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    Week Four Troubleshooting

    September 20, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Well, last Monday I could tell that the honeymoon was officially over. My preschoolers were beginning to meltdown near the end of our prior week, but our Friday co-op saved the day. Unfortunately, they didn’t forget their discontent by Monday morning, and so Monday was difficult.

    I tried a few easy things, such as reading them a quick book or sending them out to play, but they got more and more clamorous.

    On Wednesday, when I skipped our mid-morning walk in order to make time for an appointment we had before naptime, it was a total disaster. I was reaffirmed in my belief that it is the walk which makes O.-Age-Three so delightful to be around on a school day. We skipped the walk, and delightful he was not.


    After talking with a friend about it last Tuesday, and Si about it pretty much every single day since I started having trouble with these two, it dawned on me that really the root of our trouble was that Q.-Age-Four was making it crystal clear she wanted daily preschool, and the bottom line was that I didn’t want to give it to her. After all, Friend L. is going to preschool, and it’s only two days a week. Why can’t our preschool be two days a week?

    I’ll tell you why: because I need to become less selfish. That’s why.


    I got to thinking about when E.-Age-Nine was four. He pretty much taught himself to read, but I worked with him through chapter books at that age. Because he was the oldest, I never thought about how many days we were doing. We just did what I thought he needed. Now that I have more students, I am getting miserly with my time. Of course, it isn’t all about me. A.-Age-Six is my least academic child, and I went into this year knowing that she needed my complete and undivided attention. There was a part of me that worried that giving Q. the lessons she was demanding would result in not giving A. the lessons she needed.

    I know that all of you mothers out there with nineteen children are laughing right now at my petty issues, but here they are.

    Last night, I decided that perhaps God was trying to give me a gift, if only I would let Him. You see, it was extremely convenient to jump into Year One with a child who could already read. At the time, I had three children under four–one a newborn–and so I was tight on time those first few months. The fact that he could read his own math directions, for instance, was huge. The fact that I didn’t have to carve out time for phonics lessons was huge. Those sorts of things only take minutes, but when I am short on time, it is the minutes that seem to matter most.

    Q.-Age-Four has always seemed very much like her big brother. She was ready for lessons the day she was born, and being a girl, she was also born with a pencil in her hand. She isn’t hyperlexic like he is, though, so she requires reading lessons. But seeing as she and O.-Age-Three will only be a year apart in school, wouldn’t finishing up phonics earlier be helpful?

    It was like the burden suddenly became a gift.

    So on Thursday I changed everything around. I moved back into our living room {which I had left after the first couple of days so as not to constantly ask O.-Age-Three to be quiet while playing with his trains}. I set up three chairs: one at the coffee table for A., two at the toddler table for Q. and O. I decided I would only give them “lessons” if they asked for them.

    Q., of course, was on board for the whole morning. At the toddler table, I placed our organizer full of colored pencils, markers, and glue. I had printed off sheets from Donna Young: a shape trace page and a drawing trace page. I also made up a page of traceable letters, numbers and her first name to match what A.-Age-Six does almost daily. I separated out all of the Bob Books that Q. can already read on her own from my big box, and put them in a smaller tub. And then I also brought Q.’s phonics binder.

    Then it was time to see how well we could juggle. {O.-Age-Three decided to listen to a CD in the play nook and sing at the top of his cute little lungs: “If you’re happy and you know it shout ‘Hooray!'” “Oooway!!”} I gave Q. the drawing trace sheet to trace and color and told her that when she was done with that, she could read from her Bob Books tub. She loved having something assigned to do. That, surprisingly enough, bought me enough time to give A. a reading lesson and also work through our first reading and narration.

    Next, I gave Q. her letters and numbers trace page {this child adores writing–her hand never seems to wear out, which baffles me}, and A. and I set to work on her math and her second reading and narration.

    At that point, it was A.’s turn for tracing and practicing letter formation, so we switched. A. went to the toddler table, and Q. joined me on the couch for reading lessons. {Please note that E.-Age-Nine was popping in and out to ask questions or narrate as needed–he has been taught to wait until I finish what I am working on with A. before interrupting.} Around this time, O. showed up. He was delighted to sit and draw on the back of one of his sister’s worksheets, and when he tired of that, he sat in my lap for a while.

    Our lesson time ended with poetry, and then they all went outside to play.

    Here is the crazy thing: I thought that by giving more to more people, I’d be at a net loss by the end of the day. I thought we’d eat lunch at 2:00 pm or something. I thought I might die.

    But that isn’t what happened.

    Even though I gave more and we all did more, we finished…are you ready for it?…earlier.

    A whole half-hour.

    I guess I didn’t realize how much time I was spending breaking up preschool fights or something. Telling them what to do seems to have worked out much better than spending my morning scolding them and reminding them what not to do.

    O.-Age-Three will still be our loose canon, and the novelty of lessons may very well wear off for Q.-Age-Four after a couple of weeks of “real” school. But I’ll take what I can get, and I’ll also take the lesson: sometimes in giving, we find we still have what we started with.

    Or, as in my case, we have more than we started with. For not only did we have more time, we had happier hearts.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts September 21, 2011 at 3:40 am

    Pam rhymes with glam. It’s the up-do, my friend. Gives you a sophisticated look. 🙂

    Rebecca–I hadn’t thought about that being a transition, but you are totally right! This was the first year I’ve not had morning naps and our summer was totally different from ever before.

    Mystie–I should hang that verse in my office!

    HC–It sounds like your “day off” was the best thing. Why continue the insanity if it’s not working? 🙂

    As far as not getting it is concerned…I do two things, personally. (1) I pray that God will enlighten them. He is their Source of knowledge, in the end, and He is the only one able to turn on their little minds. (2) I cut lessons in half to see if they need smaller chunks. Sometimes their brains turn off because I’m giving them too much at a time, not because they can’t handle the subject in general.

    Pam–I look forward to reading your link!

  • Reply Pam... September 20, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    oops. Wrong link. Sorry to monopolize the page Brandi.
    Here it is HC.

    Not joining in dear Silvia? Miss ya!

  • Reply Pam... September 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Wow anonymous. You are now my new bff for saying I look glam!
    Beats the senior citized discount I was offered at Goodwill the other day! hah!

    Oh, there are lots of stories to be told of difficult days, and memory loss kids, and people not getting it. Like this:

  • Reply Anonymous September 20, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    As ever a timely blog post sent from above.

    I like reading your blogs Brandy, cos I like to ‘see’ into someone elses homeschool and all the complications that come with it, so that I can fix my own.

    I second Pam (who looks very glam in this pic)- this post is too funny. Honest and really helpful.

    Im trying to juggle my six with all of them down to 2yo wanting their table in the older kids section and none of them want to take their table to the ‘baby’ section and everyone also wants a lesson!!

    This has been frustrating because I just dont know what to do. Ive been shouting at the kids (more so because at the back of my mind theres a lot more I need to prepare because Ive realised that I need to also prepare for the 3 little ones). “sigh”.

    So I took a day off today after 8 days into the first term! Oh Dear.

    I agree with you about the more you give the more time you’ll get – God willing. As we did freeplay today I was able to give more of my time to them freely. In between the play, I was also able to sit down and discuss the human body, the earth, food and other topics all in a relaxed manner -on thier premises, and we all had happier hearts.

    When I realise that Im being selfish and miserly with my time I know its MY issue.

    So what do you guys think to yourself that stops you from losing it, when the children are not ‘getting it’? Cos I just shout and feel so lousy (sigh).

    Pam, How do you manage that many? I would love you to write another post about this. How to love them when theyre not ‘getting it’, and when their dawdling in the morning, and when they start off narrations and cant remember anything………and when they’re fighting amidst it all!


  • Reply Mystie September 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Last night Matt read a chapter in Proverbs: He who waters will himself be watered.

    Our break week and fresh start has bought me another round of buy-in, but I am very much in the juggling stage with a wants-to-be-controlling 3 1/2 yo and an active 18 month old.

    Speaking of juggling, we just had an impromptu recess, and I need to recall the crew.

  • Reply rebecca September 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Although L is only going to preschool two mornings a week (and BSF one morning a week), I do believe she would benefit from more. Not really more days at school, but more days that I am willing to do school type activities with her. I just really haven’t managed to get myself organized enough to do it. I am pretty much a free time kind of mom, meaning that the kids are free to amuse themselves all morning long, but I do spend a lot of time breaking up toddler fights and redirecting them from things I don’t want them to do. I do think that letting them direct their own play probably encourages imagination, but we could probably use a little less imagination around here and a little more structure.

    In some ways I am still recovering from the baby stage in which our days were really structured around naps and meals and nothing else. I used that morning nap time for preschool activities for L, but when the boys stopped taking a morning nap it sort of became a free for all around here.

  • Reply Pam... September 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    You are too funny. I know it doesn’t feel like “too funny” though. It feels like overwhelming chaos sometimes!!

    It is very hard when the group is as young as yours. Like 1 person walking 5 dogs at once! Here, with older kids, it’s more like 5 people walking 5 dogs. Yet, some of the walkers are moody teens! LOl. I know. Pardon the weird analogy.

    You are on the right track though. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Keeping on top of the ‘whirlwind’. (breathe, blow, blow, pant!) Studying them and teaching to their bents; yet accomplishing goals that you have.

    My 5 yo is so bored somedays. All her sibs are ‘doing school’ and the day is waaaayyyy to long for her to hang with a 3 yo boy who pinches and walks on her dolls. (She loves doing school with dad, but dad has been working mornings lately. How am I to do it when I have all these narrations??)

    And so it goes. We tweak and re-figure and pray. God comes through. He gets them (and us) more than we know. Take care, girl!

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