As a homeschooling mom who blogs, I try to be as honest about our lifestyle as I can without invading the privacy of my family members, but I admit, when it comes to writing about our life, I tend to write about the successes more than the failures. It’s not that I don’t want to be upfront about what doesn’t work, but when it comes to the work of writing it all down, I tend to pick topics that I think will be useful to other people. And that’s usually what works for us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t sometimes share what hasn’t worked because that can be helpful for others too. Please tell me there are other moms out there who had “brilliant” ideas with the best of intentions, but when she tried to implement them, she fell flat on her face. Kids can be unpredictable, and even when we think we know what we’re doing, we really have no idea what we’re doing. We are simply trying our best, and sometimes we succeed, but sometimes we fail.
Here is a list of some of my “brilliant ideas” that turned out to be not so brilliant after all.
- When my ten-year-old was about four or five years old, I thought giving him a “responsibilities” chart would be a great idea. To be honest, I can’t remember why I thought this was necessary or what I was trying to make him do at that point, but I had the idea to create a big poster board with all the “goals” on top, which I think were a reading lesson, numbers lesson, help Mommy clean, and help take care of baby, etc. Then I spent god-knows-how-long laminating stickers and putting Velcro on them so I could reuse them each week. (Boy, this is getting embarrassing.) Along the left-hand column, I listed the days of the week, and every day, I put a sticker under the things that were accomplished. I know I didn’t stress that he had to accomplish everything everyday, but ah-hem, that didn’t matter. Because how long did this last? Maybe two weeks? Almost as soon as I started it, I realized that neither my son nor I could remember to put up the stickers at the end of the day, and it wasn’t long after that that I realized doing a chart like this was pretty silly anyway.
- In a similar vein, when my son got older and we began to do more homeschool lessons, I wanted to let him know what to expect each day. I had read that this is helpful for kids. First, I tried using email. I gave him an email address, and each night before I went to bed, I would make a lesson plan and e-mail him a list of things we were supposed to do that day. In doing this, I could also include any links to YouTube videos or other online content we would be looking at. Unlike my responsibilities chart, this actually worked well and was very helpful except that my husband began emailing my son interesting videos and other online content that he thought he would enjoy. Although everything was educational, the emails from my husband took so long to get through in the morning that we weren’t getting to the homeschool lessons! Sigh. So then I decided we would look at his email less frequently, and I made a schedule board instead….
- I admit, I loved my schedule board. Since my son couldn’t read, I used clipart to represent the different subjects or goals. I laminated them and, yes, I used Velcro once again. My poster board was empty except for the Velcro where I could simply attach my clipart pieces in the order I wanted to do things that day. It was so pretty, and it did the job, except…. I soon realized that my son did not care whether or not he knew the agenda for the day. He wouldn’t even look at it! He preferred to just sit down and let me tell him what to do as we got to it. So what do I do now? I use a piece of scrap paper to jot down a lesson plan each night, and I refer to it in the morning. In other words, it’s me that needs know the agenda and no fancy schedule board or e-mails are needed.
- Another great idea I had about two years ago was to begin each morning with a little yoga and stretch time. I thought it might be a good idea to get the boys’ blood flowing before lessons and also help them with their flexibility. My determination to do this fizzled out fast. My eldest son, though he’ll run and play like any kid, cannot stand mandatory movement. (He’s not that interested in sports, either.) My younger son won’t admit to liking yoga since his older brother refuses to do it. It was quite clear to me that this just wasn’t going to happen no matter how much I think it should, and life is too short to torture myself trying to get them to do it.
- Every year I am determined to include a foreign language in our homeschool. I would like everyone to learn Spanish, but we’ve also tried out Chinese on Mango Languages, and we’ve done some Chinese calligraphy too. A foreign language is something that I still have not given up on including in our homeschool day, but so far, I haven’t been successful in keeping it a regular part of our schedule. There are just so many things I have to teach my boys, and there are so many things my boys’ want to learn that something has to give. That’s usually the foreign language. But you never know! I may just turn that around this year.
- What are other things I have tried and then realized it was either too silly, not worth continuing, or we didn’t have time? Plenty. I have bought books at library book sales that we’ve never read because the boys didn’t like them. I have bought teaching supplies on sale that I haven’t used. I have been given countless teaching materials (I know some teachers who are generous – thank you!), but many of these resources sit on my bookshelves unused. I will look through them every year to see if I might be able to use something, and sometimes I will put something in the stack by my bed…. that stack with good intentions. But I rarely get to it.
If there’s anything I’ve learned while homeschooling, it’s that you can’t be afraid to take risks. You never know what your child might embrace, though you have to be willing to ditch the bright ideas, if they aren’t working. Even though I have failed many times, there are other ideas, resources and books I took a chance on, and they did work. They tend not to have to do with Velcro, though.