Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Over Scheduling Kids - Summertime Activities

Most parents reach this dilemma at one point or another: Are you kids over scheduled during the summer break?

A lot of this will depend on your homeschooling style. Some homeschool families do not have a homeschooling program that keeps them doing curriculum year round. Other homeschool families will have a program that allows for a summer break. Others will have a schedule like mine and your kids should have a summer break but because you are flexible throughout the year you end up using your summer to finish up the work.

It used to be that I thought that working on school through the summer was all bad but the kids don't mind being in and busy during the heat of the day. They also don't fall out of the habits that we created during the traditional school year. I guess the bottom line is that there are pros and cons either way.

As for over scheduling: whether you have curriculum to finish or not how much are your kids doing during the summer? Is yours a house where the children spend all summer on video game systems or watching television? Or are they enrolled in every sport and music lesson possible as well as church activities, Scouting and community activities? It is a hard balance to find and naturally, as with all things, it varies with each child. I know that my oldest is capable of being much more busy than my third child. His energy level and attention span can take more.

There are also children that need more time with their parents than others. My kids are great about being home all day and just doing what is needed here but a few are more ready to be gone for a majority of the day and then my second born needs more time with me. He needs the time to talk, to be heard and understood and to feel like he is okay in his corner of the world. As a parent, I am flawed, and this is not always remembered but on my better days I try to make sure that his needs are met.

It is my opinion from reading and life experience that kids grow and blossom when they have structured activities that expose them to new things and new people. They learn new talents and their self esteem sky rockets.

On the flip side, children who are over scheduled and doing too much suffer from depression, anxiety, lack of self esteem and more. These kids feel like their parents would rather pawn them off on strangers and activities rather than sit and have a game of Uno with them. That just isn't right and no one in the family benefits from that.

The advice would be to ask the child what they would like to do. Be careful because some children are natural over achievers and will want to over schedule. You are the parent. You should always preface this kind of conversation with something like "I want your input on this but after hearing your views and ideas I need you to be respectful of the decision made on your behalf from parents who want what is best for you". Yes, that sounds like something out of Leave it to Beaver but you get the drift.

Kids need time to be kids, to get into mischief. It wouldn't even be bad if your children were not enrolled in any activities through the summer if you are disciplined enough to keep them away from the monitors in the house. Television, computers and video games are great but only in moderation. Perhaps you should start by analyzing what your children's natural tendencies are and then go from there. You will have a better idea of what they will do on their own and what may help break them out of it or help them get outside and be active.

Most of all, spend some time with your kids this summer. Don't over schedule yourself. Homeschooling is wonderful but just because you may be home all day to "school" them doesn't mean that you are always spending great time with them. My kids get excited just by me sitting through a movie with them and showing interest in it. They love to share those experiences. They even love it if we play a video game all together and laugh and play. Make your summer memorable and make memories together no matter what your schedule. Perhaps you should schedule your family time into your life.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Too much time at home and too much responsibility?

Today my worry is that because my children are home all day with me, do I expect too much of them? I truly believe that children should be taught to do chores, work together and know the value of hard work but I also know that it is okay for them to simply be kids, surrounded by kids their own age.

I worry mostly for my oldest because he is a typical oldest child. He takes a lot upon himself and even though I try to not overload him, he does have the most responsibility which is just the true nature of life and birth order.

Should he be going to school for hours each day to be a "typical" kid? But then, didn't we choose to homeschool so we didn't have "typical" kids? This is not to be negative at all about other forms of education so please don't take it that way. We personally homeschooled because my son was born right around the time of the Columbine High incident and I didn't want the bullying, the attitude, the extreme expressions of self that start earlier and earlier every year. I didn't want kids consumed with name brands, trends, cell phones, online socializing, etc. This is not to say that my kids are sheltered from all of this but I think there is more moderation and very little focus on these things.

Sorry to go on and on. Our family dynamic has changed and life has caused me to need more help from my kids lately. I worry that they carry too much and just want to be sure that there is balance. As with most days, I will give it time and think it over. I will watch them and try to get a feel of what the right path is for them and I will take it one day at a time. After all, that is the key to homeschooling. No matter how you do it, you have to take it one day at a time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Subject Blitz

Speaking with homeschool parents can be very interesting. It is fun to hear the varied answers to why they chose to homeschool, what curriculum they like or dislike, what their schedules are like and what extracurricular activities they like. It is also fun to know if religion was a factor in their decisions or if they include it in their curriculum.

In our homeschool group we have a wide variety of folks who all homeschool for different reasons and although a lot of us use the same curriculum, we use it in different ways. I recently came upon one family that knocks out a whole year's worth of one subject at a time. For example, they did a "history blitz" last year. They spent about one month and did multiple history lessons per day to knock out the whole year.

This peaked my interest. I asked many questions and was actually pleasantly surprised by the answers. I asked why they did it. The answer was that they had gotten behind in history and really just needed to hit it hard. They did not set out intending to only do history each day but the kids (four of them) all got so engrossed in the lessons and what was happening that they were loved the saturation. It was the topic of many a family discussion (most in fact). They did field trips and experimented with different inventions they learned of in times past.

Because of how this family handled it they were able to focus on one subject, let it be fun for the kids because they couldn't' get enough of the history and having it really become like a live story to them. They were reading for hours a day and loving it. They were excited to write because they loved sharing their thoughts and ideas on what had happened in history. Then they even managed a to throw in some science by reenacting some inventions and trying them on their own or brainstorming on ways to make them better with the tools available at the time.

I was impressed by this family and while my own children have gotten behind in history and science this year I suggested this summer that they do a blitz! They are boys so they love this word and think of football. I challenged them to see how fast they could knock out the lessons but also to see how well they could do at them while being fast about it. I don't want speed to take over quality.

We'll see how it goes and I will keep you updated. In the meantime, remember that it is worth while to talk with other parents and see what works for them, read online about the experiences of others. There simply is not just one right way to homeschool but different techniques and skills can be used as needed to enhance the experience. Enjoy your homeschool day!