Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Guilt-Free Learning Notes, Week of August 31

Melanie is starting a new link-up called Guilt-Free Learning Notes, so that all us slackers can get with the program and actually keep a record of what goes on. I need all the accountability I can get, so here goes.

This year we're trying out a new thing: having Darwin write up weekly school assignments for the big girls. This is going well. Julia, 11, likes to know what she has to do, and to get it done. Eleanor, 12, needs the list to help her keep on track for getting anything done. I like being able to tell them to go check the list, and no, you're not going to play outside with friends until your work is done. We start our day with the Morning Offering and the Prayer to the Holy Spirit (my go-to school prayer), then we read the Mass readings, a reflection from the One Bread, One Body booklet (edited by my dear dad), and a chapter of Northanger Abbey. Then it's assigned schoolwork while I help the younger children, then dance on some days.

So, this week. Monday was Labor Day, so no work. Monday night I stayed up all night finishing Stillwater, so Tuesday was not exactly a lost day, but a sloggy day. Eleanor did not finish all her work; the little ones floundered around. I had not much patience. We might have had a good conversation, but I can't remember it now.

This week in history the girls were reading about Islam. Darwin has picked some challenging reading selections for them from high-school and college textbooks. The girls are floundering a bit with these, so I'm trying to have good discussions with them about what they're reading. Mostly, they remember that Mohammed had a daughter named Fatima.

Math is It's a popular option, and everyone works hard without complaining anymore, but it's not hands-off for me. I often sit by each girl (and Jack) as they do math, answering questions, helping to demonstrate the concepts, aiding in problem solving... They work the problems in their math notebooks; we need to work on neatness and organization. Their problems are all over the page, probably something that would have been trained out of them in school where you have to turn papers in all the time. Jack needs to work on writing his numbers.

Watching the big girls with their schedules, I think I need to write a weekly schedule for Isabel, 8. I feel like she gets lost in the shuffle of big girls with harder subjects and the little ones who demand a lot of attention.

The little ones demand a lot of attention, and yet I feel that they're not getting a lot of productive attention. I do reading practice with Jack (100 Easy Lessons, fourth time around), but we're not doing as much story time and fun reading time together. Diana, 4, sits in, and I have noticed her picking up some concepts, but I can see I'm not going to be able to lump her schooling in with Jack's. Jack needs far more writing practice than he gets.

Everyone needs more writing practice than they get. Eleanor has a natural facility with storytelling, but Julia struggles a bit in the translation from thought to written word. I'm trying to be mindful of handwriting practice, too, because wow.

We haven't started any poetry memorization or copywork or science or art appreciation.

What I like best in the week, and what I feel has been an unqualified success, is our morning(ish) routine of Bible and read-alouds. We discuss the Mass readings and the saint of the day, work on reciting the books of the Bible, and then read and discuss a chapter of Northanger Abbey. The girls are really following along well and picking up on motivations and themes, and they're becoming very good storytellers with a quick ear for the patterns of the story they're hearing. NA seems particularly accessible to young ears, especially since I can tell them about the conventions of gothic novels. They like Catherine Morland a great deal and often beg for extra chapters. This coming week we're going to finish the story and then watch the new BBC adaptation. I'd not wanted to show it to them before reading the story, partly because the movie makes some changes that seem too easy to me, and also because of the little gothic fantasies that the movie Catherine indulges in. I have two girls on the verge of romantic fantasy territory, so I really wanted to work the book's discussion of how foolish these fantasies are before we saw the movie's imagery.

We started dance this week. Yeah, lots of dancing going on. Organ doesn't start until October, but we have to get back into piano practice soon.

I know that interesting things happened this week, but I can't remember them all now. We watched scenes from Master and Commander. We prepared the house for a week's visit from my youngest brother, who will be recuperating at our house from back surgery. We talked about Harry Potter, and the Fibonacci sequence. We had several necessary conversations about honesty. We went to First Friday mass and the playground. We discussed how writing the last paragraph of a narrative is like solving a mystery because you pick up the clues from the beginning and middle and wrap them all together.

My big revelation for the week: I spend most of my day trying to hide from my kids. After each interaction (establishing someone in her lessons, doing reading with Jack, ending a fight, etc.), I find myself seeking out quiet minutes of nursing, or standing in the kitchen with a cup of tea and the paper, or shutting myself in the bathroom, or simply sitting in the living room shutting out the noise. I guess I've always done this, but I never noticed how often I try to get away from them. This did occasion some reflection on whether I should put them in school, but I don't think that would actually solve anything.

Also, this isn't news to me, but: I hate leaving the house. Packing six kids in the car, hustling around wherever we need to hustle, maneuvering this van around, getting people and their stuff and groceries or library books or sweaters or the diaper bag back inside, and I'm wiped. It is hard for me to maintain a day of schooling when we have to go out. I am tired and I just want a break afterwards, and the baby wants to be held all the time and people won't stop appealing to me.

Fine, I'll say it: I'M AN INTROVERT. I have to recharge my energy after leaving the house or dealing with my children. I don't know when I turned into this person, and I'm trying to figure out how to not become a total recluse in the prime of life, especially because the kids like to get out of the house now and then. I'm still trying to discern how I should structure my day to make the best use of my strengths and keep myself from retreating too often and leaving the children to run feral.


Catholic Bibliophagist said...

My mom had eight kids and she almost never left the house with all of them if she didn't have to. So don't feel inadequate. And she didn't even homeschool.

The following is meant as a suggestion, not a criticism:

In a large family it is easy to skimp on read aloud time for the younger members of the family because you've already read aloud the little-kid stuff with the older ones. (Rose tells me that there are books that she'd always heard us quoting, but did not remember ever hearing us read aloud.)

Right after lunch is a good time to do this -- or bedtime, two periods where it can help quiet people down. (Of course, maybe you're already doing this and just didn't mention it.)

Anne said...

I like that, hiding from the children. That perfectly describes what I'm always doing. I'm trying to reign it in this year as well. I think it's ok to be an introvert, at least I hope so, and I long for the cat behavior of teenagers, brooding and hiding, as I also brood and hide.

Rebekka said...

We were just traveling, all four of us. We were all together all the time. Slept in the same bed and I fell asleep between the two girls. On the way back home my husband succumbed to a late summer cold of death, which necessitated me removing the kittens from our apartment for hours on end instead of washing the Himalayas of laundry. Suddenly I felt like I just couldn't stand my whining and moaning three year old for one more minute and I realized that I hadn't been alone for more than ten minutes during the past week, except for potty breaks (showers had unwelcome visitors too). I'd rather hide from her on a semi-regular basis to recharge than have that feeling that I can't stand the sight (probably more like sound) of my own child. Plus it seemed like she could sense my irritation and it made her even more attention seeking and crazed, whereas after I'd had an hour alone with my smartphone and a nap, we made an apple crisp together and she was happy. So I guess the old saw about if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy, has a kernel of truth to it. At least, if *my* getting a break improves *her* behavior, I have a good rationalization, right?

Jenny said...

You're an introvert who likes to talk a lot. Embrace it! I'm the same: a chatty introvert.

Son Mom said...

I'm very similar - I don't homeschool, but over the summer, I had several moments of "Why are there so many people in this house?!?!" and I only have four kids :) My oldest, who is 14, is an extreme extrovert (though a quiet one - just like some people don't realize one can be a chatty introvert, it is possible to be a quiet extrovert) and I am always amazed at how different we are. She comes home from school all happy and energized and never could understand why I thought she'd want some quiet time in her room after she came home from school!

My youngest is 2 (almost 2.5, actually) and she is so intensely clingy that I've really been struggling with being able to give emotional time and energy to my other kids because the little one sucks up so much of it. She's still nursing at night, and doesn't want to let me out of her sight for more than 30 seconds - while the fourth time around, I know just how fast they grow up, I feel pretty tired after 2.5 years of this.

It's frustrating when I feel I can't give to mothering what I want to - anyway, your post resonated with me! Rest assured you're not the only mom who loves her children but sometimes feels the need to hide :)

Skywalker said...

Thanks for writing this! I think I'm about to go back to homeschooling in the next year or two. I already force my kids to have quiet time, so I can recharge, so perhaps it won't be so different. At least I'll be the one choosing the curriculum rather than complaining about how poorly done it is.