Number 1is Keep Calm. For me that was easy...difficult, easy...difficult, easy...difficult, depending on the day. Perhaps the best thing to do is Keep Calm about your abilities to teach your children at home. It is possible to enrich your child’s life. It is not necessary to spend 8 hours a day on schooling. It’s not necessary to all sit down at the table. It’s not necessary for you to teach every single day. You might have to have some different expectations for self and family. You might want to keep in mind that your house will probably not be clean every day (or even every other day) because there are kids and projects-in-process at home. Keep in mind that you might have bad days and that your kids might have bad days. Keep in mind that your own projects might not get done as quickly as you thought they would. Forewarned is forearmed. If you know what might come and that others have gone through it or are going through it, maybe you won’t feel unsuccessful. I tend to whip myself into accomplishing so much that there is no humanly way to finish any of the tasks on my list. Many times I have to wad up my list and throw it away at the end of the day to remind myself I still have to eat and sleep. Sometimes, I tell myself that the project I’m working on is going to be “C” or “D” work if I insist on completing it that day; sometimes I have to take an “Incomplete.”
Maybe creating a schedule will help you and your children. I had a basic schedule for my kids and a basic list of subjects they had to work on. After they were done, they got to work on their own projects. The older they got, the less I had to work directly with them. I had the books What Your ___ Grader Needs to Know. I marked the different sections - grammar, literature, math, science, etc. - and I expected the kids to read at least one subsection in each section. The subsections were about a paragraph for the younger kids and several paragraphs for the older.
The TV was off unless they were watching an Eyewitness Video (now available on YouTube) or going through the history DVD we owned. We never had an xbox or anything like that, though now and then I wondered about getting one. But someone in the family would probably have become addicted to it so it was too dangerous to be in the house. (Long ago, I got the CD-Rom “Myst” and played it late into the night for a few weeks to solve it. I think I threw it out shortly after that.)
There were days for sanity’s sake, we had to take off - to the beach, to the forest, to the park. There were days that Mom was CLOSED, such as while I was trying to get the tax return complete. So they couldn’t ask me anything...which meant that if there was something they wanted to do but had to get permission, the answer was automatically “no” and they weren’t even allowed to ask.
We played too. We’d play board and card games. I’d even play Candyland and try to like it. There’s magic in that game that didn’t allow me as the adult to win; I tried, too. We’d call another family and go play baseball. There were spontaneous pillow fights...just couldn’t be helped. When our older daughter was around 12 or 13 (maybe she was 16), she acted too old for Easter egg hunting, even though we set up something just for her. She hunted anyway the second we told her some of the plastic eggs had money in them. We had movie marathons complete with snacks, popcorn, and a buffet in the living room. Fun. You gotta have fun with your kids. You have to be a kid sometimes. Put down the cell and play. Tell stupid jokes. Make up silly songs. Put on loud music and dance.
But here’s how I didn’t become the Entertainment Center: The moment a child used the “B” word (“bored”), they had a quick chore to do. When they tried to back out, they still had to do the chore because they’d already used the word. (I know somewhere in the earlier posts I mentioned this. It’s worth mentioning again because it actually worked.)
As much as you need to play with your children, you also have to be the adult and learn to say “no” and mean it. It’s not necessary to mean it with anger and hate. You just have to be there. There was a teacher that my oldest had in 3rd grade that I was so impressed with. She wouldn’t yell across the room to stop a child doing something that shouldn’t be done; she’d tiptoe-run to the child and almost whisper what the child needed to stop doing and start doing. Hard to ignore someone who is RIGHT THERE. Wow! I’ve always wanted to be like that. I never mastered it.
Please teach your children how to do chores. It will be another way to keep your sanity. Long ago, our son was in Cub Scouts and one badge’s requirement was “Find a chore that you can do around the house. Do it for one week.” ONE week? We automatically signed that one off because our kids started at two. As in, at 2-years-old, the kids liked being at the sink with a parent and rinsing the dishes. It was exciting to put laundry in the washer. We were there with them but they started learning a little. By eight, they were pros at many of the chores. My youngest insists that she did her laundry all by herself at age two or three. It gets younger every time she tells the story.
We heard about a couple of techniques when siblings are squabbling. Both of them worked pretty well when I would remember to use them. One was to put the two children on either end of the couch or the room and leave them there to “work it out.” And you never say what the “it” is. They weren’t allowed to move until they had worked it out, at which point they had to come to the parent and tell you what their plan was to avoid this kind of thing in the future. “It” got worked out semi-fast. The other way - and I wished I had used it more - was to have a Court Claim. A sheet was taped to the wall with a column for the date, the plaintiff, the defendant, the charge, and, after coming before the judge, the verdict. The sheet was left on the wall until whatever day we chose for the court date. The children came before the judges and told their side of the story, if they remembered it. Sometimes the claim was thrown out, sometimes the defendant admitted the guilt and gave the plaintiff a coin or a service, and sometimes the plaintiff decided to forgive and forget.
So as a parent-teacher, you’ll need to listen to your child, be encouraging, figure out a way to discipline that helps your children, create a schedule that fits your family, be flexible enough to change when needed, discover your children’s strengths and weaknesses and how they learn, work when needed, have fun when you can. And keep learning/practicing all of the above.
If you have a trick that helps you and your family, by all means share it in the comments below!