It's 10:30a.m. here as I sit down at my quiet desk to write this post.
My three kiddos are outside making mudpies for an army of dolls and stuffed animals (we've had lots of rain lately), and I just switched out the laundry and folded a load of towels. My house is fairly clean--for THIS moment anyway--and I actually have a plan for dinner.
Homeschooling--the more formal part of our routine at least--is happily done for the day. This includes all math, spelling, phonics, copywork, and Bible.
As we closed up our books for the morning, and my daughter asked me if we were done with schoolwork, I told her yup, all except for read-aloud and history which we'll do later...her response: YES! I can't wait!! I LOVE HISTORY!
Now this--this is rewarding to hear. We are in the habit of saving the best for last: read aloud and history come in the afternoon when the littlest is napping.
It not only gives us something to look forward to for later--something that is NON-workbook and always fascinating, but it usually involves some type of hands-on activity.
Yup. Right about now, I'd say we're having a very good day.
And I am starting to see what makes the difference between the good days and the not-so-good days.
I find that when we stick to our routine and stay in rhythm it always, ALWAYS, pays off for us--meaning, the kids can enjoy a leisurly few hours of play and exploration while I can get things accomplished around the house.
For us at least, this works SO MUCH BETTER than putting off schooling until later in the day, then trying to squeeze it in somehow as things just get busier and busier.
We are a few weeks away from wrapping up our very first year of home schooling, and this might just be THE biggest lesson I have learned this year:
There is such FREEDOM in ROUTINE and STRUCTURE.
It only took me half the schoolyear to really get it, but once we were consistently consistent, WOW, what a difference!
Of course...not everyday works out so smoothly, and sometimes we're just off.
Yesterday morning was our visit to the Nursing Home in our neighborhood, and I'm beginning to see a pattern that when we lose the morning for an outing like that, formal schooling is REALLY hard to fit in later, and truthfully, this happens about once a week.
I really don't let it bother me though--when I taught in public schools, if we had an all day OR even just a half-day field trip, very little of anything else (formally) was done on the same day. So I realize it's OKAY. We are always learning. When we visit with those precious seniors, I am certain that the learning that goes on in my children's hearts is FAR more significant than what the 3 R's can deliver.
Then there are also days when I DO stick to our routine but I STILL don't feel like school was very successful.
Days where the boys cannot seem to play on their own while I am working with my daughter.
Days when I have to stop 13 times to deal with my demanding toddler. Even today, we had to struggle to focus through spelling as the 2 year old tantrumed in his room for a good 20 minutes. There are days I just cannot understand why my daughter STILL does not get certain concepts.
Days I lose my temper and yell, and she cries. We hug and I apologize and we have to hit the restart button.
Yes, some days are wonderfully smooth, but other days are just HARD.
But aren't there always ups and downs in everything in life?
As we wrap up this school year, and I assess how far we've come, what has worked for us, and what I will do differently next year, I can tell you that keeping a structure and routine will be at the top of my list.
Here are a few other things I have learned this year:
- My school at home will never be as quiet or as organized as what I had when I taught formally. And that's OKAY. This is a school AND a home. Many other things go on here besides reading, writing and math.
- While it works to have a primary area where homeschooling takes place, I cannot expect to keep our homeschooling totally"contained" to that one area. It will inevitably overflow to other areas of the house. Having storage and a good organizational system does help though.
- I cannot expect my non school-aged children to be perfectly quiet and compliant while school is "in session." They WILL inturrupt. They WILL want to join in certain activities. They WILL demand food and attention in the middle of our lessons. I'm realizing it's just something that comes with the territory.
|Boys just doing their thing while school goes on in the background|
- Learning never ends. Teachable moments are constantly everywhere around us. Recognizing them and taking advantage of them is part of what makes home education so rewarding. I personally love that there are so few "gaps." I don't have to sit and wonder about what my kids are learning all day at school and how I can best support them or reinforce their learning. The formal and informal fits and flows together seamlessly in homeschooling. Learning never ends!
|Extracting honey together~a sticky, sweet experience!|
- My younger, non-school aged kids can, do, and will continue to benefit tremendously from our homeschool routine and curriculum. They LOVE listening in to what we are reading aloud. They enjoy every art activity and every hands-on learning experience. They thoroughly enjoy our field trips. On top of all that, they are picking up concepts and mimicing what they see and hear, and I'm pretty sure they'll be more school-ready than their big sister was because of this.
|One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish! A bit of fishing in the kitchen|
- My enthusiasm and positive attitude is contageous. I set the tone. If my attitude stinks, theirs will too. If I approach challenges and new concepts and learning opportunities with joy and curiosity, they will follow suit.
- I do not need the TV to babysit my little ones while I do school work with my oldest. My kids have been TV free since early 2012 and never once have any of them asked me if they could turn on a show (they used to watch 2 or 3 PBS shows every morning). They are engaging their worlds more fully, playing together amazingly well, and *gasp* reading constantly! Even my little boys DEVOUR library books. To hear my 4 year old boy sigh with satisfaction and say "I just LOVE BOOKS!" or sit with his 2 year old brother and "read" to him is seriously a priceless reward. Yes, life does go on without television...and it was a totally painless transition for us. Just be prepared to check out a LOT more books each library visit! Oh, and by the way, being TV-free makes movie and popcorn night as a family SO MUCH more special!
- What works for us may not necessarily work for others. What we truly believe is best for OUR FAMILY is not a one-size-fits-all for every other family out there. I love Ann Voskamp's phrase that they try to be descriptive not prescriptive when it comes to their decision to home educate.
- Along those same lines, what works for us during one season may not work well in another season. Remaining flexible and prayerfully doing what we believe is best for our family is so important. Staying tuned in to our kids' needs and the Spirit's leading is crucial.
- Homeschooling provides a parent with the opportunity to truly do his or her work unto the Lord and not unto man...when I taught in the public school system, it was very natural and normal for others (fellow teachers, administration, parents, students) to see what you were doing in your classroom and to commend or criticize accordingly. Conversely, home education can be very humbling and it rails against our sinful pride-nature. I'm not going to lie--to quietly strive for excellence and go about your business teaching your children while MOST of the world does not see or take notice of it has been a challenge for me at times. I cannot tell you how often I have experienced the most precious "wow" moments with my kids this year, only to look around and realize no one but us got to share it. Of course we call "daddy" very often to share little successes or experiences, and some things are shared or facebooked or blogged about, but homeschool moms will understand what I mean that most of it just remains between you and your children--and the Lord. But you know? It's ok. It's actually a good thing. It challenges you to keep your eyes fixed on the prize--which for most parent-teachers, is often a very long-term goal. It also forces you to constantly check your motives--who are we doing this sacrificial work for? Where are we storing up our rewards? Why exactly are we doing what we are doing?
- Combining subjects and taking shortcuts keeps a home-educator sane. I am certain this will prove to be even more true when I have 2, 3 and 4 of my own little students to work with. Number one way I have accomplished this: combining reading with history, or reading with science. WOW. Such freedom in letting go of a basal reading curriculum mentality and embracing the living books approach (a Charlotte Mason kind of thing). And we've only been doing this for the past 3 months, so I am looking SO forward to next year when we can experience this freedom for the entire school year! (we are currently using Story of the World for History / Reading and supplementing this curriculum with lots and lots of library books that compliment each theme. So far, we've done this with great success for studying Early People/ Nomads, Ancient Egyptians, Sumarians, and now the Jewish People. Never have I seen my daughter so excited about anything school-related).
|Some of our crafts from last month's Ancient Egypt studies: a lovely and elegant noodle necklace (fit for a queen!) and a homemade scribe's pallette which has gotten HOURS of use by our 6 year old resident scibe :)|
- Incentives and bribes still work. Just fyi, and in case you weren't sure.
I mean, the wonder of it: 50 sightwords yelled out at lightning quick speed for a reward of 3 tiny jellybeans. Whole sections of scripture and sets of addition facts memorized for a chance to win a dollar-store item from the treasure box. It's a wonderful thing I tell you. It worked so well when I had my own classroom--so why do we think as parents that our children should just naturally WANT to do every academic thing we present them with? For goodness sake, we ALL (adults too) enjoy incentives! Don't forget to dangle those carrots.
- Yes, curriculum matters...to a point...but is really only a framework...a skeleton which is to be filled in with lots of REAL LIFE, meaningful learning experiences. It's not about finding the perfect curriculum--because you know there is no such thing. It's more about how you approach it and work it. Too much focus on curriculum choice and "sticking with" the curriculum can overwhelm and BOG down parents and students alike. Use it as a framework or a guide but not as a crutch.
- Leave room for GRACE. Draw upon it; abide in it; pour it out. For yourself. For your kids and your spouse. For fellow homeschoolers. For other believers, and for the lost.
Oh, how hard it is sometimes to remember that He gives a fresh supply daily--
D. L. Moody once said that “a man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next 6 months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it.”
Ultimately, that's what this journey of homeschooling, and LIFE is really all about--a learning how to walk in grace, day by day, by day.
...Praying many end-of-school year blessings over you, dear friends!
And may each of us draw upon Him to graceFULLy complete this season and the ones which are yet to come!
And may each of us draw upon Him to graceFULLy complete this season and the ones which are yet to come!