Trust, feather in, and prepare

The little ghost of public school past may whisper that you are behind at any given moment. She expects six subjects per day, carefully divided into hour-long segments, with lunch dissecting the day at noon.

You, on the other hand, had a busy month. You had a baby; you worked part time; your husband was sent on a tour of duty with the military; your youngest got tubes put in her ears; you found out you were pregnant and now are exhausted and nauseous; the remodel is taking an extra month; your mother-in-law had hip surgery and is staying at your house; a hurricane blew into your city; your car broke down; your dog’s cancer became terminal…

Any one of those could be you right now.

Life exhausts all of us some months and homeschool vanishes. When those months come during the “official” school year, we panic and try to make up for lost time the next month. We feel pressure to “catch up.” We transfer that pressure to the kids, and sometimes short change the subject matter in our hurry to rush ahead to the “right” place in the text book or lessons. Life becomes harried and unhappy very quickly under these conditions.

Let me start with a little demythologizing to help you.

Did you know, for instance, that in school when a teacher leaves due to an imminent birth, the new substitute sometimes puts on a video each day for a week or two before the lesson plans kick in?

Did you know that sometimes schools go through trauma (shootings or vandalism or weather-related damage) that lead to skipping whole chunks of information when the regular school hours return?

Did you know that some teachers are not as effective at teaching as others?

Schools are not uniformly efficient in following schedules or completing lesson plans every year, in every subject. Know that, so that you can successfully “flick” the ghost of public school past off of your shoulder. You are not a school and you are not required to follow a school schedule or system. Even schools can’t always get it done!

Now TRUST home education! You homeschool for good reasons:

1) tailor-made learning,

2) variety of learning activities and experiences,

3) the ability to speed up and slow down,

4) self-teaching by the kids,

5) flexibility!

When you feel like a month went down the tubes, follow this principle:

FEATHER in the subject areas over the course of a few weeks. You can choose to simply get back to the easy workbooks (like math and handwriting) for a couple weeks while you sort through what else you’d like to do with your kids. You don’t have to resume a full homeschool schedule for every day of that month. Start small and build. It’s okay to not know after a month from h-e-double toothpicks what else you want to do besides those easy lessons. Use the new month to find out.

PREPARE for the other subjects before you expect output from the kids. Rather than racing ahead into the unfamiliar material, take time to read the instructions, grasp the vision, and understand the philosophy of the materials. Get to know the books or guidelines, over tea or coffee, while the kids watch videos or play with Legos or jump on the trampoline. No harm comes to them while they play and you prepare.

All kids benefit from well-planned lessons. Take your time to offer your kids a meaty experience, rather than a rushed one, thrown together by guilt.


A side-note: I have a problem with “open-and-go” as a philosophy of learning. While convenient, particularly with a large family, some of the learning (the rich, deep, invested learning) needs to be the kind that takes consideration and thoughtfulness. What will your kids remember from their homeschooled childhoods? Workbooks that were so easy to use, a parent could open them, give the instructions to the child at a glance, and then return to the computer or the laundry or phone?

Or will they remember the month you took two weeks to think about a month-long writing experience, where you discovered the ideas ahead of time, prepared for the experience with enthusiasm, tools, and know-how, and then executed that experience with lovely, distraction-free, carved-out time and nurturing?

I know you want the latter. We all do. You can create it. Take your time to get there.

Trust that home education works. Because it does.

Feather in the subjects one or two at a time, with space for them to take hold, before you get all the plates spinning at once.

Prepare for the more challenging subjects, consciously, while your kids are busy in the same house, if need be. Plan for rich experiences that take up the entire morning and displace some of those other subjects if need be.

Image by Xlibber

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