The Great Homeschool Experiment: The Halfway Point

Well, day 90 of school is coming up soon. Almost halfway done! And the Great Homeschool Experiment has been going well in many areas!

When I started, I did kindergarten with both girls. My oldest is five, my youngest is four. But back in August they were on so many of the same levels that I figured, eh why not! This’ll be easy!

Verdict: Not easy.

Oldest took to kindergarten with a rocky start, but now is over halfway done with her reading book and plugging along. She’s a whiz at math and can add in her head. AMAZING! Her struggle is motivation. She wants praise so badly, but also stops working the moment you praise her. I’ve had to find a very delicate balance of being hard on her and telling her how proud I am of her work. After a lot of tears (mostly on my part. I think she’s cried over her work once or twice, but I’ve probably cried in the bathroom once a week), we’ve found the perfect balance of praise and instruction and it’s been an incredibly bonding experience for us. The trust that we’ve built with each other is so precious and something that I will never take for granted.

Youngest has been a struggle. Not just with her potential ADHD (we have a specialist appointment set up for this month, so if anyone wants to pray for that, I would appreciate it!), but she just wasn’t ready for kindergarten in many ways. She’s so smart and wants to do exactly what she’s sister is doing, but reading and math was very tricky for her. So in the fall, I went back and did a pre-k review with her, focusing on letter sounds and counting. We actually really only started kindergartener work after Christmas break. She’s doing alright with reading, but math can be a struggle. Which may just be a genetic thing since I am absolutely terrible at math. She’s so sweet and eager and chirps, “Oh! Yes, Mommy!” for almost every school instruction.

So what’s my take away from half a school year’s worth of homeschool?

I can do it! But man… it’s hard.

I feel like I’m doing a better job with my oldest. She has no learning hang ups or disabilities. The worst thing about her learning style is a propensity towards laziness. But she likes to do well. She’s not satisfied with her day if she only got “good job” stickers on most of her subjects. She likes the rewards of “excellent” stickers and loves to give her dad a good report about how she did. So 8 times out of 10, she pushes herself to do a good job. The other 2 times are characterised by sloppy mistakes because she’s not trying. But the results anger her, so she tries hard the next day.

It’s easy to work around these hang ups and this learning style because I’m largely the same way. I too have high expectations for myself, but sometimes don’t feel like meeting them. Once I see a lack of progress in myself, however, I push through. She’s just like me in that, which helps me a lot. I know just what to say to her to encourage her. We get each other and take pride in her good work together.

My youngest is a totally different story. I feel like I’m failing her in many ways because I don’t know how to teach her. Rewards don’t have much bearing on her performance. She wants to know that she’s loved, but she doesn’t care if I’m proud of her work. Some days, she wants to work hard and know the same things her sister knows. Other days, she just wants to get the work done. On a Monday, she might remember all her letter sounds and be able to sound out simple words. On a Tuesday, she could forget completely what sound A makes and insist that it’s an E. On a Wednesday, she could sit through a Bible story and tell you word for word what happened. On a Thursday, all she might tell you about a Bible story is that it’s about God. I struggle to keep up with the leaps of logic she makes sometimes and find myself swept up in the whirlwind of a very brilliant child with zero focus.

I’ve never taught kids with special needs. And she definitely has some needs that are not being met. I’m hopeful that once we get a proper diagnosis, I can find some tools to help me help her. I hate when I see her frustrated! There are days when she wants to focus, but just can’t. And that’s when the tears come in. She’s such a sparkling little girl, it’s hard to watch her get frustrated and shut down (and her version of shutting down is pretending to be an animal so that she doesn’t have to struggle through little girl jobs… it’s rough).

But through this experiment, I have learned so much about my kids. I’ve seen their hearts, for all the good and the bad. I know where they feel confident and where they’re nervous. I know their similarities and differences. I cherish these moments with them so dearly! We still have a whole half a year left and I’m excited for it! I’m glad they’ve had this opportunity to really learn at their own pace without the pressure of comparing themselves to other children. Whether they go to school next year, engage in a homeschool co-op, or continue to stay home, I’m confident that they are well equipped to learn and grow.

Gotta keep moving forward!

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