But... I have a lot of thoughts swirling through my head regarding homeschooling, and I always find it does me good to write those thoughts out. So, here you go...
Looking back at my younger self, I know I could easily have been a controlling, neat freak, type A personality.
(Confession: I still fight that side of me.)
But, years of undiagnosed chronic illness, the addition of four beautiful children, and the hand of God gradually softened my edges, and at times very quickly forced me to reassess my goals, my responses, and my very life.
I am also a planner and I love to plan, feeling ill or not. I find it very invigorating and inspirational so I never feel bad about planning. I have, however, learned to slash that plan in half and in half again. I have learned to let go of the plan entirely, sometimes prying my fingers off it one at a time.
In those first years of homeschooling little ones, it was much easier to do school, have fun, and still have those days where I couldn't do much more than curl up on the couch, using the TV as the educator and babysitter.
That worked for awhile. Now, as the kids grow older, I find myself stressing more (which never helps) and adding more to the checklist, wondering if we are doing enough or more like, doing the right things.
While I can't complain whatsoever about this past year, I realized that our homeschool was relying more and more on this checklist, and less on my vision of homeschooling. I am stressing about the day-to-day without keeping the end goal in sight.
But how does one reach the end goal without looking at the day-to-day?
How can I - we - change our homeschool?
I am not an expert in this whatsoever. I'm just a mom in the trenches of this path called homeschooling. Hopefully this post will shed light for me (and maybe for you too)!
What has helped in the past?
#1: Have a vision. Time and again I see this tip. I ignored this tip for much longer than I should have. Don't make my mistake. Certainly reassess your vision when needed, but have that ultimate picture in your head of that end goal.
For me, I want solid God and family relationships above anything educational. I want children who can see a problem and not freeze in trying to come up with a solution. I want children who know how to answer and speak in sentences, how to carry on a conversation, and how to put thoughts to paper. I want children who know how to look up information. I want children who love to learn, who are eager to interact with the world, who want to change the world for the better, and who aren't afraid to do so.
Really, how much of that is due to book work?
#2: Know yourself. As much as I want a ton of hands-on experiences, I just can't always do it as I think it should be done. (Boy, that should send flags right up -- "as I think it should be done" ????)
I know we can't have a 9-5 schedule or we fail immediately. Instead, we keep a kind of flow about our days. We wake, eat, dress, and have a little wake up time before the kids do "before lunch school." Then we have lunch, recess, and "afternoon school" before chores and screen time (if earned). That allows for much-needed sleeping in some days, or if kids get sick, or something pops up unexpectedly. My kids like a lot of downtime. Occasionally, they kick it into high gear and finish their work quickly, but more often than not, schooling goes downhill fast if we don't have lots of breaks.
This is also where the handy checklists come in. The kids actually really like them, and to a point, I do too. It helps them become more independent, and they like keeping some sort of a regularity about it all. So the checklists aren't horrible in themselves. For me, they are easy to maintain as I print them out and they are vague enough that I can print enough out for a quarter at a time.
So, what's wrong?
I am finding too many textbooks coming into our homeschool. And I don't like that. To me, it feels more like regular school in that everything is segregated.
What to do?
#3: Don't be afraid to be different. I'm not exactly afraid to be different. After all, I am Catholic, I homeschool, and I have celiac disease. I am far from the norm. However, I am afraid of giving up control of our current schedule. I know what we do now works, even if not perfectly, or as I envisioned homeschooling to be.
(What plan ever works perfectly, right?)
We do homeschool year round. I really feel this is necessary if you have any kind of health issue. You just don't know when it's going to be a bad day, week, or month. Schooling year round spreads the work and the stress out.
The downside is that it can be really nice to have a huge chunk off and just.do.nothing. We take days and weeks off, but it goes by so quickly. Yet, I know we have to keep going or we will not finish our work.
(Not finish our "work" or not finish the textbook???)
That's it. There are plenty of day-to-day tips, but I'm thinking the big-picture here, and that's what I have to offer.
I plan on finishing out the year with our current schedule. Another homeschooling mom once said that sometimes the lesson is finishing out a mistake.
Not that I believe this past year has been a mistake. No... I'm only wondering if I couldn't condense work to make more free exploratory time, to give more time for reading great books, and to pursue individual hobbies?
Part of me wants to drop everything except reading, writing, and math for awhile and make it a point to attend daily Mass, read a ton, and go exploring. Maybe I am just feeling restless? After a long winter, that certainly seems plausible.
Plus, there is a point where you have to learn to be content with what you have.
Yet... change can be good. It can force you to grow.
The ultimate question is, of course, am I feeling this because God is truly calling me to change or because I want to do it differently?
This post's title, "Reclaiming Your Homeschool" feels a little misleading. As if one post can magically do that, but I think it could be the beginning of a new journey in finding out the best path for my family, and perhaps for yours.
God bless you and yours.