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experienced hs moms, pls help me see the big picture...

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I need to refocus my schooling-related goals for the remainder of this school year. I have 5 kids - dd13, dd11, dd9, ds6, dd1. They are in 8th, 6th, 3rd, and 1st grades and all homeschooled since the beginning. They are all avid readers and curious and doing well academically if standardized tests can be used as an indicator. For various reasons I am at a stage where I just cannot give as much time and effort to hsing on a daily basis as I used to. I'm getting stretched thinner by responsibilities outside the home and inside the home. I'm thinking of paring down to just the basics for a season in our homeschool. I mean really basic like math, whatever aspect of LA that each one needs most right now, journaling, and lots of assigned reading. Would you agree that in the younger grades, they just need exposure to science and history topics? My 6th grader just finished a year of intense science, and she loves to read historical fiction. I can assign a stack of books and just keep my grading to a minimum. My 8th grader works very independently and checks a lot of her own work so I don't need to make many changes for her. My 3rd and 1st grader have not seen the Liberty Kids series yet so I though this might be a good time for them to watch all 40 episodes.


I guess I would just really love to hear an "it'll be ok" from an experienced hs mom. I've learned that I can't do all the extras every year. This year it seems like I can't do any extras.



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It most definitely will be okay.  If your 8th grader is independant then I would not pare that down much just to stay on track for high school, but for all the rest cutting way back is just fine.  With my oldest 2 we barely did more than the basics for a year at a time if other matters needed to be better focused on and in the bigger picture it has not hampered them from doing well with high school.  That's the beauty of homeschooling, you can take that time to put your focus in other areas when needed and pare down academics.  Another thing I would add is having the older kids work with the younger kids with things like read alouds.  Schools do this too with the student buddy.  Older students are paired with younger and read to them, help them with craft projects etc.  The kids love it, it helps the younger build skills and the older build empathy, patience, and mastery of the subeject matter.  It may help you bring in some of the other stuff you don't want to fully give up but simply don't have enough time for teaching yourself.

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LOL! I'm a bad person to reply to this. I think your plan is fine.  I have kids that seem pretty similar to yours, avid readers who perform well on standardized testing. My current homeschoolers are six and ten. I have some older kids who are in public high school (not by my choice and I am less than impressed with the whole thing), and I have two homeschool graduates. You might think I'm a bit of a slacker.....but I'll share what we do so you can compare. 


I don't assign reading anymore. I make suggestions, I point out books that look interesting to me, but other than that I just take 'em to the library or enter the parental control password on the kindle and stay out of the way. Of course, I have kids who would rather read than go out for ice cream because it seems they are always at a 'good part'. I don't assign reading and I don't grade anything related to what they read. I have the six year old read aloud to me daily and I go over phonics with him. The ten year old tests at a high school level for reading and comprehension so I don't worry about that with her. 


I used to worry about spelling and handwriting and that sort of thing, but honestly they will never have neat handwriting (no one in the entire family has neat handwriting) and spelling is easy for them. Vocabulary doesn't seem to be an issue either. I think it has to do with all of the reading they do. So we ditched spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting. I was concerned about developing their writing skills and it took me a while to find a good fit for that. I settled on Brave Writer. The Wand and the Arrow products are great for my purposes. Grammar, usage, and mechanics are covered, literary elements are discussed, books are read, and the kids aren't complaining about the interesting writing projects or groaning that they don't know what to write in their journals. We even do the poetry tea time and it's become a highlight of our week. It also doesn't take up a lot of my time and they retain what we go over. Win-win.


We do math daily. No getting around that one. 


Mine don't like Liberty's Kids, but they generally love documentaries and movies. I think that between their reading habits and my gently herding them toward interesting documentaries they are getting a decent education in history. I do history read alouds for the whole group twice a week also using, of course, The Story of the World. I should break down and just buy the darn cds and save my voice. I feel it gives them something of an understanding of the flow of history. The ten year old has read ahead on her own initiative and likes to tease her brother about the 'good parts' coming up. They tend to tinker with legos or knex while I read aloud. Sometimes they draw or sketch. I just ask that they be quiet and pay attention. 


Science has been an issue off and on. Mine are interested in science and gravitate toward shows like Popular Mechanics for Kids, but library books were apparently too dull for them. I really liked the approach of Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, but it does require more prep time from me than I like. We splurged and tried Supercharged Science and my kids love Aurora Lipper. We signed up for her escience course and we get readings, videos, experiments that really do use fairly common household stuff, and lots of cool ideas. When I wake up on a Saturday morning and they are watching Aurora on the computer monitor on their own initiative I guess I found a good fit. I make time for them to do science together twice a week. They tend to work together for part of the time, we talk about whatever the topic is together, and they also spontaneously go off and do stuff related to whatever the topic is independently. 


I don't grade any of it. I'm right there and we all talk together about what's going on so I feel I have a good idea of how well they have understood the things we have gone over. I save their written work and their math work. I live in a highly regulated state (PA) but I've never turned in any tests or grades to the school district. I understand that in New York one has to turn in grades. I guess if I had to do that I would have to base them on something other than a numerical score. 


We do electives. I don't assign them. The kids choose what they want to do and I just record it. I give them ideas or make suggestions, but I don't drag them along to get that sort of thing done. They both decided to take a break from Latin this spring and to give Spanish a try. They have been watching the Salsa videos on Youtube and goofing around with Duolingo. They both like logic puzzles so I got them some puzzle books from the Critical Thinking Company. They insist t on watching CNN Student News during breakfast. I introduced it, but being the curious, active kids that they are I've learned that herding them is a lot easier than dragging them along. I introduce things but I let it up to them to decide after that if they want to continue. We have a rule that whatever one chooses to do between breakfast and dinner must be educational in some way and I get to decide if something meets the criteria or not, so they are the ones who can either choose to be bored (which gets them a chore assignment) or find something they are interested in to do, not me. 


It took me a while to figure out the whole 'herding' thing and to be comfortable putting the responsibility on them to find things that interest them. I think it works well for us and I don't feel pulled in so many different directions (I have grandchildren I watch who need attention too). It seems like this is pretty similar to the direction you are heading in, so at least you know you aren't alone. I feel pretty positive about how it's working out. When pulled my oldest two kids from eighth and ninth grades I pretty much did the same thing. They both read incessantly without my urging them and adored historical fiction. I insisted on daily math and hired a tutor to make sure they were on track (didn't have much confidence in myself then). I had been a science major and tried to share with them my love of science through discussion, reading, and of course documentaries. They also pursued whatever hobbies interested them. One wrote short stories and they both wrote poetry. They were both interested in writing and won a few essay contests here and there locally.  One is now a veteran of the US Army and a college graduate, the other, who had a rocky time with peer issues, jail time, and addiction,  has taken college courses and manages a club. Neither of them has ever had any trouble with college level material or with getting a good score on the various tests or college admission tests they took.  I did go through a more structured approach for a while with the younger children, but I've gone back to and refined the whole child-led approach so you could say we've come full circle. guess this approach can be successful, lol. 

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Reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Definitely keep those going.  


As for the rest, if they are avid readers, hit the library for stacks of books.  Maybe see if you can throw some science biographies and historical fiction in there. Have them focus on a time period - all of them.   A good set of DVD's from the library such as "The Presidents" from the History Channel would keep those all the way down to at least the 9 year old interested and would be wonderful exposure to history.


Swellmomma had great ideas.  The olders reading to the youngers and helping them with craft projects, etc. is exactly what the old one-room school houses did.  


Good luck!

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Thank you so much! I knew if I asked on the high school boards I would get some needed perspective. I think I need to rework my plan going forward. I will definitely use some of the ideas you all have given me. If someone else cares to chime in, I would welcome your thoughts. My parents need my help on some things right now. Well really, it's indefinitely. So I need to rethink how I do things in terms of homeschooling.


Thanks again.

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Thanks, Margaret, for your words of caution. I don't think I want to know how you know the things you mentioned. Ignorance is bliss, right?


My oldest is in some online classes and has accountability beyond just me. I'm really not thinking of making any changes at all for her. We've decided to send her to a local private high school next year. She is ready academically (and otherwise, I think;-)


I'm just looking at cutting way back for the rest of the kids and just for the remainder of this school year. I need to come up with a better plan for next year. You all have given me some good food for thought. I welcome more thoughts. My outside responsibilities are likely only going to increase for a time so my husband and I are looking at the big picture of can we/should we keep hsing all of them going forward.


Thank you.

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When we were in a similar situation, I started giving my son a checklist of a few school things that needed to be done by himself.  When the list was given I would even ask things like, "Am I going to tell you to do these things?" or "Whose responsibility is this list?" so it was stone, cold clear.  The list usually had about 3 items in the beginning.  It contained things like a section of math review (nothing new), a chapter of a school book, and grammar worksheets.  It wasn't crazy.  Slowly we started adding a few new things on the list like try reading the math chapter or just outline your essay. The provision was always offered "If you are stuck, it is okay, just let me know tonight."  Then we had Spelling happen first thing in the morning so that I could read the list with him and do it together for 15 minutes before he started his day.  I created a big list of Netflix or YouTube supplements which were added in for him to watch in history, science, etc. where he had to do a small write up about them.


Over the course of a year, it created a system where he could get over 60 percent of his schooling done without me, and another 20 percent started pretty well by himself with me there to fill in bits, and only about 20 percent where I actually needed to be directly involved.  It was a bit scary at first, because both of us were having to grow a lot, but it has really shown me that we can continue homeschooling through quite a bit.  If something were to happen (Heaven forbid) he could self manage really well with help in the evenings.


It will be okay.  Flexibility is an important lesson, too.  We don't like to think of it that way, but kids need to see parents and family helping each other in times of need.  Community is sometimes the most important lesson, and it rarely happens perfectly when everything is okay.

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