We fell off the wagon

Sort of. Even with a pretty decently planned schedule, with break times already incorporated in, both DS1 and I suffered from major burnout after block 3.

I felt, and still do feel, a little guilty about it. I know it’s all in my own head. He’s still just five. No rush, but it’s hard for me to read all these blogs with these moms and their schedules and curricula and getting all this stuff done and still having more children and blogging. I know it’s a show sometimes. I know different people do different things and that’s okay, but I suffer greatly from the comparison bug and it’s something I have to address within myself repeatedly as I walk this homeschool road.

That being said, I think DS1 is doing fine. We slowly tapered the writing off once he showed he could do it. We went from daily, to every other day, to once a week, to whenever he wanted to write something. Clearly he had the physical skills to do it, and after a while, the repetition only served to bore the ever living snot out of him. Same goes for math and reading, too, really. MUS is still a decent math curriculum in my eyes, but we both ran into a couple of issues with it. 1) the order of the chapters was weird to me and obviously did not flow in a way that really helped DS and 2) DS seems to be mathematically inclined enough that the work because very tedious for him.

Sadly, it took a few weeks for me to realize we didn’t have to follow the chapters exactly, or do the worksheets, or that I could teach my own methods for things and everything would be okay. For instance, when I was in kindergarten and 1st grade, I remember learning my math facts starting with 0 and working sequentially up. Finger counting was okay. DS seems to gravitate towards this as well, and so when MUS would go from learning addition with 0 to (I think) the 9 math facts, and then back down to a smaller number, it seemed strange. He also really, really objected to, when learning 9 addition facts, moving blocks around to make 10 and then adding the remainder, instead of just adding 9 to whatever. That extra step really slowed him down and irritated him. I tried to get him to do the method in the book but finally I realized I really didn’t like it either, and so I’ve stuck to just occasionally making a simple worksheet, but mostly just letting him do his own thing with legos and the manipulatives that came with MUS.

Reading also started to become a struggle. DS complained it was boring and that he hated it, even though I would stop lessons as soon as he started resisting. He’s just not interested in it right now. I also switch from 100 Easy Lessons to Alphaphonics, which I think presents sounds in a more logical way. Even though we only used it a few weeks before we set it aside, I think he appreciated the approach as well, and when he is ready for more formal training, I will use it again.

I’ve felt pretty guilty about dropping all of this, like I said, but my husband does remind me that the whole point of homeschooling is being able to tailor my son’s education to *him*. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that our homeschool will probably end up looking vaaaastly different than what I read about, but then again, maybe people who have homeschools like  mine don’t blog because it doesn’t look like we are actually doing anything.

Slightly tangentially, I’ve been reading a bit about different personalities and trying to use that information to help me with my sons. Initially it was all curiosity about myself. I took an MTBI test because I felt like I was insane and weird and got results that were actually really illuminating and helpful, so I encouraged my husband to take a test and also get very interesting and helpful results. I can’t make a five year old take a test, but I can become familiar with certain aspects of personality types that I think explain some of his behaviors and it has put many of my “oh gosh I’m not doing enough” fears at ease. I have a lot to say on that subject, and I’ve already written a whole lot here, so I’ll probably postpone that until I have the energy to write again (I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant and I haven’t been able to sleep in days), which will probably be in June.

So, I pulled my son out of CCD

Weird, I know. A few years ago, when I was involved in a Catholic Homeschool Mom’s group on Facebook, there were a few ladies who did their own Faith Formation at home, for various reasons. At the time, I was of the opinion that,
“Hey, it’s elementary school. This is when things are FUN. Why make a big deal out of little things?” Of course, I wasn’t in their shoes. I didn’t go to their parishes, and I didn’t know their particular circumstances or anything that may have happened, so I had no right to criticize any of their decisions.

I went ahead and signed DS1 up for Pre K 3 (and later, Pre K 4) CCD classes at our local parish on Mondays, and we all really enjoyed it. My son had fun and got snacks, and I liked that he was meeting other children and adults at church. I want him to have happy, fond memories of his childhood church, and I want church to feel like a second home, one where he can be at ease, and with people who are like family.

This year, for kindergarten, we decided to switch from Monday night to Sunday morning, since the timing of Monday’s class was terribly inconvenient, right in the middle of dinner time, and we were already going to be at church for Mass and breakfast  most of Sunday morning.

I don’t know if that day change contributed to the things I felt were problems. Monday’s class seemed to casual. I could stay for parties and things if I wanted to. Sunday’s class a semester later felt so formal and polished. Maybe it was DS1 moving up a grade. K is not a sacrament prep year, but 1st is, and he’s getting older and the materials and responsibilities had increased, and I don’t think Sunday even has Pre K classes (I could be wrong though). Maybe they didn’t like kids walking around, potentially disturbing masses. I don’t know.

My husband went to the orientation (a first for us. This was not a requirement for Pre K), so  I can’t speak to what went on there. I only know he came out feeling a bit put out, as if he had been spoken down to, or that he didn’t take his son’s faith seriously. We could have looked beyond that, though, if our son had lots of fun and seemed to be learning stuff in class. Maybe we just had some personality conflicts. My husband and I can be like that sometimes. We are a little stubborn and proud.

What set me off, disturbed me, and honestly sent me into a panic about my son in a way I’ve never experienced before, and why at that moment in time I knew he wasn’t going to be going back to this class, was when it was time for us to go pick him up at his classroom, and the door was locked from the inside. I have no idea if that seems strange, or dramatic or what. I just knew that for me at that instant, and every time I’ve thought of it since, it strikes me as incredibly wrong. There was a locked door between me and my baby, and I could not have access to him until *someone else* said I could have him. See, because of recent shootings, someone, somewhere, decided the church (and I don’t know what level this might have come down from, of it is just our church) needed to show some sort of response. I understand we want our children to be safe. I mean of course. But the decision to replace all the door handles on Sunday School classrooms with doors that only accept certain programmed key cards (not held by parents, of course) to open from the outside is TOO MUCH.

I was offended and angry. We had just spent an hour and a half being told that we, my husband and me, parents, were the primary educators of the faith to our children, that these classes were for fun and supplementary, but this locked door said something completely different. It said that, for this hour and a half, I was not properly qualified and vetted to have access to my son. That for an hour and a half, I was anywhere from a potential molester to a gun toting psychopath, and that he and the other children needed to be protected from me. I later learned that while I was welcome to sit in class with my son, I needed to take a Safe Environment class. To sit with my son. To make sure he was safe and being well educated. Just… no.

I realize this probably sounds nuts to a lot of people. Obviously, since the classes were sometimes over-full, I am an anomaly in my discomfort. Maybe this is how things are at normal public and private schools. Maybe it’s been like this for a while. I don’t know. It struck me as so incredibly wrong. I felt like these classes turned our happy, homey church into something like a prison. I know people just want to keep our kids safe from predators and people who could hurt them, but these kinds of rules are not based on statistics, or data, or facts. These decisions are based on fear and I just don’t believe this was the proper context for something like that. Up to this point, I had never been detained from my son. Not at the doctor’s, not at the dentist’s, never ever anywhere. He is FIVE. I am not willing to give up my son, not even for an hour, because of other people’s fear.

I’ve since emailed our priest and asked him about adding sacrament prep and faith formation to our homeschool as a formal subject. We already do a daily bible reading, and our son knows many prayers. Honestly, as far as actual knowledge of the faith, he’s probably ahead of what they’re doing in the K classes, so I’m not worried about our ability. I have found several curricula with the Imprimatur, and we are willing to jump through whatever additional hoops we may need to, according to whatever our priest prefers, since I know he is the one who must determine our son’s readiness when the time comes.

I didn’t mean to write a novel or sound like a nutcase. I was really looking forward to this this year for my son, but I just cannot compromise in this.

Block 2, or where we actually hit some stumbling blocks

I’m not going to go week by week like I did for the last block because I don’t think it is necessary, but I would like to do a general overview of our second month of homeschooling EVER.

The Verdict?

It’s glorious. DS1 is thriving and sharp. That isn’t to say we don’t something butt heads, but he is eager and willing and has yet to say he does not want to do school. In fact, when I say it’s school time, both he and DS2 run to the craft/school room and get ready. By the time I get there DS1 usually has his school books out and DS2 has his crayons or markers or legos and is (usually) happily playing away.

DS1 is now doing about one lesson per day from 100 Easy Lessons, although we often go a bit slower. Some days he is unable to concentrate after sounding through a few words, and so I’ll split the lesson into two. I think we are on lesson 39 at the moment.

His writing has really improved, and where we were just doing one or two lines from Copybook 1 from Memoria Press, he now regularly completes a full page a day. We have finally moved from the alphabet to memory verses.

Now that we’ve tackled place value in Math U See Alpha, DS1 is actually moving much faster than I thought he would. I have all of these explanations ready for him, but after I read a lesson he gets it, so all I’m left to do is just read his exercises out loud for him. We’ve finished through chapter 4, and that is with several days “off” where I let him watch some math videos or do mazes or dot to dots, and we did those because I didn’t want to start on chapter 5 until the next block.

I had originally decided against any kind of testing, but opted to use the test booklet from Math  U see for record keeping since it is so much smaller than the work book and the tests are exactly like the exercises. For DS1’s first test,  I had my husband administer it (I was worried I might interfere too much) over a span of two days, since 4 chapters worth of testing was a whole lot for a kindergartner. To keep things from getting too repetitive, and since we were doing four at once, I marked out questions that repeated the same concepts so I was just getting one example of each thing we’ve covered. DS1 did really well and showed mastery in everything. I was so proud I cried a bit.

Still, even with all of our successes, we hit some rough patches. This pregnancy zaps my energy and patience, and while I had initially tried to do a schedule where we started school by 11, I don’t actually get started until well after lunch time, sometimes as late as 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I had a few days where I was too sick to school at all, which is why I’m glad I built in the Friday make up day into our schedule.

Sometimes my 2 year old really messed things up. He often likes to try to make his older brother mad and will try to mark on lessons with whatever writing instruments he can find, which irritates DS1  (and me, too). If I don’t keep a close eye DS2 has a tendency to color on walls, desks, whatever blank surfaces he can find, and he can be pretty defiant about things. He likes to throw legos. You know the two year old drill. There are a few days now and then that he is cooperative and will color or build, but it doesn’t happen often. I think he is going through a bit of a developmental growth spurt, as he has started potty training successfully recently and added a TON of words to his vocabulary. Brain growth is bound to make anyone cranky. Plus, I’m trying to night wean because nursing with soreness at 24 weeks gestation is a nightmare.

Here are a few pictures

https://www.flickr.com/photos/91936282@N00/20778621330/in/datetaken/

At the library –