Homeschooling with Excellence No. 11

Battling the Stress of Homeschooling: Some Real, Live Users Tell What It's Like

Every day we have a number of discussions about how using Sonlight Curriculum works in practice. Because this is such an individual experience, and because it is such a large question in so many people's minds, we thought we should take some time to quote many people's thoughts, questions and comments here.

Overwhelmed by the Schedule

Q: Jen in Indiana wrote

I find that I really need to take individual time with all my kids. I need to hear each child read to make sure I'm up to speed with their ability. We do history, spelling, and science all together. We do math — but I end up doing it individually with each child if I want to really get the concept across, because of the way they learn so differently. One of the twins is very creative and absent-minded. She takes forever to do anything — math, handwriting, phonics. The elder twin is very independent, but I don't want to ignore her.

It's taking from about 10 AM to roughly 4 PM to get school done daily. I'm having trouble fitting in dictation, which I really want to get in because their handwriting really needs work. Spelling Power is only taking about 20 minutes total. It is starting to feel as if something's gotta give. We already are doing a lot of our history orally, with them reading the text in sections and then answering questions. It's great stuff — very interesting and all, but it takes forever!

Do I just need to set a timer for each subject and then put "homework" in folders for later? I have a feeling that this wouldn't entirely solve the problem, since I'd have to be helping with the "homework." They're all frustrated with reading, even though we read aloud and they love that. They just don't like to read themselves.

I'd like to streamline this so that if we started around 9 AM, we could be done by 1 PM. Is this even possible? Do I just need to schedule some subjects once a week, and hit them hard then?

I'm not at my wit's end yet, but I don't want to get there.

A: Nancy in Georgia replied,

It took my daughter two hours to do one math problem this morning! I know it was a battle of wills. She was bored and wanted me to give her the answer.

I understand your desire to give each of your children individual attention. I think that's great! My daughter is using the one-year E program, and I also have a 5-year-old son doing Sonlight A. He gets left out a lot because I have to sit with daughter to get her to work. I have lots of workbook pages that I let him work on, and he has gotten to the point where he lets me know when he is and is not ready for more work.

I'm using the sentences from Winston Grammar for dictation. How about dictation from the sentences used in Handwriting?

I'm doing as much as I can every day; some days more work than others. If you want to decrease your day, the homework thing sounds good. If you've given them the one-on-one attention, a little independent work wouldn't hurt.

I find we all hit a brick wall around 3 PM. I'm trying for a 9 AM to 2 PM school day. Some days it's 10-2 or 3. Sometimes our reading or read-alouds are at night. Some days my 5-year-old does a week's worth of math or phonics at a sitting.

You are correct in thinking that each child should be taught according to his or her learning style. As for yourself, when you do get to your wit's end, take a break from teaching. You'll have a chance to let the lessons sink in and have time (hopefully) to refresh yourself.

You have a lot to juggle.

A: Karen in Michigan added her two cents:

Lots of us out there can relate to your struggle, Jen!

I advise you to pick what you think is most important and establish those things well. Then add things as you go. When everybody gets really tired of doing the same things every day, put those subjects on hold for a while and cover any areas you were missing. For example, you might want to wait until November to start with narration/dictation, or change it to copying instead of penmanship for a while.

I have been working mightily to restrain myself from my "need" to check off every box. As a result, we are having a much better year. I decided not to even start science and creative writing until October, but to ease in. This has really helped. My son is accomplishing quite a bit in less time and we both feel good.

Also, make yourself take something off every time you add something. It is such a full program already. I just about killed my son and myself last year with "supplements."

Relax and enjoy! You'll get there.

Jen's Reply

Jen then replied to the advice she had received (not only from Nancy and Karen, but from others as well).

I really appreciate every one of you who has said, "Do what you can and forget the rest." — How important that is to remember!

I always tend to think that I need to check off every little box, and it's an extra step for me to remember that this is my curriculum for my kids.

I have been picking and choosing, and sending them outside to play and climb the tree when we hit that brick wall around 3 PM. We've been taking short breaks, and only spending around 15 minutes on each segment, with finishing up the worksheet or whatever later.

I've already shaved off about two hours of our school day, and that alone has helped immensely. Thanks again, each one of you. Sometimes I think I just need another adult to give me permission to adapt things.

Did you catch that? Do you need "permission"? — Request granted! Remember: you have permission to adapt things!

Kate F added the following note, which should be encouraging to anyone who feels overwhelmed with doing all of the questions in the Instructor's Guide.

Please be aware that while Sonlight has included many study questions as helps in the Guides, they are there as a courtesy to Sonlight's clients. They are NOT required to benefit from Sonlight's programs. The crucial thing is the natural sharing that goes on when you read and interact with your child. You'll find LOTS of parents who don't use the questions at all.

The questions and notes were put in the IGs for parents who asked for such helps. TO THOSE PARENTS they are helpful. They are the ones who like a more structured, school-like approach within Sonlight. Many of us are satisfied to react "off the cuff" with the materials and thus share, ask questions, etc. that WE come up with.

So if you don't do all of the study guide questions, or even ANY of them, that's OK.

Needs Encouragement

In response to one mother who needed encouragement, Carrie listed the following suggestions. We hope you find them helpful when you get stressed as well.

  1. Stop school all together while doing a report with the older kids. Just take off two or three weeks and work on nothing but the report. Do this once a year (summer?) and your kids will have plenty of report writing experience.

  2. Do one of the extras each week. Pick one week as dictation week and give dictation to each child one time. The next week can be creative writing week. Pick one creative writing assignment for each child. Do one or two children a day.

  3. Place one child in charge of the timeline (start next year, not now), be it the book or wall type, and put another child in charge of the wall map. You could rotate the assignments between the older children. Pick just a few of the most important figures/places to post.

  4. Forget the above (3) all together. Get the timeline Wall Chart available from God's World Books and just find the event/person on the already printed chart. Also, get a decent globe and keep it with you as you read, have a child look up each place you come to and show to everyone else.

  5. Get the Geography Songs tape and book from the 2nd grade curriculum. Have the kids learn the songs and find the places on the maps in the book and on the wall map or globe.

  6. Did you do weekly creative writing, timelines, dictation, etc in school? Yes, we want something better for our kids, but let's keep it in perspective!

  7. John says there is more work in the manual than most kids need; and your kids are learning things just from being a part of the family that can't be taught elsewhere.