I’m a veteran homeschooler. At least I think that’s what you’d call it. In other words, I’ve been doing this for several years, have graduated more than a few students and am riddled with the battle scars that prove it.

Just kidding!

Anyway, don’t let the “veteran” part fool you. As I shared in a previous post, I’ve experienced the same ups and downs as any novice. I remain open to suggestions. I’m always looking for a better or more effective way to answer the call to homeschooling. I still slip up, make mistakes and have to retrace my steps from time to time.

Here’s an example:

I’ve been torturing my children with their math lessons. Yes, torture. You know: sighing, moaning, crying, begging for mercy…that kind of torture. Math had become the absolute worst part of the day. I tried starting the day with math, to get it over with. I tried ending the day with math, so that we could get everything else done more quickly. I placed the decision in the hands of the children. No matter what I did, we were spending approximately an hour and a half to two hours per day on math. Yes…you read the words correctly…nearly two hours working 30 problems. We’re not talking calculus or trig. Saxon Algebra 1/2, 5/4 and MCP. It was sheer agony. (Except for Gawain, who is a mathematical genius and finishes every lesson in 15 minutes or less…and his brothers hate it!)

No more! Thanks to a wake-up call from a good friend, we are back on track and the children are once again happy, even eager to do math.

How did we accomplish this little miracle? A simple kitchen timer. Operating on the principle that the best work is done early on, I established a 45 minute limit for math. Period. That includes the teaching aspect of the lesson, whether mom is teaching or the student is using the DIVE cd. The children are finishing math in record time now. Finishing. I thought, at best, that we would have partially completed lessons, but no, they are motivated by the deadline. I’ve tried deadlines before, but the visual of the timer is a powerful motivator. They want to finish. These guys simply needed a definite beginning and end. Once they can see the goal, half the battle is won.

Gawain, the “mathlete” is allowed to do math “fun” projects…generally a math game of his choice on line, while waiting for his siblings to finish. He’s still putting in his time, and is actually thrilled with the enrichment. Because we are classical homeschoolers, it’s necessary to juggle the schedule a bit. We have quite a few group subjects, so working ahead isn’t always feasible for the students that finish a bit early. If everyone is finished, we forge ahead. If the two older students finish in tandem, then we move on to Latin for them. If the younger students do, then its Prima Latina.

I’m not a big fan of rigidity. I like a bit of improvisation. Unfortunately, I had become rigid in this area, without establishing and effective time frame. By doing so, I squelched the possibility of joy in this subject, replacing it with abhorrence.

Thanks, Cecile. You are a sage, a fount of wisdom.

A kitchen timer…who knew?