I am the wrong person to be writing this. Let's just get that out in the open right now! And lately it feels like our home is the perfectly wrong place for an encouraging post about patience to come from. So maybe that's why it's on my mind.
When we started homeschooling, we slipped right into a schedule, the kids got done early most of the time, and we all loved it. The second year was almost as great. Third and fourth year... well I've got some new ideas to put into place before we start the fifth year. I'm tired of feeling like I'm nagging.
In May, my kids were taking anywhere from 1-3 hours extra to finish school and chores each day. I was frustrated because they were taking away my personal time, which meant I was not able to exercise daily anymore, and I was getting behind on my responsibilities too. The kids were dilly-dallying with their work and not staying focused on anything. I thought once school was done, things would improve. It has not. They have a tiny bit of school work to do each day, and the same chores as always. Yet it's often taking LONGER to do it than ever! I'll admit, I've yelled and I've locked myself in my room for a personal time out. And I've gone through these questions a few times.
- Evaluate why you are requiring/doing this. - What is the purpose behind requiring this thing? The floors must be swept every day, or the summer math supplement needs to be done. Or does it? Pin down exactly why you are requiring this to be done.
- If it's necessary, is there a better way? - We were using a program to review for a few weeks, and it seemed like it would work for the rest of the summer. Plus, we had it... so why not make use of it? But it wasn't the best way for that child to learn. There was something else that interested her more, that accomplished the same goal, and took less time. We switched and now she gets done in a reasonable amount of time. If something is not necessary, let it go.
- Could I set a better example? - I love to read. I often have a book with me during the summer. But.. when I get up and read while eating breakfast, the kids see that and want to do it too. That puts us all behind because breakfast goes slower, we get pulled into the story and don't want to put it down to work. If I want the kids to focus on responsibilities first, then I better do the same.
- How can this become a learning experience? - I have promised the children a day at the splash pad soon. It's at a specific time so I can meet with other homeschool moms, and that time is exactly after we SHOULD finish up our daily responsibilities. I have a choice... if someone is not done I can tell them to finish after we get home. Or, I can say, "I'm sorry, you didn't do what you said you would." Sometimes our kids have to fail to be able to improve. That is hard for me.. I want to make everything right, but they don't learn anything when I don't let them experience failure. Also as important, recognize achievements. When they do climb that step they've been working on, notice! And ask them how they feel about it!
- Choose how I react. - The "natural man" (woman) wants to get upset and say why didn't you listen/focus/complete? But that rarely works. It's better to say "I see that you are having a difficult time. Do you know why? Can I help you figure out why? How do you think you'd like to change this situation?" If they need, give them words. Then follow up. And help. Do it with them if they're having a hard time because they actually don't know what's required (even if you have taught them before. It probably won't stick until it's been done 50 times with you). This has the added benefit of helping kids work through and recognize emotions, then express them in a healthy way.
I've got my list of changes ready for the next school year, and I'm still looking for ways we can improve. We'll see how it goes.