Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaching From Rest: How we are changing the way we homeschool this year

So, this is a big thing with Catholic homeschoolers right now, teaching from rest.  Sarah Mackenzie over at Amongst Lovely Things wrote a book called Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace.  I bought it and read it at the beginning of the summer, and I immediately thought, "This is our problem!"  We've been focusing too much on getting things checked off on our list and on breadth, AKA "doing it all," and we have neglected the fun in learning, the flexibility in homeschooling, and the depth that I truly desire for the children's education.  We missed the boat!  So missed the boat.  I couldn't even see the boat anymore.  What boat?

Oh yeah, the one where I teach my kids how to learn and enjoy doing it.

So I scrapped my entire organizational system for their assignments.  It was hard.  I loved having every assignment written out for every day because the kids could easily do their independent work without asking me what needed to be done.  I loved it because it was all done at the end of August and I only had to worry about some supplies for experiments and library books during the school year.  I loved it because it showed me how much we were getting accomplished every day, all year long.    I loved it because it was a pretty list, and I love lists!

But it just wasn't working.  Yes, we got it all done even though I never once remembered to allow for snow days or sick days or even holidays, for crying out loud!  That meant we did double time when one of those things happened.  And they always do with a  family of three school aged kids and two little disrupters.  The biggest problem was that the girls started to really not like school.  It was all about getting it done so they could move on to the thing they really wanted to do.  We finished the 42 weeks of history in 36 weeks, but did they master it?  Probably not.  Did they get to dig into a part of history they found interesting?  Ain't nobody got time for dat!

What I did not want in changing this schedule and the entire way we did things is to scrap all preparations on my part and have to prepare the night before.  I still love lists and organization.  So I kept the lists, but changed them.

I no longer wrote a week schedule that looked like this, with every date planned down to the tee, so that we could do a field trip or take a snow day with the rest of the neighborhood kids.

Instead I have a weekly checklist that looks like this, with the number of times I aim for them to do each subject marked with boxes to check off as they do them or we do them together on whatever day they choose.  (I left off History, Science, and Religion which I will explain later.)  If there is a missed day of school, we just put a line through one column so there is no catch up.

Then I made lists of assignments for each subject.  Here is an example from math.  I listed everything, even when I wanted them to practice multiplication facts.  This way when they know they need to do math, they can check to see if it is independent work and get started if it is, or save it for when I'm available to help.

Another change I made was not trying to do all 42 weeks of history or the entire science book.  Basically, I decided finishing the texts was no longer a goal of mine.  This was super hard since I am a perfectionist, especially when it comes to homeschooling (and cake decorating.)  How could I skip over the Opium wars in history or studying torque and electromagnetism in Physics?  The answer is simply this.  They are in the first, third, and fourth grades.  They can get to that later.  They are never going to remember it all anyway even if I squeeze it all in now.  I had to have Brian's help with this hurdle.  He went through both history and science texts and marked out the things he felt were not important enough to squeeze in now.  For history, I compromised a little with still reading over the chapters that he marked out, but not going further into them by making outlines, map work, and taking tests over them like I have them do for the more important chapters.  We have less to cover and, therefore, can slow it down and enjoy the ride a lot more.

Finally, and the portion that still needs tweaking, is the addition of Morning Time with a looping system.  Morning Time is time when I am reading and or teaching them all together.  Looping is rotating which books or subjects we do during Morning Time each day.  I don't do history on Monday and Wednesdays.  Now I do it whenever it comes up in the loop.  I try to do our Morning Offering prayer, a part of their memory work, and a short religion lesson before starting the loop.  My loop looks something like this right now, but I am planning to alter it a bit.

Religion Reading
Religion Reading
Physics Reading
Physics Experiment
(and repeat)

I want to add in poetry and Shakespeare, but we are not quite having enough time yet.  This is recommended to be the first thing in your morning, but it is too hard with Drew and Judah right now to do it then.  We've been aiming to start soon after I get Judah down for his morning nap and Drew settled for his hour of Room Time, but even that is hard since by then the kids are all working on independent work.  It is sometimes easier to pull one out and do math or grammar with him/her than to make them all stop what they are doing.

How is it actually going?  It took us a couple of weeks to get the new system going, and there were many days when I wanted to scrap the whole thing.  The only thing that kept me from doing that was the amount of time it takes me to set up the weekly sheets that we used to use.  We started school late as it was, and I did not have time to go back and rework all my checklists into my previous table format.

Just this last week, though, Genna said, "I like this new way of doing school.  Can we do it this way next year too?"  Yay!  Isaac and Hannah quickly concurred.  I didn't even realize that we had made so much progress in the way of attitudes towards school.  At the beginning, they were not as excited about the change as I was they didn't understand that I really would just let them finish their math assignment up the next day if it took them more than an hour to do.  They had become very task oriented with a "must check it off my list" mindset with which I am so plagued.

So the attitudes are better, but am I teaching from rest with an unshakable peace?  Ummm, no.  Just today, I had my old habits creep up on me, and I think maybe demons were whispering in my ear that I must get Isaac to understand borrowing today or I am failing as a homeschooler.  Why can't he work on it again tomorrow or tonight when his dad gets home with a fresh perspective and a lot more patience than me?  Why can't I call it quits when he's had enough?  I can, and I should have.  Hopefully, I am getting there though.

Grant me peace, Lord.

1 comment:

The Pilots Wife said...

I am so thrilled for your family! Sarah has changed our lives too. We are having the best school year ever and I can still see we are making progress, it's just so much more gentle. Oh, I still get crazy too, but overall, those days are getting less. Now if I could just let go of having a perfectly picked up house (which is crazy in the making with 5 kids!), then victory would be mine. :) Keep on keepin' on. The Lord will multiply your efforts to bring joy and peace to your home.