My shot at homeschooling. It was a good ten minutes.

I am not a homeschooler. I probably would not be a good homeschooler, even if I am pretty decent at reading Oz books with the silly voices and explaining the hard words along the way; or googling questions about evolution when your 5 year-old asks you how the very first baby is born. In a way, I’m somewhat envious of those who have the trifecta of patience, time and knowledge to be great teachers to their own kids all the time. To say nothing of the organization skills.

Labels? On boxes? Holy crap, that’s so beyond my capability right now.

For those of you who still think that homeschoolers are weird, I need to attest that the friends I have who have homeschooled have all raised remarkably cool, smart, considerate, open-minded, intellectually curious, well-socialized kids and that’s not coincidental.

And so, channeling Helen Jane’s Jealousy Map (so genius) I think of what I can learn from them. Or even from my mother, a remarkable educator who is so ridiculously good at saying,”let’s make a book all about the birds you saw today!” Or “sure, we can set up an entire circus in the living room. Let’s start with the posters.”

Patience, time, knowledge.

I think for me its a matter of me devoting the time to actually doing the things I want to do with the kids. Let’s write that children’s book we’ve talked about. Let’s start that journal we mentioned 47 times. Let’s label those boxes.

(No, just kidding. Someone else can do that.)

Yesterday in the local coffee shop alone with the kids, I was skimming the Sunday Times Magazine and they  were fascinated by the little matrix illustration that’s in there each week–the conceptual points that can be plotted out somewhere in the intersection of Axis A and Axis B.

So I put aside thoughts of starting the crossword and thought okay, let’s do this.

“What kinds of things do we want to plot out?”

They came to a conclusion: Presents.

So we made Axis A “Presents I Want” and Axis B “Presents I Am Likely To Get.”

May I present the result of my attempt at channeling good homeschooling parents:

gift matrix

I’m not sure exactly how helpful this was to the kids (unless one day my kids decide to become strategic planners in advertising), but I sure learned a few things. For one, someone let the cat out of the bag to Sage about American Girl dolls. Whoever you are–we will find you and hunt you down.

Also, uh…we owe them bikes.

But you know? I really enjoyed it. And so did they.

What are the favorite things you do with your kids that’s all teacher-like?


45 thoughts on “My shot at homeschooling. It was a good ten minutes.”

  1. Know what my favorite thing about that graph is? Well, besides the fact that you went for it and drew the graph. I love that “pony” which is way high on the want list is equal in likelihood to “poop”. Awesome.

    I totally do arts and crafts with the kids, all teacher-like. We have a kitchen cabinet full of supplies…paper, pens, crayons, paint, art paper, etc. On the weekends we will clear the kitchen table and just create. I let them use different kinds of paints, papers and brushes. We glue and glitter stuff. We paint wooden peg people. We get dirty together and it’s the BEST!

    1. Pony probably goes with poop come to think of it.

      Seems like arts + crafts is the big winner so far. We do have a crafts “closet” which is really the 3 shelves on a bookshelf that I could afford to handover. It actually makes me super happy. (But it’s not well labeled)

  2. Having them write–they write lists (they write apology letters–my oldest). And painting. I love watching them create something–it’s pretty cool. I am an educator–but would be a horrible home schooler. I taught high school and currently teach at the university. I don’t have the patience to teach my little ones in a formal school setting. I too often forget the journal the grandparents got Noah to write about what he did all summer.

    Your kids are awesome. My almost 5-year-old girl still thinks the American Doll catalog is a book–we read it and tell stories. I know this won’t last long (who am I fooling–she has friends with these dolls), but I’ll try to keep the charade going as long as possible.

    1. Thanks Dawn! We do write too but not as much as I’d like us too. Thalia can’t not make posters all over the house pretty much every day.

  3. “The bike you promised us last year” may keep me chuckling for the entire day.

    As one who oh-so-briefly entertained homeschooling, this post totally resonates. I think I realized I would suck at it, andI’m totally jealous and envious of those who do it and do it well.

    This weekend, we started unpacking the “Craft Room” that was so integral to our house in the renovation…there’s now an explosion of glitter, hot glue guns, paints, beads(which my sitter just informed me are currently all over the floor, courtesy of the youngest), canvas, crayons, feathers, popsicle sticks…that’s the teacher-like stuff I like to do with the kids. That and read, which I’ll pretty much drop anything to do.

    Thanks for asking!!

    1. A CRAFT ROOM.

      That’s almost as unattainable to us NYers as a second bathroom. Sigh. What great ideas.

  4. Time to get out the hair dye!

    My kid is forever reminding us of things promised and not delivered…

    We sometimes get all teachy and make potions and do science-ish experiments. They always seem to involve vinegar.

  5. Crafts? What is this strange “craft” of which you speak?

    We do kitchen science and “drop everything and read.” Otherwise, I’m pretty free-range about that kind of stuff. I’d rather send them outside to figure stuff out on their own than guide that.

    One cool thing that the kids like is solar paper.

          1. You could use the bathroom sink. Hopefully they give you one of those in NY. 😉

    1. We’re pretty good on that front. They didn’t teach Nate to cook with margarine and Splenda in culinary school.

  6. Wait, we’ve never done a matrix. Homeschool FAIL.

    Since two of the three people you linked to no longer homeschool, I feel like a rare dodo, waiting for a tiger to pounce on me and make me extinct. I’d better watch my back.

    And you do realize that my two girls have EIGHT American Girl dolls between them—it’s like a plastic 3D Benetton ad in their bedroom. I’m pretty sure we’ve polluted your children with their awesomeness since they were wee little things.

  7. That graph is awesome, even if (or because?) it includes poop.

    We actually do a little home school thing in the couple of weeks before school starts up to get the kids back up to speed before they go back to class. My eight year old asked today if we could please please please do home school soon because she’s nervous about starting third grade.

    We have a big white board in the living room (it actually blocks the fireplace which I don’t need them having access to), and everything is fun if you do it on a white board. Each kid gets half an hour to an hour of one on one time with mom or dad to go over spelling and cursive and math. The rule is no screen time for anyone until everyone is done with school. We have flashcards of landmarks around the world, and they all love that, and we’ve worked on telling time, and counting change. But mostly it’s simple stuff: math repetition, writing out sentences and correcting spelling and punctuation. But as I say, it’s all fun on a white board, and it’s special if it’s rare one on one time. It doesn’t have to be complicated for it to be both educational and fun. My kids love it. I do too!

    1. What a great idea. We have some Idea Paint. If we had a free wall I’d go at it.

      As for writing out sentences…that might be a little 201 for me. You’re awesome.

  8. This made me smile, a lot. My preocious 4 year old has been playing schools the last couple of days (and believe me, this game goes the whole day). So we do home reading before school like her brother, computer class while I clean up :), cooking class where we made biscuits, laundry class where we hang out the washing :), animal husbandry class where we let out the poultry and collected the eggs, RECESS! Then we got out the Dora activity book, and she did handwriting and colour activities and then number and shape flash cards. And then BY GOD I was over it. School’s out princess.

  9. oh that graph is awesome. my kids plan their birthday parties for a full six months before they happen. they write whole notebooks about what is going to happen, schedules of events, I even get the math in there with them planning how much of everything they’ll need.

    my eight year old is now planning her hunger games themed party in ernest. she really doesn’t believe me when i say the other mothers are not going to let their kids hunt in the backyard with flashlights and sleep in a hammock.

  10. I couldn’t homeschool because I would laugh at the crap kids say. Exhibit A – my cousin teaches 3rd grade. She tells me today that during “student interest surveys,” question #12 asked, “what do you wish for someone else?” to which one responded, “I wish my Aunt married Justin Bieber.” Maybe they would settle for a poster like your child won’t get?? And…. another student wants to know “where babies come from.” Ya, I definitely couldn’t teach… at least without a heavy sedative…

    1. Oui! It counts! I’m a high school French/Spanish teacher and every little bit helps! I’m trying to teach my 5 year-old words and phrases as much as possible — too bad that he keeps saying that it’s Spanish! (Thanks, Pre-K!)

  11. I LOVE your graph. What are Beyblades? And why is a Justin Beiber poster so close to poop? 😉

    I’m like you in that I never label anything, even having been a former high-school English teacher. My kids are still so young (7 mths and 23 mths) but I did, when Cam was around 18 months, get ambitious and buy some supplies for those busy bag ideas on Pinterest. I bought wooden spools and dowels, ribbons to thread through felt, poms and magnets, etc. Mike and I had been doing a lot of reading on Montessorri so I thought some of that stuff would be along those same lines. Yeah. It all held his interest for about a day.

    So now we’ve retreated back to exploring the park for most of the day, coloring, dismantling stacks of post-its, reading, etc. I’m hoping to get more creative as he gets older. Thank God for Pinterest!

  12. Where do I start? Homeschooling? Yes, the idea sounds great, but if I had tried to do that (particularly with my middle child) I would probably be writing this comment from a prison cell. I have no patience and he has the attention of a gnat. It would have been a disaster.

    American Girl dolls – My special needs daughter will be turning 20 in September. How she discovered them is beyond me – but I strongly suspect spending too many hours flipping through the You Tube channels. If you ever get bored, just type in “American Girl” on You Tube and you will be treated to a bevy of future directors who are all currently residing in 12- year old bodies. Many have created some pretty remarkable AG vids. (Wait! Homeschooling activity – computer skills, music, drama, creating a story.) Awesome!

    Anyhooo…. Kinsey got her first AG doll last Christmas, then saved up all her money ($300!!) to buy a second one 3 months later. She still loves them and “we” talk about them every flipping day, ad nauseum. While I would love to chuck them all out, this is the one toy she has maintained an interest in for this long. For the most part, the quality is good, but I can’t help but be bothered by the fact that all American Girl dolls are made in China. Kind of ironic huh?

    As to the American Girl doll videos…I was forced to create one for her so she could share her AG love with the world. And if anyone is interested in seeing it – here is the link:

  13. Ha! Love this chart. We are homeschoolers. And those are exactly the moments where I am feeling oh so cool. When I’m hyperventilating into a bag trying to teach phonics. Not so superstar 😉

    1. This. (Also a homeschooling parent, though we might be traveling a different road this year due to excess hyperventilation.)

  14. Hooray for using jealousy as a tool! Now you’ve inspired me to start better engaging my kids’ brains.

    (We’re just going to keep passing this jealousy baton around the internet, aren’t we?)

  15. Yes crafts!!!
    Yes wannabe homeschooler!!!
    Yes “cooking” with mama!!!
    Yes books many many books!!!!
    Yes cat and dishes in sink but not the same one

  16. I wish that there was a minotaur on that list.

    Great post, Liz. Although I’m quite new to parenting, I have had some days like this, as I’m not working right now. With me, it’s looking at pictures. They draw them while I watch, and sometimes tell them things I’d like to be in the picture. When it’s done, I look at it. Then they draw more. Hours can go by before I realize it.

    1. I can’t even tell you where “bagel factory” came from. As if that was ever in the gift consideration set.

  17. Listen here – we are simply trying to make it through summer reading and neaten up our ‘penmanship.’
    Stop making me look bad even if this was your only attempt.

  18. I recently discovered how truly unimaginative I am when it comes to doing crafts. I truly admire those moms who can just whip out some glue, paper, and other things and make something completely fun, while I scratch my head thinking to myself HOW in the world do they do that? LOL

    Great post by the way 🙂

  19. Love your blog, love this post and all the great ideas in the comments.

    I’d be a sucky home schooler, but I do try to make the most of teachable moments.

    Math isn’t my strongsuit and I don’t try to hide it. I get the kids to “help” me figure out measurements while baking and now that my oldest (twins) are 12 and into gift card/cash as gifts, shopping offers great lessons in the value of a dollar (a t-shirt at the mall can be $25+, but at another store, way less) and how to calculate tax, etc.

    It’s pretty easy to engage your kids to help you solve every day problems.

  20. Knowledge, check. Patience and time? Bitches!

    I truly with all that is good within me want to be more fun with my children, more present, more teacherish, more All the Things I Think I Should Be But Keep Falling Asleep on the Sofa. How? How do I become that woman who gets home from work and goes right into I got this; not tired at all! How do I become that woman who gets home from work and goes right into making dinner without also being the woman who growls seriously, you couldn’t start the goddamn salad? I want to do crafts and sew and read and bake and write with them and say yes more and get dirty and and and. I wind up with vodka and the sofa with the promise of we’ll do it tomorrow, sure, on my lips.

    Dammit, this is n’t how I felt when I first started typing. *Backing away*

  21. A small thought about American Girl dolls. FYI there is a mini doll with a mini book that matches the historical character series. The books are great girl adventures and the mini dolls mean that the book set and mini doll fit in Santa’s budget.

  22. Okay about the homeschooling: can’t do it. I get exasperated…with my 6 year old. But as the raging English teacher (high school and college) I am constantly spelling and sounding out things (which are often clues about upcoming actions/activities). The other thing we do is knit. My daughter learned to do this at her Waldorf School and then she taught me. The thing we are doing now is using BOB Books to practice reading. That is getting fun as she is really understanding how to sound out words successfully. On NPR an interviewed writer/reporter was talking about how his father read him e.e. cummings at bedtime. Inspired, I decided to start reading poetry to my daughter. For fun I have started with Shel Silverstein and hope to introduce Emily Dickinsin soon.

    1. I love this Maureen, thank you! We also started with Shel Silverstein. We’re now tearing through the entire Oz series which is leading to great discussions about what things were like in 1900 when they were first written and all the phrases that are no longer in common use – making a call (not by telephone!), letters of introduction, Sunday best, gingham aprons, “If you please,” muskets, and jobs like cobbling and thatching.

      We might have to move to Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams though, what a great idea.

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