Wednesday, August 07, 2013

This is Going to be HARD

It is Wednesday evening, and everyone is in bed at 10:13 PM as I sit here amid little boxes of index cards with vocabulary words on them, a timeline for Inca and Maya civilizations, a three hole punch that had a workout today, and a humongous box of fishy crackers smack dab in the middle of the table.

Full time school has been in session for 3 days, and the kids and I are all so worn out. Homeschooling up until now has not exactly been a piece of cake, but this year is going to be a real test of stick-to-it-iveness and commitment.  This is going to be plain old hard.

We have been up and at it by 7:30 each morning, take an hour lunch, and by 6:30 we are barely finishing...and we still do not have all our subjects being worked on yet because something is just not working right.

Or maybe it is just that we are hitting a wall.

No, I have not lost enthusiasm, and the kids have never, NOT ONCE complained.  It is just requiring more one on one time with each child than ever, and at a higher level.  Truthfully, part of it is also because I am unwilling to do "shallow" learning, which we could do but is a total waste of time.  If we wanted to rush through everything to check the box that we took the class and managed to pass, then we would go back to the traditional classroom.  I want us to stop and think about what we just read, I want us to do depth and analyze and share.

Every one of the kids is working so hard, and in fact has all summer by not taking a real big break other than the 6 weeks or so we ended up being off around our Westward Expansion Field Trip.  Everyone but Matt is already 40 lessons into this years math!  But this is going to be flat out arduous, and I have no idea tonight how we are going to do it.

We are learning that being hindered by the inability to quickly read and comprehend things will be a tremendous hindrance at this level.  The kids all have the intellect and maturity to understand more complex topics, and when we talk things through, the 100 watt bulbs are clicking on all around the table.  But to get there we have to read together...every sentence in every chapter, then we have to stop after 2-3 sentences and discuss what the author is trying to say, what all the new words mean, and often I have to find ways to restate or illustrate the point.  Thankfully, Kenny is a master of coming up with comparisons and offering them.  For example, we were talking about osmosis in science and I was trying to explain about liquid passing through a membrane, and he quickly said, "It's like on the movie Under the Dome, where the guy put his hand on the dome where on the other side they were spraying water, and he pulled his hand away and it was wet.  That's osmosis, isn't it?" and everyone said, "Oh yea!  I remember that!".

I spent 2 1/2 hours correcting papers this afternoon while still trying to answer questions and work individually with writing issues.  I tried to explain yet again how to read a timeline to Olesya as we needed to read one for history.  I am more brain fried than I think I have ever been since the girls came home, and I know it is only going to get harder.

We had a family meeting this evening, and we talked about possible tweaks to our work and where we might save some time.  Team LaJoy blows me away, as they are so incredibly committed to getting a good education, and they work so hard.  They all suggested that we plan on starting school at 7:30 AM every morning, not just on volleyball days that are soon to come.  Angela said, "Well, we can always work on the weekends too, and we can get things done then." and not a single kid had an argument against that and in fact was in support of doing classes on the weekend if we need to.  As she said this, she was doing the dishes at the sink so I could finish up a couple of worksheets with the other kids.

I asked if they thought we should give up volunteering at the food bank for a while, and there was a resounding "No" to that one, and it surprised me to learn how much they valued that time, which can be pretty hard work in the warehouse with heavy lifting, high heat during the summer months and cold temps during the winter.  I had thought they might elect quickly to stop, but they were having none of it.

It is not that I have scheduled too much work to fit in, though Matt is pressed for time due to his desire to add in AutoCAD this year.  It is just slow going.  Super slow.  We talked openly and honestly about our differences, and why it takes us twice as long...literally...than other homeschooled kids their age who are done with all their work, high school or otherwise, in 4 hours or so.  We are a special needs homeschool, period, and it is not an easy task much of the time.

However, the rewards are so awesome...just the best.  Today, Angela and I squeezed in time to sit on the couch for about 40 minutes and we started reading Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", which is about as lush and rich a read as anyone will ever find.  We spent 15 minutes working our way through the introduction, which is a splendid piece of writing but is not straightforward and is filled with personification and metaphor so skillfully crafted that any writer would drool over it.

Angela drooled.  We savored.  We must have said ten times, "Wow...she is SO good!"  And my daughter fell in love and can't wait to wade in the deep end, tackling a very challenging book with 3 years of English behind her.  This is a story that will impact her profoundly, already we can both see that.  It may take us 6 months of slowly working our way through it, stopping as we discuss all the nuances and subtleties, but by the time we reach the end, we will have made the journey together and traveled a great distance.  How can I not be willing when she looked up at me with the biggest grin and said, "And mom...Maya wrote THIRTY FOUR books, we could read them ALL!"

Strong, courageous girls need strong, courageous heroes to read about.

Olesya has typed every one of her science end of chapter responses, carefully making sure they are neat and transferring the info from her written notes because she said, "It's school, mom, it ought to be as perfect as I can make it."

Kenny sat at the table longer than anyone yesterday, never giving up, showing ever more responsibility as he works so hard on what would take the others half the time.

There is so much effort being put out, and always has been.  How we'll manage is anybody's guess.  One step in front of the other. Somehow, it'll figure itself out I suppose.

But tonight it just feels very, very hard.  It's worth it, of course, but it would be nice to sail along for a little while.  I think my mast feels broken.


Anonymous said...

What commitment from all of you! Good Job!

Anonymous said...

Cindy, I just called my sister-in-law (she lives right across the gravel road!) to ask her some questions. First, she is a special ed teacher in our middle/high school. But also, her three kids all have had reading struggles, and two have had IEPs. Her son will be attending jr college this fall (along with our son). I knew they had learned from the jr college advisor that there were tools they recommended to help with his reading. Here's what she said. Jr Co told him about Kurzweil 3000, a program that will read his texts to him. Now I know that isn't your goal, to not have your kids learn to read on their own, but it might be something that could help. I googled it, and it says it's a "text to speech literacy" software program. They said it doesn't work on a MAC, so he got windows version computer. She also told me she recently bought her daughter a kindle (soph this year). She bought some "immersion reading" books for that, which will read the book to you also. She hasn't tried these changes, but she read that you can go into the program and change things about the visual appearance of the book. First, it can highlight the words as it reads to you, and you read along. You can make the spacing different between the words or lines, change the background color to make the words stand out more, etc. Her daughter says that after awhile, words start all blending together or swimming around, so she's going to try to change some settings on the kindle..or to the program...I'm not up on kindles to understand exactly how they work. Again, I know you want your kids to have the reading skills themselves, not just be read to, but this sounds like some neat tools that could help some kids...maybe some of yours? Just some ideas. She says the voice is very expressive...which is probably something that would benefit one of my daughters, who hasn't liked reading all that well (learned English at age 10). Hope this might help, or anything else someone might suggest. Also, you have to be easy on yourself. Most homeschoolers I know, when their kids get to high school, they basically tutor themselves. But you are working with multiple learning you are a special education teacher to a "one room schoolhouse" classroom! I encourage you to continue to use others (friends and capable, willing volunteers) to come along side and help your kids, as you have done in various ways in the past. Also, do you live near a college or university? I thought there might be education majors who would be interested in helping to tutor some of your your home, always, I would say. They might be able to get credit for that type of thing for one of their own classes. Of course, I know that would require time for you to "interview" or oversee such things...but if they could come to your house and work nearby with one or more of your kids, that might be just a little boost now and then. Just a thought. As I say, be kind to yourself. I'm sure it must be overwhelming, trying to help many special learners at once. Our daughter is an elementary special ed teacher. I'm not sure how she does it with a classroom full of kids, either!
Nancy in the Midwest

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to post and let you know how much I admire your family. You are such a successful mother! I don't know how you raised your kids to be so hardworking and kind-hearted. If you ever write a parenting book, I will be the first to read it! The enthusiasm for learning that your kids have are going to take them farther than any curriculum. :)