Monday, May 8, 2017

The Importance Of Flexibility In Our Homeschool

As the Winter takes it's leave, the freshness of Spring is in the air.  The sunshine and wildflowers beacon us to come outdoors.  Our children are getting antsy to ditch the math lessons and head to the park.  If we are honest with ourselves, we are ready too.

There's just one problem.  We still aren't finished with our work for the year.

Do we put the books away and grab our jackets, or do we buckle down, close the blinds, and get back to work.

It is so easy to get tunnel vision, preventing us from seeing the forest for the trees.  Our minds stray toward the dramatic.  If we don't finish handwriting then Sally won't be able to write at all, and she won't be able to make it into college!  Maybe... but not likely.

Making lifelong learning in our homes is important.  But, learning how to find a middle ground between structure and flexibility can not only help keep you from burnout, but keep your children from burning out, as well.

Let's look at it this way.  You are the captain, CEO, Chief Executive Officer, Principal, and Teacher.  Just like any good administrator you gather different resources to bring your ideals to fruition.

Things like: curriculum, planners and schedules, homeschool groups and co-ops, and outside activities like sports, music, church, etc.  Each one is a contributor to your overall goal of having well rounded, educated, compassionate, and globally minded children that become a positive force in this crazy world.

Each piece of the puzzle contributes it's own role of importance.  Today I want to focus on curriculum, and it's place in our homeschool.  "Curriculum" tends to be the iron fist that rules our days and makes us feel inadequate to be in control of our own schedule.

As I was putting together thoughts for this post, I kept going back to the book Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.  It seemed silly to try and put my own words together when Sarah could say it much better than I ever could.

"Homeschoolers spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about 'curriculum,' but what if when we  compare spelling programs and choose math books, we aren't really talking about curriculum at all?  Curriculum isn't something we buy.  It's something we teach.  Something we embody.  Something we love.  It is the form and content of our children's learning experiences.

If we started thinking about 'school' in terms of encountering certain skills rather than finishing a particular book or 'covering' material, we would free ourselves to learn far more than we can by binding ourselves to a set published resource.  Of course we will use such resources to reach our goals, but the resources will be our servant, not our master."

The bottom line is those lessons plans are a tool for you.  A guide.  I would encourage you to look at those lesson plans through a different pair of glasses.  What is necessary for your child to learn this year, and what is busy work?  If your child can do their addition facts in their sleep, is it really necessary to do 23 pages of addition facts?  If we are honest with ourselves, we often have them do it because it validates to those around us that we are doing a good job.  We have something tangible to show our husbands, grandparents, and disapproving friends.

Anytime we set out to go against the grain we are going to attract naysayers.  Couple that with our own feelings of inadequacy and it can lead to a recipe for stress and apprehension.

We must finish our work for the year or we will be failures.  And who wants that?

But, maybe it doesn't have to be that way.

"I am in the habit of asking homeschooling mothers who are nearing or have reached the finish line what they did best.  What would they change if they could go back in time?  The perspective they offer is invaluable to me as a young mother.  If I could, I would race ahead to myself twenty years from now and ask what I wish I had done differently.  I can't do that, so instead I ask other women I trust and admire.

Time and time again, this is what these experienced moms tell me: Focus on the first things.  Don't get wrapped up in extraneous fluff.  They never say. 'Make sure your fourth grader is reading at the fourth grade level in the fourth grade.' they don't tell me to worry over what the neighbors or my mother-in-law or anyone else thinks.  They don't give me lists of their best curriculum choices and tell me to replicate them.  they tell me to focus on relationships, to help my children preserve wonder and perceive truth, and to do each days work as diligently as I can.

Perhaps most importantly, put relationships above everything else.  God made a true, beautiful, and good world to relish.  Don't get to distracted by thirty-six weeks of carefully plotted lesson plans that you miss the glory that is already your for the taking."

I don't think I could have said it any better.  Choose the needful parts and discard the rest.  Find structure and balance by allowing yourself to order your days the way you want them.

Please take the time to order Sarah's book Teaching From Rest.  It is full of timeless wisdom for your journey.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in
a calm spirit.  Do not lose your inner peace
 for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
St. Francis de Sales


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