Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Home-school House Fixer-upper


Bio of my guest blogger today

      I had a dilemma. No question about it. The real kicker? It was a mess of my own making…to a degree.
Two issues plagued me. The house that was supposed to be a refuge for me and my family more closely resembled a disorganized storage facility than a home. The other issue involved homeschool. My oldest son, Josiah, a.k.a. Joe, was mottling through his first grade year while his little sister, Morgan, plunged into Kindergarten with a fervor unrivaled by any four year old I knew. Joe was struggling but accomplishing what he needed to do in a day’s work and I figured that after a few months he’d grow accustomed to the new curriculum. Little did I know my high hopes were about to take a nose dive.
Every day became a fight with Joe. He came to understand the lessons he needed to learn. But he also came to despise them. It would take him an hour to do half of a worksheet. A parent might accept that if the worksheet were teaching a concept their child struggled with. For Joe, it was handwriting, and he knew what to do. He just didn’t want to do it. That quickly became the norm with every subject. I’d be forced to hover over his shoulder the entire time just to get him through one worksheet. This process included yelling, temper tantrums and desk pounding – most of it on my part, and it almost always ended with Joe proclaiming, “I hate school!” Six o’clock in the evening rolled around and Joe would only be halfway through his work for the day.
It was bad enough that I couldn’t come up with a way to get Joe through school without a fight, but nothing else was getting done. After spending an entire day at odds with him, I was too discouraged and worn out to deal with house work. Although I knew my husband understood my predicament, I couldn’t help but feel like a total failure to him and my kids.
Fellow homeschooling mothers offered me great advice. I took in every bit of it, then set off to apply it to my frustrated son. Some ideas were flat-out failures. Others lasted for a few days to a week. But nothing lasted. I’d like to say that when all hope seemed lost, my salvation came upon me in this bright light of revelation. But it wasn’t quite like that.
I lay awake in bed one night, pondering my predicament. After hours of tossing around, an idea came to mind. It was one I’d thought of before but never did because I figured it would be a flop, same as the rest. After reconsidering it, though, I decided to try it out the next day.
That morning I announced to the kids that we were going to do something different. Then I laid out the rules of our new homeschool “game”. They were to pick out their first subjects for the day. Then they were given a choice of any room in the house to work in, even the bathrooms. But they had to


agree on a room for all of us to start in. Whatever room they picked, Mommy had to clean in that room until one of them finished their subject. The first one to finish his or her subject got to pick the next room for us to work in. The kids loved this idea and promptly agreed on Joe’s room. Of course, what kid wouldn’t want their mom to clean their room while they did homework?

Morgan finished first and chose her room next. So the day progressed and we went from room to room, the kids working while I cleaned, pausing now and then to give instruction. Even my one-year-old son enjoyed playing on the floor in each place. When my husband returned from work that evening, the house was by no means spotless, but much cleaner than when he left. And to top it all off, Joe finished his schoolwork by 4:00 that evening. The results were not astounding, but I was thrilled regardless.
The kids still love the game and we plan to continue using it from here on out. I would highly recommend it to any homeschooling parent or those who send their kids to public school and struggle with the homework routine. By God’s grace, our home is slowly transforming into a sanctuary again and this frazzled Mommy can finally take a guilt-free break.

[About the Guest Blogger]
Melissa N. StrohFrom her youth, two things drove Melissa’s passions: a love of history and the love of a good story. She always desired that God would use both in her life, but never thought it possible. After two years in a mission-based Bible College, she felt Him calling her to pursue her dreams and aspire to become a historical fiction writer. For eight years she has studied early Irish History and the art of fiction writing. She and her husband reside with their three children on the family ranch outside Newcastle, Wyoming If you have any questions, you may contact Melissa at justajar@yahoo.com or post your comments here.]

8 comments:

  1. Having grown up in a home school family, I have seen and done my fair share of hating school and causing it to drag on all day. Your idea for keeping the children engaged throughout the school day and getting housework done is a stroke of brilliance! I pray that your approach continues to work and you get a well deserved break in your sanctuary. :)

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  2. A new follower from Bloggy Moms - thanks for posting :)

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  3. Hi! I'm a new follower via Bloggy Moms. Looking forward to reading more here.

    If you would like to visit, I'm at www.ithoughtiknewmama.com

    Have a great day!

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  4. What a fun idea! I'm considering homeschooling...my oldest is almost four...and this just sounds like a blast! I'm also a new follower--I saw you on MBC and love your blog!

    ~Carla

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  5. Heather, my hat is off to you, mate. You stuck it out until that epiphany gave you the answer to success. Good for you!! A psychologist friend once told me that bribery can work well in many situations where kids are a problem: and your solution WAS bribery of a sort.

    Depending on the age of your kids, you might like to look at some of my books and see if they, or the other authors I recommend, could be added to you list of possible bribes. Especially those that are thrfty eBooks - in rhyme, fun, and also educational.

    Books for Kids - http://www.margotfinke.com
    "Wild & Wonderful" 7 book rhyming series
    "Horatio Humble Beats the Big D" - dyslexia
    "Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind" about BIG changes

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  6. I homeschool - 6th year here. I got 2 kids with special needs and one who is pretty much ahead of the curve. It's so hard somedays. I am always tired. I like your idea, however, how would that work with kids in different levels? Do you wait until all the children are done with their work? I wonder if you said that whoever gets done first doesn't have to clean the next room with Mom if that would work. I want my kids to help me out and I think that is why I have so much work to do. They leave it for me! Shouldn't we be teaching our kids to be helpful too? Watching Mom clean...that doesn't seem like it would help me out. They do that all the time! LOL. Hats off to you though for making it work. I wish I had a better chore system or at least a better way to organize everything. It really is hard. I have cried on many days and just wanted to send the kids back to school so I could have a peaceful home..but I know that is just trading in one headache for another.

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  7. This is one of the reasons that I would be afraid to homeschool my son. He is in a Christian school right now. He gives me a hard, hard time when we're working on Homework together. Next year, we'll be in a public school. As of right now, he doesn't want to be homeschooled. I will see how things happen next year and if I'm happy with his behavior and performance. Congratulations on finding something that works for you Melissa!

    Heather--Following from Bloggy Moms!
    Michelle
    http://www.heartfeltbalancehandmadelife.blogspot.com

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  8. Melissa N. StrohFeb 1, 2011, 10:37:00 PM

    I'm glad that so many of you enjoyed this article. Michelle (who has homeschooled much longer than I!),you can alter this game to work any way you want. That's one of the joys of homeschooling. You just tailor it to fit your needs and your family's. I think it's a great idea to try and incorporate the kids in cleaning too. So by all means change it up. Offer rewards and or penalties for the results you get from your kids. Maybe one motivation works for one child that wouldn't work for another. You as the mom knows best. Most of my discoveries have been trial and error. And although that can be challenging at times, I think most homeschooling mothers can attest that it's often times through the challenges and the experiments that you find the best break-throughs. As for kids with different needs, it's hard for me to say. My daughter gets her work done super fast and loves to work, so she is often times the one reaping the rewards. But if I can get her to go find something constructive to do after her work is done, that gives me more time to focus on Joe and help him in the areas he struggles with.

    Hope that was helpful!

    Melissa N. Stroh

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