Aaaaaaand we’re (finally) back with Round 2 of our Q + A with some follow-up questions that I get asked often here and on social media.
Q: So, what’s happening with your little kids while you homeschool?
A: I get asked this A LOT because (I assume) I have a lot of kids, and many of them are fairly small, and I keep replacing the littlest ones, soooo…it stands to reason that there’s always an ankle-biter or two around to gum up the school-works.
Surely, I have some sort of ingenious entertainment system going for the littles by now, right?
Eh, sort of.
Truth is, in my almost 9 years of homeschooling, I’ve never worried too much about doing something particularly special with the little ones…because I haven’t had to.
Either they’re playing or eating or sleeping.
Behold “the cup drawer”–AKA: entertainer of all the babies.
Can they be disruptive? Yes. Do I often teach with a baby on my hip? Yep. Have there been times that I have turned on a show for an hour just to get some peace and quiet with the older ones? Definitely. But that’s not the norm. We don’t do any tablet time, so for the most part, my littles have to learn from an early age that they need to play relatively quiet near us, or they will need to go in their rooms and sleep/”read”/play alone. Obviously, this could backfire very quickly with a 18-month-old alone in his room, so the solo play option typically starts around age 3. Up to that age, there’s a lot of napping, coloring, snacking, and “reading” going on.
At this exact moment in our homeschooling journey, Honor goes down for a nap around the same time that the older ones start their independent work (10ish). And Theo is fairly content to play with a toy or two or “read” or jump on the trampoline or eat a snack or play with play-doh or color or have me read to him in between helping with math or sit on the floor and half-listen when I read aloud to the others, etc. Usually, it’s a steady succession of all of the above because, let’s face it: he’s little, and nothing holds his attention for very long.
I’m not the mom who scours Pinterest for toddler activities. As in pretty much every other aspect of my life, I do better with the basics. But if you are, you’re amazing! Seriously.
Also, remember that we hire my mom to help with the kids (especially the older ones) two days a week, which is super rad. I don’t feel particularly crazy with the smaller two around most days she’s not there, but I’m certainly not complaining about the help. Sometimes, she’s home with all the kids by herself if I have an appointment (I hurt my back a couple of months ago and have had regular chiropractic appointments on one of the days she comes), and it’s amazing to have someone who can hold down the fort while I’m gone.
Again, I don’t feel like we would die without her help, but I sure wouldn’t want to find out for sure!
Q: What kind of teacher training–if any–do you have? How do you teach subjects that are not your strengths?
A: I have a Double BA in English and Spanish with a secondary teaching certification (which never expires in Texas). I ran across a thread about my blog one time while I was trying to search for a specific blog post on Google, and the participants were–how shall we say–skeptical about my ability to school my children well, given my qualifications (or lack thereof, in their opinions). The one thing they did approve of was my hiring my mom to help (although they were further skeptical about whether I ACTUALLY pay her–I do), since I had mentioned that she has a teaching degree.
Well, let the record show that so do I.
But let the record also show that I do NOT think that matters or is necessary in any fashion to teach your own children. Is it helpful? Probably. Certainly can’t hurt.
But I can honestly say that some of the most creative, innovative, and effective homeschool moms I know have zero experience in the teaching world. Some have no formal degrees whatsoever. And yet. They are teaching their kids excellently.
Of course, neither am I saying that a lack of teaching experience or degree is some kind of badge of honor or learning authenticity. I’m just saying that I haven’t found it necessary for success in homeschooling in my experience (both as a homeschooled student, friend/observer of fellow homeschoolers, and homeschool teacher).
As far as subjects that I struggle with, I haven’t found anything (YET) that I can’t conceptually teach. But! My oldest is only in 6th grade. And there are definitely areas where I am weaker in terms of interest/ability (advanced math and sciences come to mind…I’m a word girl).
Thankfully, as my kids get older and continue on to more advanced subject matter, I have massive resources at my fingertips to help me–homeschool co-op teachers, my husband (who is an advanced math guy), my mom, THE INTERNET (seriously, YouTube has some pretty awesome videos on just about every topic under the sun), video courses, dual-credit college courses. The list goes on.
I skipped my last two years of high school and started community college when I was 15 because my mom didn’t see much point in my repeating Biology, A&P, Chemistry, Algebra, etc. It worked for me, and I excelled in that environment (I’m a nerd who is the daughter of a nerd, and school has always come easily to me). It wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone. It doesn’t have to. Flexibility and customization are two of the beauties of homeschooling!
Basically, I’m happy not to have to be the sole source of information for my children’s education.
Q: What do you do when your children fight–either with each other or you?
A: The shortest answer is: they don’t really. Oh, sure. They occasionally pick at each other or drag their feet. But they do not fight with or talk back to me. It’s not an option. The closest they come is whining. But even that is rare at this point. I would attribute this primarily to how intentional we are about child-training. Well, that and we TRY (don’t always succeed for sure) to make the focus on rejoicing always and having a thankful heart in whatever we’re doing. We also start 90% of our days with Bible reading, which helps set a great tone for everything else we do. Whatever all of the contributing factors, my kids don’t do too much belly-aching about school.
Neither to do they bicker very much. In fact, if I am occupied changing a diaper or giving Theo a snack, I often have the boys help Della with a math question or Della help the twins with a reading snag. They kind of love the responsibility and are generally happy to help.
The (general) lack of bad attitudes definitely makes our school days both more productive and more enjoyable, and I am grateful for that. Also, my kids are a product of a straight-A geek (Shaun) and a straight-A nerd (me). I think academics is in their blood. I wouldn’t say that they love “doing school” (the math problems, the vocab drills), but they do love to learn, so they tend to hustle through the necessary parts without too much complaining to get to the parts they like (science and reading, for example).
At this point, our biggest teeth-pulling is writing. At least with the boys. Della loves to write (as long as she can write whatever she wants).
When you find three of the littles swinging in the “girl cave.” And you just want to ditch math and crawl right in with them.
Please hear me on this: I am NOT saying that my children never do anything wrong or that either they or I am perfect. We’re not. Not even close. I am simply trying to answer the question as it has been posed to me. Our biggest homeschooling woe is not fighting. I would say it’s laziness or sloppiness. (Which, if you think about it, is another form of a bad attitude so…).
Well, that wraps that up for now, but I’ll be back again soon. As before, feel free to ask any questions you still have or ones that were raised by this post. I’ll get to them all eventually.Like what you read? Like M is for Mama on facebook (pretty please?):