The entire United States is in a trajectory towards the return of the next academic school year. If the kids havent started school yet, they will soon. By September 6th, the whole country will be back on public school districts academic calendars. Football games will start. Christmas break will emerge. Spring break will be wanton. And the countdown to summer will begin. Students will graduate and move on to college life. And …. I haven’t even picked out our curriculum for this year yet. The choices are many and the overwhelming sense of duty to find the PERFECT academic material is intense. I can feel my old, over-achieving home school program kicking into gear. I start to feel a little panicky. And so, I have been actively avoiding the issue all together.
Against better judgment, I found myself prowling around on a homeschool mom blog this afternoon. It’s a typical blog about how this one family home schools their 5 kids. She offers an overview of the curriculum they use. Gives away lots of free and very useable and solid material to augment programs. Offers advice on organization, life training for kids, Christian values, and tells you why you should do things this way or that. And she’s good….she definitely knows how to write titles and suck you into her personal opinions about stuff. Being easily sucked into such useless knowledge, I found myself sitting with my mouth ajar at what all she was doing with her kids and feeling an immediate sense of failure since, as I have said, I haven’t even decided on curriculum for my 4 kiddos. I’m already “behind” and we haven’t even started yet.
Then I noted something really important that I hope other home school families will clue into: most of the online home school blogs that look impressive and make you want to do more and be more and have more for your kids usually are not full-time home schooling families living on a budget of Zero. The children from this one family are involved in several online schools (that are quite expensive) and are using several DVD-based instructional programs to knock out the work that goes into home schooling older kids. In fact, 90% of her children’s curriculum was made up primarily of DVD instruction for science, math, language, history, etc. This is a huge help to the home schooling family, but it not something that all families can afford to do. DVD instructional courses can be quite costly. Personally, I cannot afford to order DVD material for 4 kids. Nor do I really want to.
And here is where ones personal views of home education start to divide up the home school community. I home school the kids because I want to be with them, not necessarily because I feel a strong desire to give them the most advanced, rigorous (and expensive) academic work. (And I’m really not presuming that the mom who writes the blog I was reading has a different opinion. I’m sure she home schools b/c she wants to be with her kids, too. But she clearly has a lot of strong, clear, academic goals for her and her kids. Which I don’t. And I know a lot of other families who specifically do not home school rigorously.) When the boys were younger, yes, we did things like Latin and spent time memorizing entire chapters of the Bible. When Ean was 3 he could recite the entire story of Jesus’ birth from Luke, Chapter 2, in unison, with Adri. They both knew several Latin Christian prayers and songs and could sing/recite them out loud. Adri knew his times table by the time he was 6 because we drilled in Ray’s Math daily. Their favorite outings consisted of nature walks and note-booking. I was ever the proud Christian home school mom.
And then baby #3 got bigger and baby #4 came along and all forms of formal academic work went out the window.
For a few years the kids all have toggled in and out of public school. And I in and out of college. Enter, 2011/12 school year. At present I find myself home, again, with 4 children full time. I have no job or college work to distract me from their studies. And I find myself reveling in the idea that I have absolute complete control over my entire schedule and over everything the kids will be involved in this next year. I have so many ideas for how this year might play out – but I’ve resisted setting any goals or expectations. I want the children to ENJOY this next academic year. In fact, I want them to transition fully back into the “home school mindset” where family is a fun place to be and where we can all learn along side each other without the need to “divide and conquer” academic material.There is time for that yet. This year, I feel, is about resolidifying the family unit.
And so, I reject the temptation to put pressure on all of us to have a “perfect home school” experience via lofty academic goals, expensive instructional material, or “godly” pursuits in character development. I just want to have fun with the kids again and learn a little along the way. I invite all other home schoolers who feel the same way to join in the fun! Put the books away and take the kids to the beach. Everyday. If that’s what you want to do!
This morning, the kids and I spent 2 hours at the kitchen table. (Note, I actually have a really cool “home school room” but we always end up doing school work at the kitchen table together!) We spent time talking about what the kids “Perfect Home School Day” would be like. Here’s a picture of them writing out what they thought would make home schooling fun. We talked about and lined out different routines and they helped me set up our weekly calendar. This gave them an idea of what the weeks will be like as we venture into the school year. They were really great about it all and we had fun just talking together and working towards an ameniable goal. I actually learned a few things about my kids that I hadn’t known before! I guess the question may be: who is home schooling who here!?!
So, cheers to the next academic year. And now I need to go yell at some kids who are supposed to be folding laundry but are rolling around on the floor like puppy dogs. I’m sure you can imagine who I’m talking about…