O.k., so I admit it. I need some help and encouragement!! I’m not ready to give up, but I am struggling! Am I making this too hard?!
Yes. You mentions piles of workbooks but your kids are 4 and 6. When they're that young there's simply no need to stress out over curriculum and school work. Relax. Make sure they have the usual cool toys (Lego, pattern blocks, gear sets, etc.) and while they're exploring and stretching their minds with those, go online and research some more relaxed methods, delayed schooling and unschooling. It's sounds a bit like your approach may be frustrating you right now so feel absolutely free to flip your approach on it's head and try something different. It's the freedom in homeschooling that's one of the great benefits so take advantage of it. Maybe even just take a vacation from homeschooling for a bit and just dive into playing with your kids.
Nothing you read needs to be adopted wholesale but you'll more than likely find some really valuable nuggets that give you some breathing room in your homeschooling.
Anyway, I know I’ve done a lot of rambling, so here’s some specific questions for you:
(1) When teaching children on different grade/skill levels, what strategies do you use?
TV. Seriously. When I'm working with my 9 year old in the morning the TV goes on to a preschool station for a couple of hours or I stick in a movie. No, I don't feel guilty about this.
When I need to do something with my son I tend to incorporate my daughter (reading, games) or let her find her own thing to do.
(2) Do you have a general time-frame to complete tasks each day, a specific schedule, or no schedule at all?
I have a couple of hours in the morning for Language Arts and Math and some tim in the afternoon for history, science, art, etc. It's pretty fuzzy and framed more by a specific lesson we need to do rather than a time period. The only real requirement is that it be done before 2 pm when the school kids get home and frends knock on the door looking for Catherine.
(3) In what part of the house do you have school? How do you organize all your school materials and where do you store them?
I have two desks in our kitchen, one for Catherine and one for me and the computer. This is also where I keep our curriculum and supplies like pencils and paper. Craft and science supplies are on an old rolling microwave cart by Catherine's desk. Reference books and toys occupy about half of our living room.
(4) Are you involved with a local homeschool group? Do your children have outside activities, and if so, what kinds, and how often?
I am not involved in a group. My daughter goes to Girl Guides and Sunday School once a week and daycare once a week as an informal but paid helper. My son goes to preschool once or twice a week and Sunday School.
That's all I can handle at the moment but future plans include Beavers for my son and music lessons and possibly 4-H for my daughter.
(5) Have you ever felt totally frustrated, overwhelmed, smothered, and/or unmotivated? If so, how have you been able to cope with these feelings?
Yup. I bitch about them here or on a message board or email list or with a friend. I also change things up in our homeschooling. When our unschooling became stale and lifeless, we went to curriculum. When the curriculum began to become restrictive, I added some of our old unschooling ideals back in.