Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I Need Quiet Time as an Introvert!

So lately, I've been struggling with not having time alone. The kids have been on a later bedtime (9:30) for a few weeks, and it's taking its toll on me! I don't get any time alone until after they are in bed, plus, the time after they go to bed is the time I usually work on other things, like tidying up, church ministry responsibilities, responding to emails, as well as my downtime. However, with 9:30 (which inevitably turns into 9:45+) bedtime, and wanting to be in bed by 11:30 for my own sanity, that's not much time!

It's definitely taking its toll because I've been so irritable, and pretty unreasonable in my control-freak-discipline about getting them to bed at 9:30 on the dot. I've reacted pretty awfully when they are up any later, and daytimes are filled with being annoyed at just about everything.

One of the hardest things for me to get used to, when I first started homeschooling, was having someone around 24x7. Even on days I go to work, the kids are in the car with me until the last 10 minutes of the drive...and then I'm at work with more people! It drove me crazy and I had more than one meltdown over it. It got better when I realized I needed time alone, and for a while, I regularly had time after they went to bed and gave myself permission  (because I'm the type of person who will say 'yes, sure, I'll hang out', to any request, and I always felt guilty if I didn't hang out with my husband at night, since we don't see each other all day). to just be by myself, and not feel guilty about not spending time with hubby, or not make plans with friends, etc.Anyway, that was 2 years ago, with a 8:30 bedtime.

Bedtime slipped to 9:00 at some point over the past 2 years, but there were still 8:30 nights mixed in. About a month ago, we started allowing 9:30, as the kids are getting older, and because we enjoyed some evening activities together (since I'm working during the day, I actually don't get to spend a lot of 'quality time' with the kids, as I bounce from working and teaching and cooking) and didn't want to cut them short.

BUT at the same time, I started getting more and more stressed out, anxious, and snippy. It finally dawned on me that I am missing my alone time- to just be by myself, to reflect, to think, to plan, even to just get something done, so I don't have to wait until after bedtime to get it done.

I saw this post today on FreeHomeschoolDeals.com:

This was EXACTLY what I needed! I always felt guilty just having 'quiet time' to myself while the kids were awake because I felt like I needed to interact, spend time together, teach, bond, etc, if I wasn't doing some kind of work. I already lose so much time with them because of work, I felt guilty taking more time away from them for myself. Plus, I hate the idea of just letting them play on screens while I get downtime, which is what I'm afraid they would do, because they already get more screen time than I like.  So now I'm trying to figure out how to do this. Maybe a 'quiet reading period'? Maybe institute screen time for ONLY during this 'quiet time' period, so they don't double up and have screens during 'regular time' AND 'quiet time'? Not sure yet, but this post really hit the nail on the head, and I'm determined to find a way to incorporate some quiet time for me during the day, even if they are awake. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How much Free Time is Enough?

One of the reasons I was drawn to homeschooling was the hope of more free time for the kids...free time for exploring their own interests, being creative, and building relationships. There's been a recent backlash against over-scheduling- so many activities, sports, classes and events that kids are involved in that there is no downtime, no time to just wander around, no time for boredom. There's been articles about why letting kids get bored is a good thing, because it teaches them to rely on themselves rather than having others provide entertainment for them. I certainly agree with all these points, so I purposely don't fill our day with enough schoolwork and activities to last the whole day. When they finish, they can have plenty of free time (if they work efficiently, which they don't always do.)

On the other hand, there's much talk about how too much free time leaves kids (maybe more for teens) with "too much time on their hands" and landing them in trouble as they seek out "fun" to fill the time, whether it's alcohol, drugs, vandalism, etc. Without meaningful work for the kids to do, they  float around without purpose and just enjoy "killing time". For younger kids, the temptation is probably toward more and more video games, rather than "trouble", and personally, I think over-indulgence in video games can be just as harmful, but that's a whole other rant.

Anyway, when Monkey complains he "doesn't have enough free time", it infuriates me because he already has way more free time than probably most kids his age, considering they have to be in school for 7-8 hours a day plus homework, and activities.  How much free time does he want?!?! How much does he really need?!?! What does he want with even more free time?!! If it's just to play more video games, then I don't want I add more free time and I start thinking I want to cut back on free time.

So, I'm pondering, how much is ideal? I don't know...I think having some structure and plans is beneficial, playing all day just leads to idleness. Maybe some kids could fill all that time with something constructive, but mine will only do so for a while before succumbing to the call of video games. (Not all video games are bad, but I just don't like when they rely on them for their entertainment, rather than the numerous other choices they have). So is 2 hours enough? 4 hours? Is that too much? They can easily spend hours reading when they are hooked on a book. They might use their free time to play outside, build Legos, make a game, program something in Scratch, act out storylines with stuffed animals or action figures, etc. I love that they have time for this stuff, but then when it comes to having something to do(chores, going someplace, schoolwork), they get all upset that they "don't have enough free time"! Yes, there are times (many times) when they want to do or play something worthwhile and we just don't have the time, so I do feel bad about that. Despite my attempts to slow down and not over-schedule, we still have many days that are packed full. So... I keep trying to find that right balance of freedom and responsibility.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pi Day Fun

Since yesterday, 3/14, was Pi Day, we celebrated by doing some pi-related activities, I used Khan Academy to have the kids learn and practice some pi-related concepts. For Monkey, we did volume and surface area of a cylinder and volume of a sphere. For Bunny, we did circumference, diameter, and radius of a circle.

For dinner, we made a quiche:

And for dessert, we made berry pie, with a 'pi' crust: 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Homeschooling an Extrovert in a House Full of Introverts

Bunny is an extrovert and I don't know where she got that from, because neither me nor my husband are extroverts. She's always wanting to have friends over or visit friends, she makes friends easily in new environments, and she loves a big gathering of kids. The rest of us, however, like to be alone. We like our quiet downtime. We get overwhelmed by too much socialization. After spending time with people we want to crash.

Before we began homeschooling  Bunny, I knew that one  area of concern could be meeting her need for friend time. I hate the misconception that homeschoolers are isolated or don't get enough socialization, because homeschoolers rarely just stay home all day. Even before Bunny joined us, we were out multiple times a week at activities and we saw friends not just on weekends, but also sometimes on weekdays too, because we had more time for play dates during the week. We were happy with this level of social engagement, but anticipating Bunny's increased need for time among other people, we joined a co-op that meets every other week. She has met a few friends through this co-op and now often asks to get together with them.

I'm ok with SOME play dates during the week, but in the past 8 days, she has had play dates 7 out of those 8 days. The one day we decided to just go up the street to the park, she wanted to know what friend we could meet there. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to just having a quiet time at the park, just the 3 of us. After the past 8 days, I'm exhausted from being around people so often. Admittedly, that week was unusual for us to have that many social plans in a week, so it's definitely more than average. I'm glad this week has nothing scheduled! Ideally, I think I can handle social events maybe 4 out of 7 days of the week. I do hope though, that this is enough for Bunny. She misses time spent with kids at school, and I'd really hate for her to start resenting homeschooling because she misses the  social environment at school. So, I'll have to come up with some plans with friends this week after all...

Friday, March 4, 2016

Chemistry for Tweens

Monkey has always been interested in learning about chemistry, even in early elementary school. Unfortunately, chemistry was not one of the areas covered in public school. When we began homeschooling, we were excited to finally have the time to teach him some chemistry! We began with:
Christian Kids Explore Chemistry - I think this was a great introduction to concepts and terminology of Chemistry. It had an activity for each unit, and was laid out very simply, with review questions that were easy to use. It covers the parts of atoms, molecules, acids and bases, chemical symbols, and even some very basic introduction to organic chemistry (hydrocarbons, esters, etc). It's a pretty straightforward text, with simple explanations, but it wasn't EXCITING...

We completed this at the end of his 4th grade year and sort of forgot about it. Recently, Monkey again expressed interest in learning more chemistry, and after asking him about what he learned already, I realized he didn't retain a lot of it (mostly not remembering the alkanes/alkenes/alkynes, acids/bases; the basics of atoms and bonding were among areas he did remember). So we searched for another Chemistry curriculum, since I had already sold the Christian Kids Explore Chemistry book.

We found Ellen McHenry's book:

The Elements - This starts from the basics, so some of it is review for Monkey, but it works out great since Bunny wasn't with us the first time we covered chemistry. This one is written in a way that kids can really relate to, with humorous drawings and explanations, and LOTS of hands-on ideas. There's 'worksheet'-like activities to reinforce the lessons, there's jokes, and games to print out, and links to resources on the internet. We are LOVING this! It really makes chemistry a lot more fun! For a reluctant chemistry student like Bunny, this is perfect. For the more serious student, this might seem too goofy, but as a kid, I think they would still enjoy the casual, everyday language and the references to more relatable ideas like baking.  We will follow up with her second chemistry book: Carbon Chemistry

Along with this, we are using Fizz, Bubble, Flash , which goes through various elements by families with lots of hands-on activities/experiments and interesting tidbits about compounds made with those elements.

These books are both fun and engaging, cartoony, yet filled with a LOT of information. Definitely beats a science textbook for this age range.