Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How A Homeschool Mom of Triplets Plus One, All Born Within a Year, Stays Sane

The Elspas Family, just a few years ago, entertaining at a charity event

by Janis Brett Elspas

        It finally happened this morning, after almost two hours of chaos in our household that prevented my kids and I from getting anything done.  This wasn't the first time it has been a zoo -- instead of a school -- around here, but hopefully this will be the last.  Yes, readers, I've finally admitted that this mom's home schooled kids need more structure to get their schoolwork completed without driving me insane.
        Since this is the first of what I hope will be many more posts on home schooling children, let me give you some background.  For the past two school years our four kids -- triplets in 7th grade and big brother in 9th grade -- have been enrolled in public school independent study, which is essentially modified homeschool.  Just in case you're not familiar with this type of home school, this is the way it works:  Each kid meets with the school system's supervisors of the independent study program to turn in assignments due as well as to pickup work they are to accomplish in the week ahead.  
        Our public school program is designed so that the triplets each are required to have a half hour of one-on-one conference time in person with their teacher weekly.  Big brother usually receives one hour or more per week of private instruction with his high school teacher since his workload is obviously greater and more demanding than middle school.  The kids all answer to these public school teachers and as their mom, my job is simply to attend these meetings as an observer every week at two different City of Angels campuses which are part of L.A. Unified School District here in Los Angeles.  In the role of unpaid teacher, my responsibility extends to facilitating the home class room, overseeing my kids to be sure that the work gets done.
        Remember this is independent study, so by definition the kids are supposed to be motivated to get all their work done outside the conventional classroom and with minimal parental supervision.  I'm home with them, though, and available to help whenever they get stuck and need some help -- but I'm only supposed to be in the background and they rarely ask for my assistance since they are all quite gifted.
        In theory, this sounds easy from a mom perspective, doesn't it?  But in reality, each of the four kids' workloads are slightly different, given their individual strengths and weaknesses not to mention their wide-ranging interests and personalities.  On top of that, rarely are any two kids working on the same exact assignment at a given moment.  So, up until now I've left it completely up to each individual when to work on their classwork, projects, and tests, and when to take breaks.  This system has not worked well for the most part from the beginning, since there have been more than a few moments where someone either wasn't doing what they were not supposed to or even worse, bothering a sibling who was actually trying to work for a change.
        Today that all changed with the new "program" I decided to implement to keep them in public school independent study while I continue to work on growing my blog business.  As of now, we are all doing 50 minutes of work at a time throughout the day, myself included, followed by a 10 minute break to play, eat, use the restroom, etc.  This includes lunch break, recesses and gym which are all mandatory and timed too.  
     Sure, this new regimentation cramps my creative style, especially as a writer and blogger.  Like many writers, when I'm on a roll I don't like to have to start and stop working on a strict schedule.  In case you're wondering, yes, at the moment, I really do almost feel as if I myself have returned to the rigidity of school periods with a few precious minutes in between to change classes.
        How's it going so far?  The truth is that I can't remember a period of calm like this since we started home schooling back in September 2008.  Everyone has completed an unprecedented amount of quality work this morning and I'm proud of my kids.  Not only that...I finished writing and editing this post within two 50-minute periods with a 10 minute break in between, as well as having had the luxury of a sit-down lunch with my kids and a bike riding outing (borrowing one of my boys' bikes because I don't have my own, yet) with one of my triplet girls.
        A little structured time for us all, a good amount of quality work produced by everyone, plus the bonus of having family fun time together, too.  It's funny.  I've just realized now that the latter is actually one of the biggest selling points of home school and a primary reason why DH and I decided to move the kids from traditional school to the home classroom in the first place.  Including the two hours of chaos that preceded all this today, I'd say all that is not bad for a morning's work.  What do you think?

What is Your Own Secret to Sanity? Would Love to Hear Your Comments

        What do other home schooling families do to educate their kids and keep things running smoothly?  Please share your experiences and solutions in the comment box below.  I'd especially like to know how other moms manage to maintain your own grip on reality.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! We'll be interested to read on how things are going for you! There are many many secrets to staying sane, although I suspect that most of us who think we're sane really aren't anymore!