Monday, March 1, 2010

Heart Homeschooling: the whys, hows, and daily living stuff

Do you ever have the feeling that God is orchestrating the same lesson, on repeat, for you until He gets through?? In the last 48 hours I have heard or read about the "heart of homeschooling" at least 20 times. I kid you not. And by that, I mean every article or podcast, conversation, etc has been about the WHYs of homeschooling, the agenda and attitudes, desires and goals, and things people would have done differently. It's like piecing together a beautiful puzzle. For every piece that fits, my mind rejoices. Oh, thank you God for the people who have gone before me. I don't have this whole thing figured out.

This is out 5th year homeschooling, but I still feel so confused at times. Am I doing enough? Am I pushing too hard? Are we using the right things? Am I on course? Will my children be as prepared as they need to be for standardized tests? After all, I don't "teach to the test."

When The Artist was in 1st grade, she was to test at the local elementary school. A few days before testing began, I realized that I had taught her to "carry," but the new terminology was "regroup." I remember the momentary panic. Yes, yes, it's ridiculous. But I was using that test to gauge MY progress. How was I teaching? Was she learning enough? Age-appropriate materials? I needn't have worried.

Still, I am overcome every once in awhile with that same panic-attack feeling. It's as if I'm always leaving the house with a burner on, thinking, "now, what did I forget?" I have this true fear that somehow something very important will be left out, and I'll be the ruin of them because of it. It's irrational, but real.

I've been trying for some time to "get it down." For the first two years, we were much too rigid. I went through my strict-schedule, bottoms in desk chairs, quiet school-time phase. I was trying to make it public school. How ironic.

Then baby #4 was born, and my schedule grew wings and flew out the window. We became relaxed. We schooled around life and learned from life, and stopped keeping it all so compartmentalized.

And then, the next phase came upon us fairly quickly: I learned how to do school AND be hands-on. We became super interactive, artsy-craftsy to learn as much as possible, living books all the time. This is my niche, but I still questioned myself. There was even a question on the homeschool loop about how to incorporate more hand-on learning. Several of the answers were that it's just not important; that it tends to be over-emphasized. The thing is, though, that it is VERY important to some. God created me and my children specifically to be in this family together. God knows the talents and gifts He has set aside for us. And, in this family, we need art. We need hands-on interaction. It very well may not be important to others. There are other areas that just don't hold high priority for me (like sports in school,) but that doesn't mean it's not perfect and necessary for another family.

So now--finally (God sighs, relieved, because it's about time?)--I've learned that I only need to do what's right for us. That's right! I can get ideas from others, glean wisdom from those who have traveled the path before me, but ultimately I need to do what is best for my children, in our timing, and to the best of my ability. Our homeschool will not look like anyone else's.

But, like I said, I do want to learn from older and wiser women. Doing our own thing often means incorporating wonderful ideas from others...the things that "fit" for us.

Here are two articles that really spoke to me. These are just too good not to share.

From Palms of His Hands:
Looking back on fourteen years of homeschooling I wish I had... and

Looking back on 14 years of homeschooling I'm glad I..

And two other articles, on loving and enjoying our children, and struggling with daily grind:

From Live Fully, Laugh Often and Love Always, Do you Enjoy Your Children? and from Joyful Chaos, Tonight I Ponder... I love her follow-up post, too. And this line, "Am I missing it everyday for all the dailyness?"

Yes, I read a lot at night. In fact, I usually have two hours after the kids go to bed, before I hit the sack. After my house stuff is quickly taken care of, and any bill stuff, then it's FREE time. Usually when I start on something, it's hard for me to switch, so I end up with a different hobby every evening: art journaling, sketching, blogging, reading, games with The Man, etc. This, dears, is also when I do lapbook stuff and other hands-on crafty prep. Often I watch a movie with The Man, or we talk, while I do prep work.

Sometimes I wonder if the "when do you ever have time," comments imply that I must be neglecting something else in order to do hands-on work, or art time. The thing is, everyone has their priorities. We don't watch any tv. We don't have cable. And right there that frees up a lot of time for me. I also have artsy crafty kids, who enjoy helping me with prep work. Each to his own. We all have 24 hours a day, and I'm sure there are unnecessary things in each person's day... but I enjoy and need my seemingly-unnecessary things, like extra evening hobbies. When I take that time in the evening to express myself, learn, read, create... it makes me a better mom to the kids...much happier when they wake up in the morning.

And now my post has officially become rambling, skittering down rabbit side trails, while I dump my mind. :-)

Happy Monday to you. Toodles!


Tracy said...

It is terrifying. The idea that we'll mess up our kids beyond repair is THE thing I think all parents struggle with. But, I don't think that a school would offer you any peace either. I think most parents that put their child in school is wondering, will they learn enough, is the teacher being fair, is my kid being bullied, how involved can/should I be? But with home schooling it falls on the parents, and usually, just the mother. If there is a gap in education there is one person that can easily be fingered for the blame. Mom. And no one is a harsher critic of ourselves than we are of ourselves.
There's no cure all. There's no real way to know if you're doing it 'right'. Each person excels at different things, absorbs different lessons from the same material. Even if you were to present everything perfectly in that way that no one actually can, your child would still only absorb so much. The most important part is that you're teaching. You're educating yourself and you're teaching your little ones. In everything you do. You are more tuned in to learning opportunities than most moms I've met, including myself. Other people, like myself, look at you and see someone to emulate.
You work hard, understand that you're doing an awesome job. Have a celebratory muffincookie and coffee, you deserve it :)

Soaring High said...

Having homeschooled last year and now having children "in school" I can say it's easier to point fingers at others vs. ourselves. My biggest fear and argument with my husband was that they would be missing "something" by being homeschooled. Honestly, there are such pros and cons to both and I think we as a society put way to much pressure on ourselves to perform for others instead of for our Father. You are a person whom I greatly admire and you know your children better than anyone else. If your kids need the extra hands-on, then they NEED it and you can provide it. I have to ask their teacher to send something home or come up with something myself. I miss that interaction with my children, but until God directs us otherwise (both of us) then I play catch up for things they need at home that they don't get at school. This year we have been BLESSED with incredible teachers who "get" my kids and their needs. Next year may be different. It is important for us as parents to follow God's promptings and to be obedient and seek Him in all we do. This is a lesson I have a really hard time learning.

sara's art house said...

I love this post. I often think I am missing something....thanks for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.