Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Homeschooling: The Journey Continues

The most challenging aspect of beginning the homeschool journey for me has been determining what our homeschool looks like. I love reading articles about the paths other moms have chosen. Simple Homeschool has some great stories where different moms share a "day in the life" and what their nitty gritty looks like. It's good to know they are normal people doing normal things and that pinterest-perfect isn't their normal either.

But, their day-in-the-life still doesn't answer the question, "What does my day-in-the-life look like?"

I've read and wrestled, and read and wrestled some more. At some point, a person can read too much and have too much to wrestle with. The mass volume of information and ideas available muddled my mind so fully that the structure of our homeschool began to look like a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey with me trying blindly to pin the right homeschool method on my family's unique build.

To describe the start of our journey, I jumped into a Classical Conversations community at the outset. We joined a community, purchased all of the curriculum, and I was hopeful that we would thrive and, as advertised on their website, I would single-handedly cultivate a love of learning in my child. They would read blissfully in fields of flowers by the age of 5 and the sun would beam down on our perfect happy homeschool family. Okay, maybe I didn't expect all that, but I look back and realize I was hoping the Classical Christian method would be our perfect fit.

We joined the community and we struggled immensely all year.  Each week, we went to a very LONG four hours of repetitive repeat-after-me sessions, where we both felt ignorant and ill-prepared. After a number of weeks of feeling like the dumb kid (and the dumb mom), I spent the week pushing Isabel (then only four years old!) too hard so that when she came to class she wouldn't feel inferior (and neither would I) and while she learned the content and began to improve in class, she began to hate doing "school," as did I.  Most of the time when we thought about doing "school" at home or at CC, we both internally cringed. We limped through the rest of the year and by the last 6 weeks, we had emotionally and physically checked out almost completely.  I was emotionally exhausted from trying to keep up and I realized I had caused damage in my attempts to do so in my child's "love of learning." The very thing I was trying to cultivate was the thing I trampled underfoot as I looked too intently at the "garden" I wanted to grow in the distance and not hard enough at the "garden" I was planting.

Recently, I've been reading through the amazing book, Homeschooling, Take a Deep Breath - You Can Do This, and this paragraph describes my feelings about last year homeschooling Isabel.

 "I began my homeschooling career by teaching only the oldest of my three children. I was new, so I was managing to make every mistake commonly made by homeschoolers, but I also faced the challenge of spending so much uninterrupted time with a child whose personality was as strong as mine. She and I clashed as I struggled to be the perfect teacher and to force her to be the perfect student. When I was teaching one child, I put all my self-esteem, my goals, my pride into this child's education. It was, I thought, her job to prove I could do what most people thought I couldn't do. Instead of starting out slowly and gradually getting used to what we were doing, I charged into full education mode ... This was far too much pressure for one child, and it's a wonder we get along so well today."

Over the summer, I struggled with whether to even try homeschooling again. I was exhausted and I felt like I had irrevocably ruined my child for life. I'm confident Isabel will be just fine, but at the end of the year, I felt like I had failed her and myself unforgivably. Maybe I'm not cut out for this, my mind swirled. Or maybe it was just a hard year with a newborn? Other homeschool parents have newborns and they don't seem to be ruining their kids' homeschool experience. I had, in fact, just read a blog by a mom who had homeschooled her children while also caring for newborn twins. What excuse did I have then to not be successful?

I read articles and blogs and they all said to go with the flow and not to stress. Easy for them to say, my brain retorted, their kids haven't been scarred by a mom who pushed her child too hard. Their kids don't fall apart every time they start doing "school." 

I almost gave up on it all, but I kept feeling like God was gently nudging me back to homeschooling. Don't you see how poorly I did last year?  I asked Him. He gently reminded me that He often calls His people to do hard things, things that they can't do in their own strength. His words resonated in me as I thought of what Jesus walked through for me and the hard things God asked of Jonah, Joseph, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Abraham, Moses, and countless others. Perhaps I did do poorly last year, but it seemed that God was calling me to do hard things with Him.

In so many ways, I look back at our last year and realize that I wanted to be successful in homeschooling for my sake and not for my children's sake. I wanted educated, kind, respectful children partially so I could say I successfully raised my children well. I needed to decide whether I was homeschooling so I could produce perfect children who brought credit to my name (not a great motivation, by the way), or whether I would homeschool for a deeper, more lasting reason. 

God gave me the reason I was homeschooling as clear as day here - paideia - and it changed my heart about homeschooling.

Finally, I had my purpose for homeschooling but was still asking the question, "What does homeschooling my children look like in light of the purpose God gave me?"

I may ask that question every day (maybe year if I'm lucky) for the rest of my homeschool life, but I came up with some solid framework for what our homeschool will may look like this year.

More on the nitty gritty of our homeschool plan for 2016 next....

Melody perusing fairy tales in ballet attire

{What does your nitty gritty look like? How did you decide on your method for homeschool? Subscribe to read new posts.}


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