Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom

The fastest growing homeschool demographic in my area are families that are deciding to homeschool after some public school experience.
Interestingly, many of them are starting mid-year.

That takes conviction and guts.

And yet, the families I've met lately seem much more confident and relaxed than families who began homeschooling even just 5 years ago.  That's a great thing.
 
I'm not sure of all the factors that have contributed to this new confidence, but I suspect that seeing homeschool successes is at least partially responsible.
 

The stigma of homeschooling is rapidly waining.

Many colleges are creating new processes and entire departments with dedicated staff to exclusively handle homeschool admissions.
A number of ivy league colleges are encouraging a 10% enrollment of homeschooled freshman.
(HSLDA has some great articles)
These colleges are recognizing the benefits of a customized school experience.
Additionally, a number of  these colleges are siting that the character, work ethic and study skills of homeschooled candidates, and not just academic results, is what is making these freshman so desirable.
 
So, a big thank you to the generation of courageous homeschoolers before us for producing a "product" that has brought positive recognition to the process and has resulted in positive change for the rest of us.
 
Despite all the positive results and the litany of wonderful reasons we chose to homeschool, around spring each school year,

even veterans can run it off into the ditch.

 
Sometimes, we get bogged down in the day to day monotony of homeschooling and balancing the arts of parenting and homemaking, that we lose focus with the specific ways that makes homeschooling such a positive learning experience.

We lose focus.

We start to measure and compare which leads to fretting.
We become agitated.  We entertain feelings of inadequacy.
We start to push our kids to complete assignments (not for the learning) but just so they don't have 13 undone lessons at the end of May.
  What does that have to do with anything?
 

Spring is a great time get a sitter, grab a cup of coffee and take inventory of your school year.

Remind yourself why you chose homeschooling to begin with and what success really looks like.

 
For example:
 
Should success of a first grader's reading ability be measured
 
a)  by his ability to read full complex sentences in books with at least 10 pages out of the box of stories marked with a number 2 and is doing at least one story a day, five days a week?  or
 
b)  by the fact that he is reading better than he did two months ago, retaining what he's read, is able to tell the story back in his own words and more often than not, is not despising sitting down to read?
 
Should we define success of elementary science as
 
a)  being able to identify a diprotodontial marsupial and further classify it as a macropod? or
 
b)  that they have learned the art of noticing the environment, cultivated a wonderment for creation and have learned that MENTOS dropped in a 2 liter of coke is AWESOME!
 
Have they seen tadpoles become frogs or caterpillars become butterflies?  Do they think it's amazing?
Have they seen the innards of a frog or seen a fox climb a fence?
Do they wonder why camels have humps and know how to find the answer?
 
Do you know that public schooled kids rarely go to the school library?
Or go outside, just to look at bugs?
 
I applaud elementary teachers for having line leaders and classroom helpers.  But teacher can't have the kids help with laundry, make the grocery list for the week, help with the shopping, budget the money, calculate the tax, manage the coupons and sous chef the meal. 
 
Do they have American History in public elementary schools?
 
If they did, I bet they can't talk about the sovereignty of God in the foundation of our country.
I'll bet the girls can't needlepoint or weave during the story and I'm positive the boys wouldn't be allowed to whittle with a knife.
Costuming is probably trumped by uniforms.
 
And they probably aren't allowed to paint their faces like aborigines while studying Australia.
 
As we approach spring break how about this, mom?

 

Give yourself a break.

Give your kids a break.

 

Trust the process.
We are designed by God to learn.
We started straight out of the womb without any curriculum
what so ever.
The trick is to cultivate our innate curiosity and good habits and resourcefulness, and then, get out of the way.

If you need inspriation, click:

Here's how we do it.

 
We were designed by God to be inquisitive and curious.
The process of learning should be about feeding that natural curiosity and marveling at all there is to see and know.
Education should be more about the art of learning and the cultivation of a love of learning rather than the teaching of subjects and taking tests. 
(which ironically, has absolutely nothing to do with learning.)
 

Education=Learning

Not TEACHING

Not Curriculum

 

Do not fret, loving mom, over your second grader's end of the year test.  Celebrate with cupcakes and Mylar balloons if he is unable to identify a "gerund" or to conjugate Spanish verbs or even properly punctuate a friendly letter.
If test day is just a fun day to report to a room with 2 sharpened pencils and a sack lunch and see my friends, you're doing it right.
 
(Please note that I don't live in a land with a fluffy bunny king and a rainbow bridge.  While I may borrow some ideas, especially with non-core subjects, I am NOT an unschooler.  We have very definite objectives and I do use curriculum.  The point is, the curriculum does NOT use me.   We all know that we need to objectively measure a child's education.   My kids' test scores have never told me anything I didn't already know.  I also have never shared their scores with them.   My point is, RELAX.  Keep on keeping on.  Don't ruin an elementary kid's love of learning by saddling him with arbitrary requirements and test stress.  The way to teach basic parts of speech is Mad Libs....and who says they need to master it in the second grade? Good grief.  Let them read about lands with bunny kings and a rainbow bridges without the burden of sentence diagramming so that they learn to love to read.  There's plenty of time for serious, directed study once they get to upper elementary, middle and high school.  If you do elementary right by cultivating a love of learning, skills and habits that support learning, they will naturally transition with little resistance and with great results.  Yes, even boys.)

You're also doing it right if your kids think it's normal to talk to adults in the community and play with kids, both older and younger than they are, without any inclination to be self-conscious.
Praise God if they are learning the art of negotiating with their siblings and peers instead of the arts of manipulation, tormenting, gossiping, backbiting and texting as a primary form of communication.
In fact, if your kids can hold a conversation without using the word "like" three times in every sentence, you should punch out on the Mom Clock and have a Snickers.

You are a success!


Instead of the syllabus, take inventory of your children's character growth.  Did you wrestle down some flaws this year?
Have they gained emotional tools that will contribute not only to their own well being and personal success, but that will bless others in their life, now and in the future?

Do they love learning?  Do they feel competent, empowered, successful and even a little proud?

Do they rest in God's grace for directing their path and leading them in the way they should go?

Hey Mom....do you?