Recalibrations

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I feel like I’m in a constant state of recalibrations as a parent.  The house and the homeschool are this incredibly complex, busy, multifaceted machine and it’s my job to constantly oil it, take readings, and generally do whatever tinkering engineers do on fancy machines.

Take our schedule and routine.  We started the year with little whiteboards for each boy that had a list of all the things we might do in a week, from copywork to a page in a workbook to watch a documentary.  At the start of the week, I would put little boxes next to all the tasks and we would slowly check everything off.  Worked great for a couple of months.  Then it was time for a recalibration.  I relabeled things on the little boards and would start the day by putting the boxes to check off.  Much more manageable.  Worked great.  And then…  it fell by the wayside because it was less great.  The other day, I peeled off the task labels so I could use the boards.  Time to recalibrate.  Lately, if we’re having a really full school day I list much more specific tasks on the easel board.  We need the checklists a little less in part because starting the day with our morning work routine gets us going.

Right now, I am loving the morning work.  I leave out simple things like math drills and grammar practice sheets.  I leave out more complex things like Wakeruppers pages and math puzzles.  I also leave out creative assignments like art challenges.  Will we still be doing morning work in a year?  Honestly, who knows.  It might have to be recalibrated.

The latest recalibration was that I realized we had drifted away from doing enough for language arts and writing.  We have still been at the poetry teas and have been plugging away at dictations, but we haven’t been as consistent with anything as I would like.  This is in part because we were playing with introducing All About Spelling to our routine and letting spelling be a big focus for Mushroom for the last couple of months.  Not a big deal.  We were like an old clock losing time.  I just needed to recalibrate.

One thing I’ve been trying to get back to especially is doing more narrations.  Mushroom wrote this one about butterflies and I think it’s his best writing for a narration yet (spelling and capitalization corrected, but nothing else changed):

First, the mother butterfly flies across the sky.  Eight hundred eggs come out of her or more.  All the eggs fall on different leaves.  As the eggs grow up they shed their skin.  They turn very colorful with yellow and black stripes.  The larva can only eat milkweed at this stage. Milkweed has poison in it that they can eat.  When they eat a lot of it other creatures that eat them get poisoned.

The time has come to make the chrysalis.  The butterfly makes a chrysalis.  At the top, there’s a silkmat.  Below the top there is a cremaster that sticks the chrysalis on to the tree.  The caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

I am always glad to recalibrate.  I feel like we’re always in search of that right balance with enough rigor, enough free time, enough fun projects, enough boring math practice, enough field trips, and so on and so forth.  It will, of course, never be perfect, but that’s okay.  As long as we keep tinkering and recalibrating instead of stagnating, then I assume the machine will just on humming along.

5 thoughts on “Recalibrations

  1. It’s just like parenting, just as soon as you have it figured out, someone’s needs change…but I am betting that customization that you provide for your boys is something that you would list on the “Pro” side of the list, not the “Con.”

    So, have you ever written a post about how much time you spend on homeschooling? Like the researching & planning, the prepping & gathering materials, teaching and helping your boys, etc… I am thinking about keeping my nearly 9 yr-old home next year (she seems game), but I am wondering about it. I am not good at setting limits, like “this is good enough” and when I used to teach (middle school LA), I felt like I could always do more.

    1. I always appreciate hearing how people do their research and figure out their routines. I too would enjoy hearing how she does things.
      As for personal application, you will find research and planning differs for each family. It depends on how much you want to put into it and how many resources you have available. Being that you already have a history in teaching, I imagine you would be pretty well prepared and find the process fairly simple.
      I too have a problem with saying “this is good enough”. We tend to view life as education, so we learn all day long. Yes, we do have book learning, but that doesn’t limit us or hold us back from using every experience as an opportunity to grow.

    2. I don’t think I have posted about how much we spend, but I’ve estimated it before and come up with $400-$500 per school year for both boys in purely curriculum and books and another $50-$100 in paper and supplies like replenishing art materials. I usually start the year having spent less thinking I was finally doing it on the cheap and end up adding something. This year, I ended up buying Beast Academy and All About Spelling, each of which cost us a good bit. I don’t track our spending closely or keep a budget. We’re lucky that while we’re hardly rolling in money, I don’t have to worry about it overmuch.

      The you can always do more impulse is an issue for me too and always has been, but I will say that it has abated for me as a homeschool teacher versus as a classroom teacher. You’re responsible for both more and less… I’ve found it easier to let go of that sense that I needed to plan every moment that I had about school teaching. And for me it’s easy to know when we’ve hit saturation level with potential activities and curriculum. I try not to buy beyond that.

      It’s a good question! Maybe I’ll do a more in depth post when I plan for next year.

      1. I think we are in a similar boat regarding spending, I think I can keep that reasonable for our family. I would like to read that future post.

        I know it sounds crazy, but I dread the rabbit hole of planning/prepping and actually spending less relaxed & focused time with my kids (I have my nearly 9 yr old & a just turned 5 yr old). I have already spent a bunch of time reading about homeschool…did you guys find yourselves researching all the time in the beginning, to figure out what to teach & how to teach it? I am glad to hear that the “always more we could do” impulse might lessen as a homeschooler. It’s reasonable, you really don’t need to plan every minute.

  2. I hear you! Every summer I recalibrate our routine and figure out which changes might be beneficial. If needed, I will recalibrate mid-year to better suit our family’s needs. As our children grow and our needs differ, we can either bend or break; I prefer to bend.

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