Operation Overload: A Big Welcome Back, Homeschool Style

*sigh*

I am so tired.

So. Tired.

*snore*

We are now officially done with the first two weeks of school. I had this great idea (and this time I’m NOT being sarcastic) to start early with a full week of just half days. No math and no history. The reasoning behind this was three fold.

1) I wanted to ease the transition from summer freedom to school year routine. A drastic change – in either direction I found out this summer – isn’t good for anyone.

2) I wanted to become familiar with some of our new curriculum slowly without stress or time constraints. It takes awhile to figure out a new system. Math? Same curriculum, just new grade levels. History? Spelling? Handwriting? Same thing. We got this. But Biology and Latin and Grammar? My 5th grader has a completely new grammar curriculum (The Good and the Beautiful) and it is very different from what we’ve done the last 4 years. With Biology, all of the sudden I am teaching middle school and elementary school levels at the same time – now we have weekly microscope labs and all around more intense and rigorous material. Personally, I needed an extra week to figure out how I was going to work that out myself. IMG_1916And the only tricky part about Latin is now I have two students in two different levels, whereas before I just had the one student taking Latin. (Awesome side note: I am going to be a serious Latin master when I get done going through all these Latin books over and over again. It’s like taking 6 years of Latin – but 5 times!)

And 3) there are just way too many fun field trips in the beginning of the school year. We don’t take a Fall Break or have any district wide teacher development half days off – what would I do with a day off? Probably just go on one of these field trips with my kids. I figure by the end of our first month, we will have actually had a full week of field trips anyway. So the extra week of school at the beginning is also just to help me not feel guilty about taking so much “time off.” (As if taking 5 little children on a field trip could be considered “time off.” 😉 )

Week one went pretty well. I averted a meltdown before school even started on day one by making pancakes. IMG_1828

Hooray for pancakes!

Already someone was stressed out about not being done with chores on time and being late for school. (I thought homeschoolers didn’t have this problem. Maybe it’s just us and my obsession with having a start time.) So to emphasize that we could be in control of our own school and our own day and we didn’t need to feel like a slave to anyone (yeah right, the kids are slaves to me! Mwa Ha Ha Ha!) I made some pancakes and we just had a relaxing beginning. Start right, go right, end right. My take home lesson from all of this: just start relaxed and throw in a few pancakes.

My free spirited and strong willed 1st grader is taking to “more than kindergarten” better than I anticipated. For his “Show What You Know” section of his handwriting workbook he even wrote “School is Fun!” although he didn’t want me to look at it.

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He’s got a reputation to keep after all. The whining and complaining totally lose their legitimacy if Mom knows you are actually enjoying all of this.

Point for Mom!

Nobody cried. Nobody complained. Nobody felt overwhelmed. Nobody lost it with the two-year-old doing two-year-old things right in the thick of everything. That I consider our most impressive achievement. Did I mention the two year old is also free spirited and strong willed? Yes, life is getting very exciting at my house. We got done “on time” so that we had plenty of time to play, let those free spirits fly, let the conscientious detail oriented ones work on their own sewing and computer projects, and the needy type 2 even had time with mom for extra snuggles.

And then I remembered – these are only half days. How in the world am I going to manage FULL days? I can’t go an entire year without math or history?

So I braced myself, dug in my heels, and took a deep breath and reminded myself, all of this is voluntary. I have chosen to take this on of my own free will, and of my own free will I can take the bits and pieces I don’t like and throw them in the trash. But the idea is, yes, this is going to be a lot, but I’ll just adapt as I go.

So week two starts.

*clears throat*

First of all, I forgot to do my weekly planning until Saturday. So I already felt behind a bit. Then both of our black ink cartridges failed. My husband ordered a new one that came in… except it is for a printer we don’t own. So quick improv with the younger kids’ science… we’re good. We’re good. Just keep on going.

Math takes a long time. Three kids in math takes even longer. The older two are just going to have to work more independently while I move from youngest to oldest. I am depending so much on them being mature and responsible enough to do this. And I’m just not quite sure they are ready for that. But math wise, we did make it through the week.

Then we had two field trips in the same week: the Not Back to School Party with a bunch of other homeschool families at a local park with a fun pond (kayaks courtesy of my awesome friend who lives next-door!), and the Renaissance Faire which is just a must. Jousting, people!!

Everything was fun. Everything went mostly smoothly. But I felt like a chicken with it’s head cut off running back and forth and back and forth and being pulled in multiple directions at once.

And that is not a comfortable feeling.

Then besides the academic stuff, there were soccer games. Six of them. And I had to coach two out of the six, and then run a soccer practice.IMG_1815

And there was scouts, and piano lessons, and Sunday School lessons to prepare, and visits to people in my neighborhood I needed to make. I’ve got to get the 4h schedules so I can sign my kids up for those activities that they just really love – and then fit them into the calendar. I’ve got activities for the 8 and 9 year old girls in my church congregation to prepare. I just found out we are helping out at the old folks home next Sunday and the week after that as well. We are scheduled to help clean our church building sometime soon but I couldn’t bear to look at the calendar and find out when yet. Our Hike it Homeschoolers group has a hike I am hosting next week that will take us another day from school. My in-laws really want us to go boating with them, so there is another day gone. And Swiss Days!

Oh, the dreaded Swiss Days festival!! Why? Why did I promise the children we could go? But I did.

And it is this Friday.

Plus, people in my house keep expecting dinner every single night!  But I feel like my plate is full already. Just, really really full already.

And then on top of the crazy regular “routine” that we haven’t been able to fully establish yet, and besides the ridiculously full calendar of events I’ve got running in my head, all of these wonderful learning opportunities keep jumping into our laps, begging for attention and a complete and thorough investigation.

Like that whole solar eclipse thing, you know, the once in 100 years one? I saw all those great homeschooling ideas online. Didn’t do a single one of them. But I was able to come up with something else really fast. (At least we had glasses, already.) Do I take an entire week to go over this stuff? Do we have time to get into the nitty gritty? Should we just go on with what’s planned? How big of a deal should I make of this?IMG_2022

And then two Swainson hawks decided to take up residence behind our house. We kind of have a soft spot for birds of prey over here – maybe because we hate mice and snakes. So now do we take some time to study birds? I bet we could come up with some really awesome lessons and learn some fascinating things about hawks. Really, having a hawk swoop over your back deck almost close enough to touch (ok, more like 15 feet above, but still!) is a pretty amazing experience. Talk about up close and personal. These two are beauties!

And then all the children received postcards from their aunt in Norway. Here is a wonderful opportunity! Should we take some time to learn more about Norway? Should we go over the family history, family farm, and family stories again? A quick geography lesson? I bet I could come up with something really fun for that. Kramkaker anyone? I could quick whip some up? (Just kidding, it takes HOURS to make those things!) (PS. I’ve been to that big rock cliff in the tall postcard. It is amazing!! Actually, I’ve been to all those places, and they are all amazing.)

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No. You just can’t do everything.

You just can’t be everywhere.

Before I go further, I completely and fully acknowledge that these problems I am having are some of the best problems to have. It’s not just too much of a good thing, but too much of a lot of great things. It’s like first-world problems, but homeschool style. There is just too much wonderful stuff out there to do and learn and experience! Poor me! Boo hoo. I’m just going to have to deal with having an awesome life.

But the seriousness here is that if something doesn’t give, if I can’t decide what things not to do, then I will lose all of them.

It’s called mother burn out.

A homeschooling mentor I “know” (meaning on Facebook) says that at the beginning of the school year she looks at everything she has planned and says to herself, “Ok, what am I going to give up?” And then you know what? I think she actually does give something up.  That is amazing to me. It is the ability to say “no” to good things. Many times, as a homeschool mom, when you say “no” to good things, you are actually saying “yes” to better things.

(Like your sanity.)

So I guess that is my next step. What am I going to give up?

(Swiss Days!! Duh!)

Ok, besides Swiss Days. I can’t give that up. My kids would never forgive me.

Probably the best thing I could “give up” at this moment is my expectations. Not give them up, really, but just lower them. And not for my kids. I’ve learned to do that already over the last few homeschooling years (What!! My kids aren’t absolutely perfect at everything!!!) I think I’ve got to lower my expectations for myself. Instead of setting the bar too high, I’m just going to set the bar appropriately high. Not out of reach, just high enough to have to reach a little.

I am not a super homeschooling mom. I am not a super anything mom. I’m not even a super just regular person.

But sometimes I can do some pretty super things. And I’ve got some oftentimes really super kids who help me out a lot and keep me motivated to do super things for them – like running a homeschool. It doesn’t even need to be a super homeschool. But it does need to be for their benefit, and for my benefit, and we can be in control of our own school and our own day and we don’t need to feel like a slave to anyone or anything.

Which makes me think that tomorrow we may need some more pancakes.

Just repeat after me: I am in control of my life. I’ve got this. I am in control of my life. I’ve got this. I’m going to make it work for me. I am the boss. I make the rules. And if things are too much, and too often, and too overwhelming, I will decide what to cut back. I will decide where to slow down. I will decide when to say “no.” I will decide what is best for my children and for myself. Because I do know what is best for my family. That is a gift from God to me. He’ll help me know what to do.

So, fellow Homeschool Mom, chin up!  And welcome back to school.