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    How you actually get your kids to do their work

    I am very aware that we should just persevere and stay the course. I try to read the forum often. However, to those who love MP and feel like they’ve figured out a routine they are happy with, what did you do to help your kids hop on board and get into the routine of just doing the work without battles? Did they reach a point where they realized they wanted to learn the material (for themselves, not for you)? How do you justify to them memorizing the content in areas that are not obviously cumulative, as Latin and math are? I feel like I must make them do their work because it’s my duty, but I dislike seeing them resent such beautiful study opportunities I think I’m offering them.
    2018-19
    DS--9, MP3M
    DD--7, MPK/1
    DD--5
    DS--3
    DS--Almost 1

    #2
    Hugs.

    No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

    Your kids are almost the exact ages as mine. I feel you-really I do. At this level, I don't think battles are avoidable. It probably feels unending. You no more get one situated than the next 3 or 4 need something. By the end of the day, you just want to send everyone away and have a little brain space of your own.

    I think some kids thrive on their own checklist. I've gotten to where I print a week-view for each kid and they can mark it up however they want but at the end of the day, the stuff they can do independently should be done...or else...right? They get either a talk with Daddy (Seriously...just a talk! Whatever magic voodoo his voice is - I don't have it) at the end of the day, or they lose out on privileges that the others get...

    One BIG thing for us is limiting the distractions. I had to confiscate a bedroom to use it as a school room because it separates this room as a work room. The door can be shut. There's nothing to do in there but either 1) do the work, or 2) daydream out the windows until you want out of the room badly enough that you do the work.

    Finally, the earlier we start, the better. I don't do breakfast out the gate. We start school FIRST. We do breakfast around 9:45/10ish. Also, first thing out of bed, they grab a quick shower. I know they are young to start this, but I promise it's making a huge difference. Wet-headed and still sometimes dripping, they show up in the school room (after I've been yelling to get out of the shower for a solid 30 minutes to one kid or other), around 8:15ish. Whichever kid shows up first, they get started. I'm sitting in my own desk facing them. At this age....nearly all work stops if I'm not sitting there with them. I don't have to be "doing" anything with them but the minute I leave to go to the bathroom/get coffee/answer the phone/switch clothes from the washer the dryer - it's a free for all. I'll come back and youngest kid (5) is on TOP of a desk, one is telling loud jokes and still another is playing with the dog. My presence is almost always REQUIRED to get work done.

    Over the year though, we've made progress in that sometimes when I send them to the school room by themselves with a very specific subject to finish, they will often enough do it - the older 2 at least. The youngest being 5...nope.

    Take care of you and it's okay to do breaks in the day...even long breaks...for your sake!

    Melissa
    Last edited by MBentley; 04-24-2019, 01:40 PM.
    Melissa

    DS (MP2) - 8
    DS (MP1) - 7
    DS (K) - 5
    DD (Adorable distraction) 2

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by Emilylovesbooks View Post
      I am very aware that we should just persevere and stay the course. I try to read the forum often. However, to those who love MP and feel like they’ve figured out a routine they are happy with, what did you do to help your kids hop on board and get into the routine of just doing the work without battles? Did they reach a point where they realized they wanted to learn the material (for themselves, not for you)? How do you justify to them memorizing the content in areas that are not obviously cumulative, as Latin and math are? I feel like I must make them do their work because it’s my duty, but I dislike seeing them resent such beautiful study opportunities I think I’m offering them.
      Hi Emily,
      Great, great question. I think what I sense from your question is that struggle between:
      A) I know in my head that what we are doing is right and good for them
      but
      B) I still feel drawn to the folks who talk about/promote/promise that children should love what they are doing for school. (or not even call it school...just "learning")

      This is why I highlighted the phrase you included at the end. It reminds me a lot of the suggestions that boil down to "just provide rich, beautiful things and watch your children thrive." I spent quite a lot of research time in my early years of homeschooling reading such arguments, only to find them to be completely contradicted by my daily experience of raising a houseful of (naturally self-centered) little ones. Bear with me for a minute while I weave around to my real answer to your question.

      What is attractive from tailoring an education to the happiness, enjoyment, and interests of a child is the respect that is given to our children as people. We each cherish our precious children so much, that it is only natural to want to focus on and develop them to be the best they can be. But what I have concluded is that while these philosophies esteem children for their personhood (which is indeed good), there are two things wrong with trying to romanticize childhood:

      1. Children are not mini-adults. They do not have the ability to acknowledge the value of anything they do not like. Their interests, tastes, and choices are inherently immature and driven by disordered passions.
      2. It is not desirable for them to stay in this state.

      This is why we face the daily struggle of loving our children as they are and then trying our darnedest to change them! It makes it that much harder to know that what we are doing to them is for their own good even though they push back on us at nearly every turn. Think about any aspect of adult life - eating right, getting exercise, being faithful in all the small ways we know we should...how easy is self-discipline for any of us? How many of us truly do all the good things we know we should? The fact is, it is tough for all of us, right? To know the good, and to choose it. A hard enough expectation for adults, let alone our children.

      So, this is what I personally communicate to my children as we go through our days. It is the life of faithfulness in small things, the life of virtue in choosing the good things over the easy things. It is what we remind ourselves of in prayer, we convict ourselves of as we prepare for Confession, and what we encourage each other in as we read our stories and study our lessons. This is why classical education seeks wisdom and cultivates virtue. It's like a garden that is constantly tended in order to produce fruit. These are active, active, active pursuits - NOT a passive reception of good things.

      In my experience, what you are seeking does develop, praise be to God. It was not a magic formula other than what you already know to do - to just persevere and stay the course. There will be favorite things, and hated things, and a lot of in-between things. But where you are right now, with children all in grammar school or below - no, you're not feeling it yet. Don't expect it. Your work right now is to set work habits, to set obedience habits, to set standards, to build a culture. And to not see any result of your efforts. Think of it like the foundation walls of a house. They are buried in the dirt and you never see them, yet they are critical to the stability of the entire house. Cut corners, rush things, give up before it's finished and you will get a bit of relief, but you will not see the effect of your shortcut until later - when the house is rocky and cracks begin to show. You are in the thankless zone where it's all work and not a lot of reward. But have faith. Take it to prayer every day. Be reminded that all that time these children were being prepared before their birth, you had nothing much to do with them other than to feed your body well and give it rest. Invisible growth was taking place that was out of your control. Continue that. Feed yourselves and them on the richness of your educational path, rest well when needed, and trust that the invisible growth is taking place.

      This was in my morning reflection today. I hope it helps, too:
      "In the Gospels Our Lord often speaks about fidelity. He gives us the example of the faithful and prudent servant, of the valet who is good and loyal even in the smallest things, of the faithful steward, etc. So deeply has the notion of fidelity permeated the Christian that the title "faithful" is sufficient of itself to identify the disciples of Christ.

      The opposite of perseverance is inconstancy, which inclines a person to break off easily from doing good or from the practice of virtue as soon as difficulties or temptations arise. Among the most frequent obstacles to faithful perseverance, the first one of all is pride, which attacks the very foundations of fidelity and weakens the will to fight difficulties and temptations...On other occasions, obstacles can have their origin in carelessness concerning little things. Our Lord himself said: He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much. The Christian who takes care of even the smallest duties of his or her work, who struggles to keep presence of God throughout the day, who guards his senses with naturalness...these are the ones who are on the right road to being faithful when the time comes for their commitment to the call for genuine heroism." - Francis Fernandez


      AMDG,
      Sarah
      2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
      DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
      DS, 16
      DD, 14
      DD, 12
      DD, 10
      DD, 7.5
      DD, 5.5
      +DS+
      DS, 18 months

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by KF2000 View Post


        What is attractive from tailoring an education to the happiness, enjoyment, and interests of a child is the respect that is given to our children as people. We each cherish our precious children so much, that it is only natural to want to focus on and develop them to be the best they can be. But what I have concluded is that while these philosophies esteem children for their personhood (which is indeed good), there are two things wrong with trying to romanticize childhood:

        1. Children are not mini-adults. They do not have the ability to acknowledge the value of anything they do not like. Their interests, tastes, and choices are inherently immature and driven by disordered passions.
        2. It is not desirable for them to stay in this state.

        This is why we face the daily struggle of loving our children as they are and then trying our darnedest to change them! It makes it that much harder to know that what we are doing to them is for their own good even though they push back on us at nearly every turn. Think about any aspect of adult life - eating right, getting exercise, being faithful in all the small ways we know we should...how easy is self-discipline for any of us? How many of us truly do all the good things we know we should? The fact is, it is tough for all of us, right? To know the good, and to choose it. A hard enough expectation for adults, let alone our children.

        So, this is what I personally communicate to my children as we go through our days. It is the life of faithfulness in small things, the life of virtue in choosing the good things over the easy things. It is what we remind ourselves of in prayer, we convict ourselves of as we prepare for Confession, and what we encourage each other in as we read our stories and study our lessons. This is why classical education seeks wisdom and cultivates virtue. It's like a garden that is constantly tended in order to produce fruit. These are active, active, active pursuits - NOT a passive reception of good things.

        In my experience, what you are seeking does develop, praise be to God. It was not a magic formula other than what you already know to do - to just persevere and stay the course. There will be favorite things, and hated things, and a lot of in-between things. But where you are right now, with children all in grammar school or below - no, you're not feeling it yet. Don't expect it. Your work right now is to set work habits, to set obedience habits, to set standards, to build a culture. And to not see any result of your efforts. Think of it like the foundation walls of a house. They are buried in the dirt and you never see them, yet they are critical to the stability of the entire house. Cut corners, rush things, give up before it's finished and you will get a bit of relief, but you will not see the effect of your shortcut until later - when the house is rocky and cracks begin to show. You are in the thankless zone where it's all work and not a lot of reward. But have faith. Take it to prayer every day. Be reminded that all that time these children were being prepared before their birth, you had nothing much to do with them other than to feed your body well and give it rest. Invisible growth was taking place that was out of your control. Continue that. Feed yourselves and them on the richness of your educational path, rest well when needed, and trust that the invisible growth is taking place.

        This was in my morning reflection today. I hope it helps, too:
        "In the Gospels Our Lord often speaks about fidelity. He gives us the example of the faithful and prudent servant, of the valet who is good and loyal even in the smallest things, of the faithful steward, etc. So deeply has the notion of fidelity permeated the Christian that the title "faithful" is sufficient of itself to identify the disciples of Christ.

        The opposite of perseverance is inconstancy, which inclines a person to break off easily from doing good or from the practice of virtue as soon as difficulties or temptations arise. Among the most frequent obstacles to faithful perseverance, the first one of all is pride, which attacks the very foundations of fidelity and weakens the will to fight difficulties and temptations...On other occasions, obstacles can have their origin in carelessness concerning little things. Our Lord himself said: He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much. The Christian who takes care of even the smallest duties of his or her work, who struggles to keep presence of God throughout the day, who guards his senses with naturalness...these are the ones who are on the right road to being faithful when the time comes for their commitment to the call for genuine heroism." - Francis Fernandez


        AMDG,
        Sarah
        Listen to everything this woman says. She's amazing and one of my heroes.
        Melissa

        DS (MP2) - 8
        DS (MP1) - 7
        DS (K) - 5
        DD (Adorable distraction) 2

        Comment


          #5
          I'm glad (I guess?) that I am not the only one with this problem.

          Thank you, Sarah, for your encouragement.
          ~ Carrie
          Catholic mom to four - ages 10, 7, 5, and 2
          7th year homeschooling, 2nd year MP!
          2019-2020: 5M (LC year 2), 3M (LC year 2), and K enrichment!

          Comment


            #6
            I agree wholeheartedly with everything Sarah said, but (and I think Sarah would agree) we also need to be discerning. If we automatically assume all push-back is due to fallen human nature, we run the risk of missing something a child may actually need. In our house, I've found that push-back can usually be traced to one (or more) of five things:

            1. Lack of mastery/knowledge gaps. If a child is missing a piece of foundational knowledge, they will hate having to do anything that requires that knowledge. This doesn't only happen in cumulative/skills subjects though. If a child hasn't mastered the steps to forming a complete sentence, they will push-back on anything that requires them to do that, regardless of what subject it is in.

            2. Beating a dead horse. On the other hand, some kids master things more quickly than we, or the lesson plans, anticipate. If your child has truly MASTERED a concept, shift it to the once-a-week review category and let them move on.

            3. Time. Some kids hate to devote time to anything they didn't plan for themselves while others honestly think that things take FAR more time than they actually do. If the former, follow Sarah's advice. If the latter, ask them how long they think something will take and then, once they start, secretly time it. They'll be surprised that what they thought was for.ev.er was really only 10 minutes. Do this a few times and it will start helping reset their understanding of time.

            4. Confidence. See point #1

            5. It really is too hard. This can be for two reasons:

            A. When my son's meltdowns over school kept up, I had him take an official online reading/phonics assessment (DORA). He had just turned 9 but tested at an early-mid Kindergarten level in everything — and I was trying to do Storytime Treasures with him. I thought his "too hard" was simply lack of diligence, especially since he was already working well-below grade level due to reading struggles. Turns out, it really was too hard. We later discovered he had several hidden physical issues that were interfering with his ability to learn (they were also at the root of his unwillingness to do chores; he literally didn't have the strength to do anything for more than a few minutes!). After addressing the physical issues and switching to Simply Classical, he has completely taken off academically. He will likely be able to transition back to MP cores in the future.

            B. They aren't developmentally ready for the level of independence we expect of them. Sometimes all it takes is staying at elbow to turn a "hates-school-never-focuses-takes-forever-truant" into a cheerfully diligent student.

            Jennifer
            Blog: [url]www.seekingdelectare.com[/url]

            2019-2020 Plans:

            DS16
            MP10 Lit, MP-Holt Biology, Light to the Nations II, Spanish
            MPOA: Algebra I, High School Comp II

            DS15
            As above, plus:
            MP Greek Tragedies; no Spanish
            MPOA: Fourth Form Latin

            DS12: 7M subbing Sea to Shining Sea for American history

            DS11: Simply Classical Level 4

            DD9: 3A, with First Form Latin (long story!)

            DD7/8: Simply Classical Level 3

            DD 4/5: Simply Classical Level C (NT using SC for two-year PreK due to January birthday)

            Comment


              #7
              Hear! Hear! Sarah, you speak truth.

              It is not easy for any of us. Those mythological YouTubers of the homeschool world are selling the vision we all strive for yet isn't present in reality. Honestly, it's the same snake oil that's been sold since the Garden. If this is so good for me, why am I not enjoying myself? Just last night I called my pastor dad at almost midnight, confessing all of my discouragement and weariness in persevering. It's not that I haven't seen amazing fruit, it's just that it's still hard to hear the whining. After much prayer, the burden lifted. In no small grace, this morning was the best morning we've ever had. Everyone did what he or she was supposed to in their MP lessons. Our gracious Father knows exactly what we need, even before we ask. Fall before His throne to give you the strength to push through.
              Mama to 2, Married 17 years

              SY 19/20
              DD 8-3A
              DS 5-SC C

              Comment


                #8
                I am with Jen and that sometimes it isn't a "heart" issue or a we need to "train their will" issue (though of course this is also sometimes true). I also find that most of the time the child really doesn't understand! I find that you really need to find the "sweet" spot with MP. I would make sure that the material is at an appropriate level. Are you moving too fast? (or too slow?) I'm not saying that every day is a joy and my children are running to get work, but yes, they have found that at the end of the rope is knowledge! The light that beams when they see what their hard work has done for them is simply amazing. I do have to remind them when something seems like work again of that joy they experienced previously from hard work!!

                I also wanted to point out that just because a days work is "done" might not mean they get it. Each day should begin with review. If that takes a considerable amount of time, do not move onto the next day! I found this out the hard way!!

                Christine

                (2019/2020)
                DD1 8/23/09 - SC5/6
                DS2 9/1/11 - SC3,4, 5/6 combo
                DD3 2/9/13 -SC2 to start, MP1 second semester

                Previous Years
                DD 1 (MPK, SC2 (with AAR), SC3, SC4’
                DS2 (SCB, SCC, MPK, SC2)
                DD3 (SCA, SCB, Jr. K workbooks, soaking up from the others, MPK)

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Emilylovesbooks View Post
                  I am very aware that we should just persevere and stay the course. I try to read the forum often. However, to those who love MP and feel like they’ve figured out a routine they are happy with, what did you do to help your kids hop on board and get into the routine of just doing the work without battles? Did they reach a point where they realized they wanted to learn the material (for themselves, not for you)? How do you justify to them memorizing the content in areas that are not obviously cumulative, as Latin and math are? I feel like I must make them do their work because it’s my duty, but I dislike seeing them resent such beautiful study opportunities I think I’m offering them.
                  I think that the battles are part of our journey toward cultivating virtue in our children (and ourselves). Kids do not realize that they want to learn for themselves. They do not see the beauty in the opportunity that they have. That is one reason that you are there in their lives. To tell them what they are to learn and to show them how they are to learn and battle (and when). Battles will always be part of the journey. They are necessary. You have answered your own question: persevere and stay the course.

                  As far as trying to make those battles more manageable on a day to day basis though, this takes grit. It isn't easy and we all struggle with it. I could list a hundred things that I have tried and have worked and have tried and have failed. It would get boring so I will just list one of our major rules that became a game changer for us years ago: We do not speak or act negatively or in a complaining way about school during school. After school is over you may share your thoughts or complaints with me. (There does have to be consequences for when this rule is broken). It is no different than not allowing 4 letter words. It's a rule.

                  I thint that the opening prayer is a great way to set up this rule. "... To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not see for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward...." They do have to give in school, they have to fight through the frustration of the task, they have to work without immediate reward. It is all training. As Sarah said, it isn't visible yet. It will be though... just wait and see!

                  And sometimes you just need to call it a day, enjoy the weather, understand it is just a season, know that you got this even though you doubt, and take everyone for ice cream!

                  Originally posted by KF2000 View Post
                  So, this is what I personally communicate to my children as we go through our days. It is the life of faithfulness in small things, the life of virtue in choosing the good things over the easy things. It is what we remind ourselves of in prayer, we convict ourselves of as we prepare for Confession, and what we encourage each other in as we read our stories and study our lessons. This is why classical education seeks wisdom and cultivates virtue. It's like a garden that is constantly tended in order to produce fruit. These are active, active, active pursuits - NOT a passive reception of good things.

                  This was in my morning reflection today. I hope it helps, too:
                  "In the Gospels Our Lord often speaks about fidelity. He gives us the example of the faithful and prudent servant, of the valet who is good and loyal even in the smallest things, of the faithful steward, etc. So deeply has the notion of fidelity permeated the Christian that the title "faithful" is sufficient of itself to identify the disciples of Christ.

                  The opposite of perseverance is inconstancy, which inclines a person to break off easily from doing good or from the practice of virtue as soon as difficulties or temptations arise. Among the most frequent obstacles to faithful perseverance, the first one of all is pride, which attacks the very foundations of fidelity and weakens the will to fight difficulties and temptations...On other occasions, obstacles can have their origin in carelessness concerning little things. Our Lord himself said: He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much. The Christian who takes care of even the smallest duties of his or her work, who struggles to keep presence of God throughout the day, who guards his senses with naturalness...these are the ones who are on the right road to being faithful when the time comes for their commitment to the call for genuine heroism." - Francis Fernandez


                  AMDG,
                  Sarah
                  Wonderful! Thank you for sharing.
                  Callista
                  Long time homeschooler with MP

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by jen1134 View Post
                    I agree wholeheartedly with everything Sarah said, but (and I think Sarah would agree) we also need to be discerning. If we automatically assume all push-back is due to fallen human nature, we run the risk of missing something a child may actually need.
                    Yes, Jen, absolutely. Definitely agree with your post. This is the beauty of the Forum in action - so many wonderful women offering ideas from all segments to cover all the bases. Making sure to address each child’s particular struggles are definitely a key component of helping them succeed and grow in confidence - which then goes a long way toward helping them see the beauty of the fruits of their labor.

                    However, the battles remain, you know? Even in the best of circumstances, when children are reasonably placed and used to routines - the battles continue. Even when they have generally been docile, obedient, darling toddlers - the battles can (and eventually will) appear. Super bright whipper snappers who have a negative streak to offset their brilliance. Hardworking cheerful souls who still go through stages of pushing everyone’s buttons just for fun. Impatient young people who are frustrated at thinking their lives will never begin and have the dramatic streak to let everyone in the house know.

                    Battles, battles, battles. Today my 15 month old wanted to shove entire strawberries in his mouth instead of letting me cut them. My five year old decided she absolutely had to have the exact same thing her 11 year sister wanted to buy with her Easter money. My 7 year old was heartbroken that dinner plans got changed because mommy had to return the bad meat to the store. And on and on it goes. It’s not just school. It’s teaching these people to live life with the appropriate amount of passion and self-restraint.

                    I am am so glad that everyone has offered such additional, wonderful advice to fill out the whole picture of things to consider. (And I am so humbled by the positive comments). But even with all the stars aligned on a perfect day, part of the need to cherish those days so strongly is because we all know they are 1) rare; 2) fleeting; 3) impossible to replicate. What has helped me a ton is to be ok with that reality. These battles don’t “get” to me the way they used to. It’s like building up an immunity. Do it enough times, and it no longer surprises you. You realize each child will go through so many stages and difficulties that it’s pretty useless to get too worked up over any of them.

                    AMDG,
                    Sarah
                    Last edited by KF2000; 04-24-2019, 06:40 PM.
                    2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
                    DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
                    DS, 16
                    DD, 14
                    DD, 12
                    DD, 10
                    DD, 7.5
                    DD, 5.5
                    +DS+
                    DS, 18 months

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I just got back from my walk this morning, and I was listening to this awesome podcast from Circe that speaks to this question so well. It’s about 40 minutes, but is really good.

                      Circe Commons: Keith McCurdy on the Value of Struggle 3/5/19

                      AMDG,
                      Sarah
                      Last edited by KF2000; 04-25-2019, 08:53 AM.
                      2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
                      DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
                      DS, 16
                      DD, 14
                      DD, 12
                      DD, 10
                      DD, 7.5
                      DD, 5.5
                      +DS+
                      DS, 18 months

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thank you to everyone who offered their thoughts on my questions. I am so grateful that this forum exists because I have a place to take my questions and know that others will hear them and be thoughtful in their responses.

                        Melissa, you gave me some ideas for reimagining what our mornings could look like. You reminded me of a few things--that talk with Daddy. (I have the same experience here with my lack of the "magic voodoo.") And YES, I do need to be with them while they are working and stop expecting things to get done while I'm tending to other things or people. I put that into action today, and it helped so much!

                        Sarah, I've been thinking about your response, and there is a quite a bit packed in to continue to ponder. The quote you included was from In Conversation with God, right? I'm going to get back to using those books again. Also, I appreciated the reminder of the podcast about the value of struggle. I had listened to it before, but I listened again with my current questions in mind. I think my own bursts of immaturity and lack of ability to struggle well often get in the way of good parenting.
                        I agree with so much of what you said. The part I am not yet fully convinced of is whether school must be the thing that teaches the virtue. That doing the schoolwork in a schoolish way is necessary for kids to grown into decent and virtuous adults. I am somewhat drawn to self-directed learning philosophies because of the value placed on intrinsic motivation and how that plays out into adulthood. I wonder if people were generally happier and had more self awareness they would be able to choose to be virtuous. I don't know....I actually think it would be harder to follow my children's interests than to follow a curriculum I enjoy, but it is the emotional well being of the adult the child becomes that I am interested in. The podcast about the value of struggle suggested that emotions and feelings should be downplayed, and his reasons do make sense. However, there does seem to be enough struggle available in regular life, and to purposely add it in for schoolwork, well....I'm going to think more about that.

                        Jennifer, thinking through the reason for the push-back and your providing several examples makes me realize that time is probably a big one for my older student. I need to keep in mind that different kids will have different reasons for not wanting to do their work. Your comment shows that the push-back is helpful feedback for me that something isn't right, and I need to make adjustments.

                        Enbateau, you get it, too. But as adults are we not usually a better version of ourselves when we are happy? I think I am. So how does this fit into the idea that we are not supposed to be making our kids happy but instead virtuous, wise, "sturdy", etc.? (This is something I wondered about while listening to that podcast about struggle.) If we are feeling happy, can't we still choose wisdom and virtue? Will we be more likely to? Just questions that I have in general lately. I am not usually impressed by "unschooling" ideas, and I am well aware that MP seems quite opposite. However, there is one unschooling blogger/podcaster who is so very thoughtful and also serious about her faith, and she has made me realize that different paths won't always lead people astray either.

                        Christine, you are so right about finding a "sweet spot" with MP. Sometimes thinking I need to follow the guide exactly, even though I've heard on here so, so many times that it is just a guide, is what is stressful. It is hard to know at times which parts to let go of. My kids are not where I'd like them to be at the end of April. I really wanted to take a summer break, but maybe we should just keep going to get finished before fall. Since reading Climbing Parnassus, I have really wondered how much I should expect from a homeschool versus and cottage school or regular full-time school. Having the parent as teacher creates a very different feeling than having a non-family member as teacher.

                        Callista, I agree that it is worth teaching them to not talk negatively about school while trying to do their schoolwork. I will make an effort to work on this with them!

                        The days really fly by so quickly for me that I just do not want to look back and wonder why I made such a big deal over such and such if I did not have to. You know?

                        Thank you all so much for sharing your wisdom!

                        Last edited by Emilylovesbooks; 04-25-2019, 11:31 PM.
                        2018-19
                        DS--9, MP3M
                        DD--7, MPK/1
                        DD--5
                        DS--3
                        DS--Almost 1

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Emily,
                          I am so glad to see you responded, and to have you flesh out even more what you are really thinking about. I am not trying to eclipse anyone else here, so I hope everyone will jump in here today and offer thoughts as well - I just happen to have my quietest time at between 5am and 6am!

                          I give you so much credit for bringing your thoughts here to have this discussion. What you are reading and hearing about unschooling, or at least schooling in a way that is not quite so "school-ish" is tugging at your heart and you are wondering if it is something that will bring more happiness to your home, as far as I can tell from how you explained things. It's a restlessness about your primary vocation as a mother, who also happens to be a homeschooler. You have a beautiful brood of little people, and it sounds like perhaps you are not enjoying them all that much when it comes to your school days - and that is indeed a cause for sadness and concern that you are missing the best years of their lives by being so heavy-handed with school.

                          The first thought I have from what you have shared is that you sound tired, no? Looking at your signature, my first instinct is "she HAS to be tired!" I only have one little guy and then a five year old...you have two very little boys right next to each other...that in itself is like a whole day's work right there! I would think that right now, your need to meet the physical demands of young children overwhelms your ability to really focus on school with your older two - which leaves you constantly battling and feeling behind. I think a good thing to do is to first, not make a ton of changes. Don't drop the curriculum and call it the fault of the plan. That's not it. I can tell you that right now. Don't jump ship. But what I would do is simply have the work that you do, but approach it in a more relaxed manner - a way that is more appropriate for the size and age of your household.

                          I had to do that this year as well. This year is the biggest stretch I will ever have...from senior in high school all the way down to a baby underfoot (he's not really a baby - but he will get that label forever since he's most likely the last!) But midway through the year I was losing it. Always behind with everyone. So I made what I felt was a drastic change. My two primary kids went down to just three days per week - MWF. They don't get as much done, and we will probably school through the summer, but they need to anyway to keep practicing, and I needed to have two days per week to do whatever I needed with older kids, to call doctors, to make plans, to deal with life with a big family. And it has been so much more peaceful for me! I think you should make your school work FOR you instead of against you. Decide how much you can manage each week, while still making time to do fun things with your family - even if it is sitting on the floor, enjoying the fact that you have been given such blessings!

                          The second thing that struck me was your concern about happiness - which is as much of an important thing for yourself as it is for your children. But what has always been true in my house is that kids can always find a reason to be unhappy. Happiness is a choice, not a goal. When you strive for it, you often can't find it. When I have been served something unpleasant for dinner, I can choose to be grumpy about it, or I can choose to be grateful for having something at all to eat. This is what I teach my children - that it's all in how you look at it. There will always be things that don't go their way, that they don't like, or that can disappoint them. They could be miserable every single day if they wanted to. But they could also be happy if they wanted to. And this is intrinsically tied to the next thing...

                          Which is that yes, the quote I included was from In Conversation with God. And just this past Monday there was a great one about Joy - the Joy of the Resurrection. It's Easter Monday, so if you have the book, check it out. It's such a great reminder about our true joy coming from the Lord. When we try to do things without Him, on our own, they are fruitless - a waste of time, just like the Apostles who fished all night and caught nothing. It is only when we follow the prompting of Christ that we reap the benefits we seek. So, again, I would encourage you to not make any big changes right now, but to instead, see how you are doing in your prayer life. I always find that when I let other things fill up my time and I don't do my daily commitment, I lose sight very quickly of what God is asking of me every single day. You may not be certain of what homeschooling path is right for your family, but God is. You may have a zillion and one questions, worries, and concerns about how your children will turn out, but God knows. The reading from Fernandez today pointed out that Jesus chose fishermen because they knew how to be patient to see the fruits of their labor. That's important for us to remember too.

                          Which brings me back to the podcast too - did you realize that he didn't say anything about "do this certain thing with your students" in order to help them appreciate struggle? It really didn't have anything practical to offer in the way of steps, tips, or strategies. The entire focus was on cultivating the right level of commitment on the part of the teacher so that he or she could create the kind of culture in the classroom where struggle is valued as an exciting challenge. It was about fostering the right commitment, and then being able to communicate that commitment well to the parents as well, so that everyone was one the same page as far as understanding the goal. This is what I do in my home, and is what has helped my children realize that their education is valuable to them. This is what we talk about frequently - the vision of the person they each want to become. You are not at a place to have those conversations too much yet - your 9 year old can start thinking in these ways though. I would say you are on the cusp of having young people who are thoughtful and committed to their own education. But whether they become that or not rests on your shoulders. It depends on your commitment level, and how you communicate that to them. For me, I rely wholeheartedly on the Holy Spirit to give me the right words at the right time. And again, that comes down to daily prayer.

                          I know classical Christian homeschooling is not the only path out there. And if your prayer and reflection leads you to make a different commitment, then trust that. I would just encourage you that once you do make a commitment, follow through on that. Read and listen to things that support it and inspire you to keep going. Right now you are splitting your time because you are questioning. But part of that might be leading you into doubt just to get you to leave the path you are supposed to be on. Once you decide, shut your ears to those voices that weaken you rather than strengthen you.

                          God bless,
                          AMDG,
                          Sarah

                          P.S. 9 year old girls are especially taxing in their own particular way. I am on my fourth 9 year old girl, and the number of times I have repeated the same conversation about attitude boggles my mind. I know she will turn the corner toward positivity eventually because I know her true heart, but this stage is just beastly.
                          Last edited by KF2000; 04-26-2019, 09:09 AM.
                          2019-2020 - 9th Year with MP
                          DD, 18, Homeschool grad; Art major/philosophy minor
                          DS, 16
                          DD, 14
                          DD, 12
                          DD, 10
                          DD, 7.5
                          DD, 5.5
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                          DS, 18 months

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                            #14
                            You have some lovely thoughts and provoking questions! I too give you credit for bringing them up. It is a nice conversations and great to be able to take in all of the ideas and thoughts gathered here. I’ll offer up a couple of thoughts running through my mind after reading your post (keep in mind I’ve only one cup of coffee in).

                            I think that your questions beg more questions that you alone will have to answer for yourself… that being, how do you interpret and perceive what virtue is and how it is attained?

                            Feelings aren’t virtues. Feelings deceive us and change with the wind. Virtue forms who we are regardless of our feelings. It exists through the storm and even after the winds have died down though we be battered a bit. Thankfulness is where it starts, not happiness. Aren’t you thankful that your faith and the truth behind it isn’t dependent on how happy or how sad you are any given day?

                            Here is the thought that I find interesting….You said this: “However, there does seem to be enough struggle available in regular life, and to purposely add it in for schoolwork, well....I'm going to think more about that.”

                            I have struggled with this too earlier on in our homeschool days so I can relate. To me you are on the right track just flip that around a little bit…. “I AM going to purposely add in struggle to our regular ordinary lives so that when regular adult life hits them as adults they can handle it because they will be prepared.”

                            Here is my example… All of my children have done and continue to strive in the martial arts. Oddly it was this activity and a passing impromptu conversation from one of the teachers that helped me in the realization of the importance of struggle, most definitely purposeful struggle. It was along the lines of life is hard and kids need to be instructed how to handle it when it hits them.… and sometimes beats them up. It doesn’t matter if your happy or sad or mad, or self-aware, life happens. What will their response be?

                            On the mat the kids are sweating, they are going back and forth physically with one another and testing their own strength against other kids, other coaches.. They want to quit. They want to hit to hard that kid they don’t like. They had to do push ups for being disrespectful or late or are now angry or embarrassed. They are hot, tired, thirsty. They wonder if the black belt is worth it. It is a mess of practicing for life happening out there. It is a safe place to practice though. It is a habit of handling uncomfortable situations in a controlled environment. It is how the emotional well being of the adult that those children will become is being formed.
                            • **I got noticed and praised in front of the entire group: practice thankfulness with humility
                            • **There is a kid over there who is scared to death and struggling at what to do next: practice kindness and go be their partner for the evening
                            • **That kid that I can’t stand is acting out again and I want to punch him: practice self control/self-discipline
                            • **I’m tired and I don’t want to go to the gym tonight, even though I told them I would be there: practice loyalty.
                            • **I’ve worked so hard to get my belt but I just couldn’t break the board this time. I should just throw in the towel now: practice perseverance, keep trying to break that board and test again for that belt
                            • **I'm afraid to try again and fail in front of all of these people: practice bravery and courage
                            • **My hand or foot hurts from practicing the board breaking so much: practice again perseverance, diligence, and toil.
                            • **The gym is closed today: practice rest

                            I could go on, but you get the point… the idea is that the purposeful struggle in a controlled environment is preparing for them how they will handle situations in an UNCONTROLLED environment. These things can be applied to schooling too.

                            One of the coaches always tell the kids, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes habit!” It is the habit of our lives that is the formation of how they will proceed into adulthood and tackle all of that life that they will have to be able to handle.

                            Kids don’t wake up one day as adults with the self awareness to realize it is time to be virtuous. Our kids won't always feel happiness. I wish! It reminds of the Amazon commercial where the mom said, “Alexa, raise the kids!”

                            School is a tool to teach virtue, there are other tools too but you specifically mentioned schooling. Our habits in our homeschooling: the literature we read, the brave and courageous characters we learn about, even the lazy and prideful ones we learn about, the repetition of math drills, the handwriting practice every.single.day. , when a subject is hard for our kids (or for us) and takes more time than we wish it did but we keep going anyway… all of this is the formation of who they are and who they will become. The opposite is true too… if we chase their desires, focus on feeling happy all the time, comparing ourselves and our kids to others, hopping from one curriculum and philosophy to the next without ever completing anything and so forth…this too will determine who they become. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Lessons are caught not taught?” I get this! With homeschooling our kids get to see us at our worst and our best. Tears, struggles, joy, happiness... it all works together. We aren't covering up struggles, we are teaching (maybe without realizing it) how to handle struggles.

                            On the thought of lessons being caught and just being, "tired." It's a real thing and rest is important. We also teach when it is a time for rest and how to discern that. Perhaps you could take one more week of school to tie up some loose ends / finish each lesson that you are on and then break for several weeks (start your summer now) and take your rest. Would it be possible to start back up then in July with where you stopped now. Then by September (fall) be where you would like to be? Thinking outside the box and letting go of the curriculum guide schedule is very freeing.

                            This was a lot longer than I intended so please forgive me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find them very interesting and appreciate the conversation to continue to flesh this out as it is something that I have pondered on a lot myself and still seek for right thinking….
                            Callista
                            Long time homeschooler with MP

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                              #15
                              I love this thread. It's actually delves pretty deep into our own philosophies. It's fascinating really because we each tackle this question differently. Apparently, my constant approach to questions is to answer with processes. I find that hysterical. Looking back over my responses to other questions in the forum, my thoughts follow the same pattern: here's a tool, a process, a specific strategy or plan of attack. I'm just enjoying my own humor right now.

                              I'm drawn to your question about whether school teaches virtue and whether school itself is the right forum to give instruction in this area. So far, if I can humbly add what I've learned of my own kids so far...the answer has been yes. If any thing, this is the only place where they seem to really be pondering these adult concepts.

                              A few specific examples (I'm incapable of anything else!):
                              In the story Little Toot...on the surface, it's a cute story. Without guidance, my sons only picked up on the fact that the other tugboats were "being mean". I had to guide them a little more because I had to make them realize that while this cute little character had his feelings hurt, he was living his "entire" life pursuing his own hobbies and interests with the goal of "fun" alone. But a person can't always spend time having "fun". Is there work to do? Important work? Sometimes, life saving work? Are there responsibilities? Silliness is fun, but doesn't it have a time and place? If you are someone who isn't recognized for making that distinction - that there's a time and place for silly fun, and a time and place for focused work - people won't treat you like a grown up. My boys were confused then, because later Little Toot wanted to help. He wasn't taken seriously. He was treated like a silly child. My boys didn't like that. It bothered them that Little Toot couldn't spontaneously decide one day he was going to be "different" and others didn't just fall into line and treat him as an adult. I had to explain that more. I had to tell them that you don't just become an adult "one day". You are becoming an adult "right now". You are becoming the man you will be, right now, in this moment. Are you the man that understands how to separate a time to work and a time to rest? Are you going to be the man who works hard for his family, even when he is tired, frustrated, angry, etc? Are you going to be the man who does what he should, even without reward? (Think the opening prayer). Are you going to be the man that chooses right from wrong, even when no one else will know it but God alone? Are you the man who tells the truth or exaggerates? Are you the kind of man that only poses more problems or a man that seeks out solutions to fix them? Should you think of yourself as a little boy at all - or a Man in training? Heavy concepts for a 7 and 8 year old. But it's a silly story right? It's supposed to be teaching reading, etc. What does this long-winded example mean? Kids are notoriously bad at really seeing the deeper truths without direct, focused, and intensive guidance. Left to their own, their conclusions about behaviors are pretty shallow. They may get the "facts" of a story, but little else and I fear that is all a self directed approach to education provides - at least for this batch of boys. They may like or dislike a story, but they are unlikely to "ponder" it without my active guidance. The Enrichment for MP is, if anything, some of the most important because I get real time to help them understand people, and their own personal character development. I don't get that kind of laser like focus in any other time or place - except in the school environment.

                              Example 2: Little House in the Big Woods
                              "Don't interrupt Laura".
                              Ah....the concept of interrupting. Laura interrupts her sister and she's called on it by her Pa. We have a problem with that here because the boys are so young and manners are a work in progress. Seeing that this was a rule 150 years ago, and it applies to siblings as well as adults, allowed me a chance to explain that truth. Believe it or not, the concept of "interrupting" being bad is not a "universal truth". Side note. I used to work in Oil and Gas for a French company that was partly run by London and both guided actions in the U.S. entity. Sitting around a conference table, the cultural distinctions become very apparent. (I have great respect for both cultures, but they themselves held seminars for us explaining their approach - so these are their words, not mine.) Interrupting is nearly an art form for the French and they don't take offense to giving or being on the receiving end of it. The British were seemingly "hostile" around the table using confrontational tones and words, but apparently, that's their approach to business models and they don't frown on it when they do it or receive it. However, the Americans around the table were hopping mad. (I was 6 months pregnant...my mouth filters were a little absent.) The point is, the cultural exposure is fascinating because you have to learn to create a foreign "filter" to what you believe are universal norms of civility. I had to explain that to my husband who had a similar experience years later at a business meeting in London. Believe it or not, after these very aggressive meetings, these same people want to have lunch and visit and have fun, be friends even. You may be ready to speak softly and go find a very big stick, but they are not! So here is the question. Are these people being rude? Is rudeness a lack of "virtue". They believe these meetings are successful, productive, effective. However, taking that same approach amongst our own culture will not have a desirable outcome. So, many desirable behaviors must be taught - explicitly. If each culture has a different view on what is a desirable behavior, then we can't stumble into that truth because it is not "universal" . My son, who has some expressive/receptive challenges, understood all of a sudden that the concept of "interrupting" really was frowned upon. Maybe it goes back to that "voodoo man voice". If Pa said not to do it, maybe it's worth listening to. It's not just "Mama's rule". When I corrected him later in the week, the use of the phrase "don't interrupt your brother" had much more gravity.

                              Sometimes, I feel like school is an "appeal to authority" approach. The concept "Do this because I said so" doesn't educate, so much as end the conversation. If I can appeal to the authority of history, that an expectation is millennia old, then they start to see their place in this world and that if everyone before them came to this wisdom, then the onus of it falls to them as well - and not just because "Mama said so". If anything, I cease to be "Mama" in many ways and become more "Magistra".

                              Originally posted by Callista View Post


                              As far as trying to make those battles more manageable on a day to day basis though, this takes grit. It isn't easy and we all struggle with it. I could list a hundred things that I have tried and have worked and have tried and have failed. It would get boring so I will just list one of our major rules that became a game changer for us years ago: We do not speak or act negatively or in a complaining way about school during school. After school is over you may share your thoughts or complaints with me. (There does have to be consequences for when this rule is broken). It is no different than not allowing 4 letter words. It's a rule.

                              I thint that the opening prayer is a great way to set up this rule. "... To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not see for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward...." They do have to give in school, they have to fight through the frustration of the task, they have to work without immediate reward. It is all training. As Sarah said, it isn't visible yet. It will be though... just wait and see!


                              .
                              I used this in class on the board the other day to great effect. Thanks Callista!
                              Melissa

                              DS (MP2) - 8
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