Friday, September 18, 2009

First Week of School

On Facebook and on the streets, I have been hearing parents talking about how happy they are their kids are back to school. Yes, those would be the parents whose kids leave the house for school! Almost all the homeschooling moms were dreading the first week of school, because it means that vacation is over and it's time to go back to work. Of course, there was excitement, too. We all homeschool for a reason, and if we hated having our kids around and couldn't stand helping them learn, they'd be in school!

This year marks a few huge milestones for my family. It is our 10th year of homeschooling. Rachel is doing her first year of high school work. It is the first year I am homeschooling every one of my children, and of course, this means that Emma began Kindergarten. She has spent the last couple of years wanting to be one of the big kids, asking for lessons and worksheets and everything else. Since she was 3, I have given her pages to color or a craft to cut and paste, or a book to look at and called it her schoolwork, although she was never fooled. She would insist, "No, Mama, REAL schoolwork!" Unschoolers would shake their heads at my kids, who really seem to enjoy having "real" assignments.

So this week we finally took the plunge (I waited as long as I possibly could to begin the year, even though the kids asked me things like, "Aren't you BORED of summer vacation yet?" and "When is this vacation going to be over?") and started on Monday. As always, Rachel had the best of intentions and once again has decided that she cannot sleep late because she has to get her work done--I'll give this a week more, maybe as long as a month--then she'll happily decide that a huge benefit of homeschooling is making your own schedule, and we won't see her till late in the morning again. We were all up and dressed and sitting in various places by 9:30 am, something else that won't last terribly much longer, as the younger kids will realize, as Rachel does with sleep, that one of the benefits to homeschooling is that they can play games in the morning and not settle down till 11:00 for their work, unless of course we have somewhere to be in the afternoon.

All in all, everything went well. I managed my time pretty well, giving Ben assignments he can easily do on his own, such as handwriting, spelling and math, while I work one on one with Emma. Julia sits at the breakfast bar or goes into her room to her desk, close enough that she can ask questions, but separate from the others. Rachel largely works up in her room, especially now that she has her own laptop. She did watch some DVDs down in the family room, but other than that she is quite independent. After Emma was finished with book work, she would go play and I would work with Ben on things like science and social studies and the harder parts of language arts. To my very pleasant surprise, he has been doing history independently, reading and making notebook pages--as assignment which last year had to be almost spoon-fed by me. Then I call Emma back and we do some things that I can teach to both of them at the same time, such as art, music and health--makes it easier for both the planning and the execution!

After they're all done, I turn my attention to Julia, so we can work together on a few subjects--French, parts of her language arts, and math. Math is her "least favorite subject," but she has discovered that she isn't so bad at it after all. We are speeding through a text that is meant for advanced 4th graders into 5th grade (she is in 5th grade now) and she is ecstatic to see that it is all review for her. I am hoping this builds her confidence so that when we begin her "real" 5th grade text, she won't be as tense with it.

And in my copious spare time, there are all the fun household chores, trips to the library, going to the gym, errands to run, and activities to attend--plus anything I might enjoy such as reading, chatting on the phone, playing a game with the kids, watching TV or a movie with Matt etc. This week we had two separate science classes at Brookhaven National Lab, a meeting to kick off Emma's Daisy troop, an afternoon with friends--and Julia has a party to go to tomorrow as well, so we have to squeeze in getting a gift sometime in the next 20 hours.

I am beginning to wonder if I have committed us to too many activities...but of course, with four kids I don't have a whole lot of choice! What I need is a longer day, but unless I change my biological clock completely and start going to bed and getting up much earlier than I prefer, I don't see THAT happening. Anyway, one thing this school year will not be is dull. Next week Rachel is babysitting, has a library teen program and a book club meeting, we are spending Wednesday at Fire Island with friends, we have a Foreign Lands club meeting with our homeschool group...and this is in addition to everything mentioned above. Thirty five weeks till summer vacation!

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