Friday, September 9, 2011

How I Do It - Althea

One of the many things I love about homeschooling, is the fact that we can all do it differently, tailoring our efforts to the individual needs of our own children and household.  Today you get to meet an amazing friend of mine, the mother of four (beautiful!) children - Lilly (7), Judah (6), Samuel (3), Juliana (6mo).  Here is a woman who unfailingly stands by her convictions, with grace and meekness of heart.  This is how Althea Does It.

Me:  Why did you make the choice to home school?

Althea:  My first year of college when I was deciding on a major, I considered the things I liked at the time; Biology, dance and a few other things.  Then I felt a calling on my life to teach.  I knew I was passionate about children and teaching them I also couldn't wait to be a mom.  That year I decided to home school because I could do what I had a passion for mothering and teaching.
Me:  What is your typical daily schedule?
Althea:  I don't really say I have a daily schedule, I like to say more a routine because for the first few years of homeschooling I tried to have a set schedule then fail at keeping one, try again and fail, try again and fail again.  I am also not a morning person as much as I have tried to force myself to be one, so I decided to give myself some grace in this point.  I have a routine, so that the kids know what is coming next and I don't have questions all day.
  • Kids wake up and do their morning chores.
  • Eat breakfast (sometimes Lilly will help her brothers get cereal, if I need more “grace” that day)
  • I shoot to start school at 8:15-8:30.  Lilly and Judah start their video school and I feed myself and Juliana, this is my charge up time.  Samuel usually wants to do his “school”  which is either sit with his brother for a few minutes or I have a few books for him to work on, a dry erase book with letters, a sticker book or a coloring book.  He can also do some cutting practice if he wants. 
  • The rest of the morning the older kids continue their videos, taking a break between the first 2 videos for about 15 minutes.
  • About 11:30 they are usually done and have free time while I prepare lunch.
  • About 12:00  Lunch
  •  After lunch I have quiet reading time with Samuel and Juliana while Lilly and Judah clean up lunch and do any afternoon chores, they have free time until I am done with my littles.
  • About 1:00.  This is my time to focus on the older children.  Lilly and Judah finish their videos, I grade papers and prepare for the next school day any materials they may need. We go over tests together and see and work on improvements.  I have one on one time with Judah to work on his reading and math.  On some days we do an art project.
  • Finish about 3:00.

Me:  How do you organize your space?
Althea:  I do have a school room, I totally love it!  When we worked at the kitchen table I found that we were having to clean up and re-set whatever we were working on at the time for lunch or dinner. It also made for more clutter all over the house because things would migrate themselves all over.  With the school room I keep the mess contained, its easy to drop and pick up a project and I can always close the door to the mess!
There are a ton of organization tools out there from work boxes to file folders.  I tend to keep things as simple as possible.  We have a system of  a basket for their books and workbooks, a pencil case and a folder.  Their folder has on one side their work for the day and on the other their done work to be graded. 

I have to give a shout out to  They have every chart, graph, and list you need for home school administration and household organization.  I use it constantly!
Lilly, my third grader, is very easy to homeschool.  She can pretty much school anywhere in the house, although I would rather her in her own school space I have made for her in her room, again keep down that clutter!  

Judah, who has a brilliant imagination, is very fun to be around but can be difficult to keep on track.  He needs consistency.  I'm talkin he needs the same chair in the same place and school to be done at the same time everyday.  I found this out the hard way his kindergarten year.  He actually thought he was going to some sort of garden, got to love him.  I was pregnant at the time,  homeschooling a second grader, and had a toddler.  We were all over the place, doing a few things here and there and skipping many days resulting in complete amnesia of everything we had taught and many melt downs.  I finally figured out his trick:  Consistency.

Me:  What has been the biggest benefit that you've seen so far to homeschooling? The biggest drawback?
Althea:  The benefits of homeschooing have really been surprising to me.  When I first started it was all about what curriculum you were using and phonics or whole word, math u see or memorization.  It sent me in circles.  I found that in time, for me, homeschooling is not really about the academics, although there is plenty of that.  It's really about the home - building relationships, shaping hearts, magnifying strengths and working on weaknesses.  The curriculum is just a tool to bring out all of this.  
The other revelation is how homeschooling refines my character.  I am with these guys 24/7.  They are a reflection of me, good or bad, sane or insane.  If there is a character issue in one of them it is usually because they are magnifying me! Ouch!  I'm always having to search my heart, like all the time!
The biggest drawback and benefit is that these kids are with me ALL the time.  Grocery shopping, doctor appointments, out to eat whatever I always have a line of kids behind me.  I even labored at the hospital with my three oldest for four hours.  Not exactly my plan, but it worked out fine.  Its hard to be “on” all the time.  Some days it's just fine to take your time around Wal-Mart pointing at all the colors and looking at the toys, but sometimes you just want to get your spaghetti sauce and get out of there, and it's never that easy.  I try to keep mindful that things just take more time and I should always plan ahead and expect hold ups.  On the flip side I get help bringing in groceries, doing dishes, dressing the baby and toddler.  We are a team.  We work together to make the home!
The best advise I ever got was when I was overwhelmed with making sure my kids were getting everything they needed academically, I was comparing homeschool to the education they would be getting at a traditional school, you know, 5 subjects as well as music, PE and library.  A good friend told me that homeschooling is not about bringing the school to your home.  It's about the home, and you do school as part of the home.  As homeschoolers we tend to be over achievers and can be hard on ourselves.  I try to live by grace and enjoy my kids!

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