Saturday, September 5, 2009
Thoughts on homeschooling
I have been thinking a lot about my homeschool journey this week. Some about the year ahead but mostly about the transformation that homeschooling has birthed in me.
How many of you think that homeschooling is about educating your children?
How many of you have been through the fire of homeschooling enough to know that homeschooling is also about God shaping, molding and conforming you and your family into the image of Christ?
When I was pregnant with my first, I knew that I would homeschool. I did not know anything about it, did not know anyone who DID it.
I just knew that was what God wanted for our family. It was been non-negotiable ever since. What I did not know, what I could not prepare for...was the amazing journey and where it would take me.
When I started preparing to homeschool, I read every book I could get my hands on. I investigated learning styles, curriculum choices, teaching styles etc. I am a planner...so I "planned" it all out. Ha Ha.
I joined a homeschool support group when my son was 4. I walked into that first meeting expecting to be told "how" to homeschool. What was the secret curriculum that I needed to make my kids turn out OK?
By the time I actually started homeschooling my first...1 baby had come and another was fast on his heels. I had 3 boys suddenly who did not fit my "plan".
I was doing a very structured Classical approach to education...which meant a lot of prep time and about 4 hours at the table for my first grader. Each day. It was intense. I did not know any better.
By the time that same child was 6...I was on bed rest with twins. 5 days after he turned 7...I had my 4th and 5th babies. How do you think that year of homeschooling went?
Yeah, not according to plan.
Oh, I tried (and failed) to educate him in that style. I rammed my way through lesson planning and daily assignments. By the time he was in second grade...he was starting to hate school. So was I. School to us was the time when all the fun stopped and we sat down at the table to learn math facts and other uninteresting things.
School was a huge pressure and stress to me. I can see why so many put their children in school. I say I can understand..not that I will. I can also see that God has such an easier, softer way to homeschool if we will only submit to His plan...but I am jumping ahead of myself.
I decided that what I needed was more FUN for our schooling. We went on more field trips, science fairs, parties, play dates...you name it. I also took over the leadership of that same homeschool support group I had joined around this same time. Yes, I am half crazy.
I also began to learn that homeschooling families grow their own organic gardens...so I added that to my plate. I learned that I needed to make my own breads, check! Then, I had to can all the things I grew in my garden, preserve jams and jellies and sew our clothing. Check, check (I can't sew...so I let that one go!)
I just kept adding things left and right. Not only did I have 5 children in 7 years...I was quickly pregnant again with #6 and STILL keeping up this insane schedule.
I would push myself harder each day because, after all...this is all about education for the children, all about their future. I was still looking for the thing that would guarantee their salvation and their success in life.
To coin a song that many of you probably have never heard..I was "going off the rails on a crazy train"
I could have possibly gone on this way until I went mad and put the kids in school.
Fortunately, crisis hit our lives.
Strange to see the words 'fortunately' and 'crisis' together huh? I know.
We did enter very hard times. We lost our house (the one we had built 7 years earlier) we lost all of our vehicles, employees and all that went with our business. My DH was a contractor, building lots of houses and over night it seemed, the market dried up. We moved and grieved our losses.
Around the time school was supposed to start...I just could not get out the lesson planner and force myself to plan anything. It hit me that there is no curriculum that is going to be a cure all for my fears and anxieties concerning homeschooling.
There was nothing to "fill the gaps" or make them into what I wanted for them. I was also expecting our 7th baby. I love having children and I did not want to be a raving maniac every day. I realized I had better figure out a way to be sane while caring for them. Who can relate?
All the planning, running around, un Godly expectations and unrealistic goals had to be torn down. In all areas. Not only with my homeschooling, but also in dealing with other's expectations of me and my children, with housekeeping, serving outside the home or staying home and being isolated etc. I was desperately in need of balance...the kind that God gives.
So, I decided to have a relaxed year of schooling and just go with the rhythms of grace as I sought God's way. I could not handle any more pressure. Everything came to a near halt.
I found that I am not very good at going with grace. There was too much that I was trying to control still. It took the entire school year to break me of that fear and control of my children's education and future. Fears that I thought I had previously dealt with.
When I did our annual testing after that time of "unschooling" I was afraid to see the results.
To my amazement the scores were just as well, if not better than they had in the years that I had been super structured.
I am structured again this year, but it is in God's parameters. I found that for me, the loose schedule did not work. With 7 children, I need structure of we do not get anything done. The difference this year is that the schedule is working for me, I am not working for the schedule. The fear is gone. This is a huge deal. Bigger than can be expressed in a blog. God set me free from fear concerning my children's education! After all, HE is in control of their lives.
I went through a lot of transformation as I learned of God's never ending love for me. His grace and mercy, and the awesomeness of His plans. His ways are not my ways. I am on the other side of some very dark days now.
One thing I have learned is that I need to recognize what season I am walking through. Firstly to be able to function properly in that season. One does not go around in snow boots in July just because "that is what has worked in the past". We also do not try to force the rain to stop because we think there should be sun that day (OK, for those of us who live in Washington...we may have had that wish!) We are not in control of the seasons of our lives, but need to accept and thrive in whatever season God has us in.
Secondly, I need to recognize the season as such so that I can be encouraged that it will pass as seasons do, and I will not always be walking in the hard times (or good times, or sad times, or glad times etc) Each season has it's own gifts and challenges. I am thankful for that.
There is just too much to even begin to write about concerning what God did in me in those dark times. Perhaps when I get my head around it...
For now, it is my passion to reach out to new homeschoolers and encourage them to first pray about their year before they investigate the latest and greatest curriculum, get involved in 37 co-op's that promise to teach them everything they need to know, or plan extensive and elaborate outings and trips to "enrich" the children's education.
Pray and talk to your husband. God's way is the right way. He may want you to go in a direction that you had not even thought of.
Homeschooling allows the privilege of getting to know our children and teach them about math, reading, and science...but also about the Lord. That should be our first "subject" in school each day.
A woman that many of you know said this recently " Whatever you did last year, don't do it again this year in your homeschool. What ever you do, seek first to be Christlike in all you do"
If we we are teaching math, but not being Christlike while doing it...we are on the wrong track. If we have the BEST curriculum, but our attitude while we teach it is not Christlike, we might as well throw it out. If we have the perfectly kept house and run all the play dates and co-op's without fault but we are not Christlike to our husbands and children....it is worthless.
You know the scripture 1 Cor 13:1
"If I speak in tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
Apply that to your homeschooling. If you are not loving those sweet babies as you go over their times tables again...clang, clang, clang. You get the idea.
Seek first to be Christlike in all you do. In your lesson planning and your daily schedule. I am on that quest with you.