of the child who has been caught out. I myself had times, in my homeschooling days, where I would have been very much in the same boat if I had been called out.
(I should note that each day I would ask, "Did you do your math? Did you do your science? Did you do your reading? Etc." and generally I was answered in the qualified affirmative.)
But something had to be done, and the first step was have every child bring every schoolbook downstairs and, for at least the first week, do their schoolwork in public, away from the lulling privacy of their bedrooms. The reason for this was two-fold. First, so that I could help right away if someone found something too difficult, so that work was not impeded simply for lack of understanding. Second, because there was an element of lost trust. Being able to do schoolwork privately, under one's own supervision instead of mom's, is a privilege that will need to be earned back with diligence.
This has worked fairly well. We're going another week with it, and will proceed a week at a time.
We also revamped the math plan. Saxon math is repetitive and can be a big time sink. To that end, we've established a two-lesson a day plan, working only the practice problems from the first lesson, and both the practice problems from the second lesson and only the odd-numbered review problems. This does take a quantity of time, but less time, perhaps, than it would without Mom's supervision.
The 9th grader has been assigned to help her sister with the 7th grade science book. This way the work is lightened by being shared with a sister, and both learn the information better by being able to quiz each other and do the lab work together. This week the 9th grader drew the grasshopper, and the 7th grader labeled each part, and both seemed content.
The religion workbooks, which I can really take or leave, have been set aside, and the ladies have been instructed simply to read the chapters and come discuss them with me.
I'm trying to be more diligent about pushing spelling, and the actual study of spelling words instead of just filling out the workbook pages. Same with handwriting -- those who slop it around the page have to go back and neaten up the work so that I can read it. (When I can't tell your a's and g's and u's apart, there's a problem.)
Also, for the first time in about a decade of homeschooling, I had a child today use an abacus. I was glad I never threw the thing out in a purge.
This all seems to be working fine, but it requires me to be on top of five children's work, instead of the usual two. That, along with the workmen and the early rising, has left me like the walking dead in the evenings. Everything extra that I usually do, like projects I've been asked to complete or German homework or writing a blog, has suffered.
Oh, did I mention I'm working on potty-training the three-year-old? He thinks his pirate pull-ups are dandy, and likes the idea of keeping the X treasure map dry, and will go if I make sure to sit him on his frog potty at regular intervals. Is he actually being trained? I dunno. I guess it's all progress. Check back with me over summer vacation when I'm sitting in air conditioned comfort with my new baby and underwear-clad three-year-old, and things will definitely be looking good.