Plan Fail #2: Spinning All the Plates

I did not succeed at getting organized for school last weekend. I spent most of the weekend doing side work to bring in a little extra income instead.

Sunday night hit and I realized I had nothing planned for the week, so I scoured the homeschooling website, printed the ILPs and stared at them for a little while before realizing it was not as simple as just filling out a piece of paper. It takes time, and each kid needs their own tailored plan. I’ve been told we can simplify things by overlapping what they’re learning about, and giving them different assignments that are age appropriate. But I need to talk to our contact teacher, or have some guidance before completing these things.

I made a plan to attend an upcoming Zoom on “What To Do Next,” but for the second time, I missed it due to last minute conflicts. The times just didn’t work out unfortunately, and I wasn’t able to prioritize it. I’m sure it would have helped a lot. I wish they recorded Zooms so parents who aren’t able to make them can watch later. I’ll have to make sure to keep a better eye on the schedule so that I have more time to plan around the next one.

I’m getting no traction on planning their education this year because I’m spread so thin I haven’t been able to make enough time for anything. It’s always just enough to squeak by for the day until there is “more time” tomorrow. I’ve set the ILPs aside until I can call their contact teacher, but who knows when we will actually connect.

I don’t know how parents with “real” jobs are doing it. I’m self-employed so I have some flexibility with my schedule, and I can’t figure out how to balance all of the plates I am spinning right now.

Sometimes I feel like a bad mom for not devoting 100% of my time and attention to my kids, but I’ve put so much work into building a business and I’m proud of it; the thought of putting it down is inconceivable to me right now. On the other hand, business has shifted from in-person events to socially-distant and virtual events, which aren’t nearly as popular or lucrative, so we’re not making any money. Just enough to cover overhead, on a good month. Am I being selfish and wasting my time trying to keep something alive while my kids need me more? Or could all of this effort eventually pay off…I just need to keep with it until we hit a stride again?

I don’t have the answers and I’m not trying to be dramatic – just transparent. I’m sure millions of parents are struggling with similar or worse conundrums.

I gave up on the idea of having a solid plan for the week. We kind of freestyled with whatever they were into that day. Willow showed interest in learning some letters, so I tried giving her a worksheet from her curriculum. She lasted about a third of the way through the worksheet before she decided she was done.

I think attention and focus is going to be extremely hard with Willow. She’s only four and a half, though, and we’re not exactly under a microscope, so I’m not going to push her too hard yet while she is just getting her toes wet with schoolwork.

After she abandoned her worksheet, everyone decided they wanted to try working with clay.

It’s easy to see the lessons in everything when you’re struggling to convince yourself that you are actually teaching your kids ANYTHING – even if it’s just a fun, distracting activity. Clay gave Connor the opportunity to manipulate his fingers to create small details, which is something very difficult for him. He’s been missing out on his occupational therapy while we’ve tried to get settled into a schedule, so it was nice to see him interested in something that could help him with some of the fine motor skills.

And if it’s good for him, it’s good for the other kids, too, right?

There are some parents who really have this homeschooling thing down, and I hope they have blogs. You’ll want to read theirs, too, if you’re reading mine. I see them in homeschooling groups posting pictures of their happy obedient children doing homeschool work out in the fall air because they are so organized they can just pick up and take their lessons anywhere. They’ll probably have actual suggestions of successful homeschooling strategies and techniques.

Here, we’ll be going on a ride. I have no idea what our final destination may be. We may end up quitting everything and letting them all turn feral, I don’t know. All of it will be trial and error, and I’m not claiming to offer a road map for success in any way. I know a lot of my struggles are caused by my own disorganization, bad memory, and inability to focus on things I’m not interested in for significant lengths of time, so I’m not complaining.

I’m just documenting.

I never would have set out to do this if it weren’t for Covid, and even as hard as it is for us, I’m glad we aren’t doing virtual school through the school district. It sounds like long days for little minds and I honestly don’t know how we would possibly keep on top of all of the Zoom meetings again. There is no perfect solution. We’re just trying to get through the year in the least stressful way possible. I guess I have to keep reminding myself of that.

This is the least stressful option for all.

I thought it would be helpful for the boys to start journaling to work through some of their feelings. They were not interested in this suggestion at all.

Connor was interested in writing about all of his random Fortnite knowledge, though, and Tyler wanted to practice cursive (he saw me writing in cursive months ago and is fascinated by it). So I let them do what they wanted. It got each of them writing for 20-30 minutes a day this week. I am calling that one a win.

Math was a different story. Man, this was way more than I anticipated. Everyone was in tears.

I tried to start working with the kids with their “Math U See” kits. It came with a DVD. I put the DVD in. There’s an intro. Okay, let’s start with that.

It’s TWO HOURS and FORTY minutes long. Before you even get to the individual lesson plan! And it was extremely boring. It felt like an infomercial from the mid-90s. I’ll suffer through it, but I wasn’t about to spend almost three hours in one morning when I wasn’t prepared to.

I need to get better at planning. This is a common theme. Planning needs to be the priority instead of just keeping them busy…but also…I need to keep three kids busy so I can plan.

I printed off some math worksheets from a free web site for both the boys as refreshers and called math good for the day. Tyler got distressed because he didn’t like that he had to write the answers on the bottom of the double digit addition problems instead of the top, so I just let him write them on top. He was getting all of the answers right, and it wasn’t worth the frustration it was causing him.

In the middle of working at the table one day, Willow’s feeding tube came out, so we had to replace it immediately. She has a gastroenteric tube that goes right into her stomach to make sure she is getting enough nutrition and her blood sugar stays stable. This used to be a disruptive event, but since Willow has gotten older she really loves opportunities to “be brave,” and now she participates in replacing the feeding tube as well.

Willow’s health issues are one of the main reasons we are so concerned about keeping our bubble small. Our circle of friends seems to have gotten smaller, too, in the last several months. Not necessarily by choice, but it’s hard to maintain friendships with people who are constantly calling families like yours “sheep” or make fun of those of us “living in fear.”

I have never been so personally hurt and disappointed in human behavior as I have been this year. Suddenly, we live in a world where bullying the vulnerable and those concerned for their lives and health has become acceptable, and even glorified. It’s disgusting, and hurtful, so there have been a lot of ties quietly cut to avoid having to see those things.

Still, it’s hard being so isolated. I just really hope things can return to normal soon. I’m optimistic and try to find the positive in everything, and things could be much worse for us than they are.

The days are still long, though, and I’m exhausted. I know so many other parents who are spread thin in so many different ways. Choosing between spending time focusing on work or cleaning when kids are there 24/7 with needs 24/7 is impossible. I just hope there’s an end in sight soon.

Meanwhile, let’s all just try to be kind to each other. Life is hard.