How Things Have Changed

Back in the day, it seems like all we did was field trips.  I think this is first grade.  I think maybe it's the Baltimore Zoo the year we had a membership there.

Back in the day, it seems like all we did was field trips. I think this is first grade. I think maybe it’s the Baltimore Zoo the year we had a membership there.

This topic has come up for me several times in conversations in person and online recently so I thought I’d post a little bit about how our homeschool has changed for me as the parent.

When we started homeschooling, I don’t think I thought much about how things would change over time.  Of course, I thought about how content would change and evolve – how we’d cycle through different topics and how we would slowly find more depth with different topics.  I thought about how we would work on skills and how that would change.  I thought about academics and stages of learning and so forth.

What I didn’t think much about was how long it would take or what it would be like for me as the teacher.  I think, when I thought about it at all, that I envisioned that homeschooling would slowly get easier and easier as my kids grew older and more independent in this great, simple arc.

Ha!  Not quite.  There have been some surprises.

When the kids were preschool aged and into kindergarten, our whole lives revolved around one basic goal: keep busy.  If we didn’t keep busy, then boredom could set in for all of us, me included.  As such, we went out all the time, every day.  It felt like we knew every playground in the city.  We spent so much time at so many museums.  We would drive anywhere for anything since the drive took up time.  We had constant crafts and projects and books and routines going.  It was hard to be out and about all the time, but it was even harder to be home with two preschoolers.

By the end of kindergarten and into first and second grade, something had shifted.  It was no longer the case that we had to go or succumb to complete chaos.  Now, the kids were just so much more self-sufficient.  They got up on their own, they made their own cereal for breakfast, they could play nearly uninterrupted for hours, and even at the park I felt no guilt leaving them to play on their own.  Our days became lazy, happy times where we often spent all day outside or on a trip or hike with friends.  School was short and easy.  It was rarely more than a couple of hours unless we had a big project to do.  I made more projects by coaching Destination Imagination and directing Shakespeare plays.  Life was just easy.

But then something unexpected happened.  By the end of second grade and certainly all through third grade, school got harder.  There was more to do, more skills to work on, more work to be done.  It took longer.  There were still long, lazy days outside and field trips and fun projects, but they were fewer.  That wasn’t bad, since they were traded for something new, more serious work.  I saw so much growth and the kids entered a stage when they were more interesting and fun to talk to, where they asked more questions and just did more in general.  However, it surprised me.  School just took a lot of my time.  We routinely had three or four hours a day, which was so much more than those kindergarten and first grade single hours.  And the kids needed me so much more than ever before.  This wasn’t the progression to independent kids that I had expected.

Now, as fourth grade begins to draw to a close (we’ll finish at the end of the summer and turn the calendar over in the fall), I’m finding a new stage in our schooling.  I leave for yoga in the morning or to run to a doctor’s appointment and I leave a list of work to do.  When I return, it’s done!  So school still needs me, but the kids can do so much more on their own.  They read, they write, they do math practice and piano practice and so forth all independently.  I can see this is only going to grow over the next couple of years.  Just as I had started to settle into the idea that schooling older kids simply took more time, it changed again.

I think now that how much homeschooling takes in terms of my time and what it will feel like to me – the busy time, the lazy and free time, the teacher intensive time, the supervisory time, the waiting time – will just change over time.  I don’t know what will come next entirely.  I think, obviously, there will be more independent work, but I also see that there will be times where the kids need to take risks or integrate new skills and to do that, they’ll need me closer at hand.  It’s not a straight line.

7 thoughts on “How Things Have Changed

  1. My older son has gone through the same thing, at 14 he now gets up, fixes himself breakfast, grabs a stack of school books and makes himself comfy on the comfy sack (thing 6 ft bean bag!). He’s at least half way through his work, if not done by the time his younger brother, 11 crawls out of bed….or is dragged out by me. That one I still have to watch over while working or nothing gets done. I’m hoping that will change but one thing I realized about 2 years back is that what works for one kid, even brothers, does not necessarily work for both. Thought I had math all set and ready to go since I’d used Right Start for my older son and we both really liked it…. but not so with the younger kid, just didn’t work for him, so suddenly we’re back to square one looking for just the right curriculum….same for history. Sigh.

  2. Congrats on surviving what I call the “foundation” years. Learning the basics of Maths and how to read and write is the Really Hard Work. People often give up homeschooling after 3-4th grade, just when the tide is about to turn and things are, for most kids, about to get easier and a whole lot more fun.

    The one thing I miss about the early years is the field trips. We’ve had a steady decline in field trips over the years. Where we are, there are not a lot older kid homeschoolers, so group field trips tend to focus on things the younger kids will like. And my teen daughter told me that after the 3rd trip, she doesn’t really ever want to go to the fire station ever again. 🙂 So all our field trips are now single family adventures, and usually just my daughter and me.

  3. We’ll be starting 3rd grade in September. I can relate to so much of what you wrote. My daughter and I live in Los Angeles, and I like to say that we have “ants in our pants” because we hardly homeschool at home – we’re at the museums, nature centers, libraries, and the zoo as much as my budget and gas tank will allow. I know things will change, and am looking forward to seeing her through all of the changes, but it is not without a little but of sadness and missing those early years filled with fingerpainting and hours spent playing with boats, funnels, and basters at the water table, as well as some apprehension about the future and wondering how long I can maintain the joy and wonder of leaning once the rigors of academia encroach, little by little, on the nurturing little world we have created. Love and light hearts to you and your boys as you continue your homeschooling journey. Your posts always make me weep a little, for only the best reasons.

  4. Farrar, I think Kim would totally agree with you on this. Having homeschooled all her kids (and two now from K-12) she has made huge transitions. However, as the kids have gotten into HS they have become very independent and she only has to follow up and fill in as needed. And, overall I know your and her children have gotten a much more in depth and meaningful learning experience than any child in public or private school.

  5. I’m one of the people who asked about this, so I appreciate hearing your comments. It’s not quite what I expected, so something interesting to to think about, thank you!

  6. This is a really interesting post. Fascinating to hear how home ed has changed for you over the years.
    We’ve just completed our first year of home schooling, so we have a lot of this still to come!

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