Saturday, August 23, 2008

In Homeschooling, Be the Change You Want to See...

A new school year is always exciting and full of hope and dreams. We have great ideas and good intentions, and most often it happily works out just as we hope it will. But maybe you were never quite sure of your plan or were never really confident in your ability to homeschool. And sometimes, life takes a sudden left turn. Or we get tired. Or things just don't go as planned on a day to day basis. And then we worry and feel behind. We get frustrated and become weary in spirit.

Not to throw water on a nicely burning fire or to start out the year on a negative note (because I mean for this to be positive), but if you need a boost of confidence, or if your homeschool gets to a point where it all seems not to be working well or it's fraying at the edges or is even falling completely apart, let me assure you that it can be okay.

Let me tell you some of what my children learned without curriculum or lesson plans or parent-produced assignments or teaching. Without any memorization or tests or grades.

Spelling
Writing
Vocabulary
Grammar
Health
History
Home Ec
Critical Thinking
Argumentation
Art
Geography
Literature
PE
Much Math
Elementary, Junior High, and some High School Science
And a whole lot more.

These were all learned as the kids went along, as they pursued their life and interests, as they read and explored and wrote and talked and observed and let their curiosity lead them down their own interesting paths. And my children are not unique in this. Many, many children have learned this way. Even Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize winners.

It can be done. I'm not saying it should be done the way my family did it, but it can be done, and if you get in a pinch or a bind and need to do some letting go, it might encourage you to remember this.

Homeschooling is really not the difficult, complex, scary thing some people make it out to be. It doesn't require a degree, complicated plans, paperwork, and tedious record keeping. It can be simple, relaxed, and lovely.

I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from their planned course of learning because it's good to homeschool in whatever way you feel led, or in the way you feel most motivated, inclined, and confident. For some people that entails a lot of planning and assignments and a schoolish-looking day and year, and for others of us, it means a lot of free-form learning. In between, there are myriad ways to approach homeschooling.

Maybe what I'm saying will be encouraging or come in handy if, or when, life gets complicated or stressful or messy and it becomes impossible to keep up the entire plan. A warm, relaxed, loving, parent is a much nicer guide and example than a stressed-out, burned out, frustrated, or self-focused parent. Don't worry. Trust. Pray. The Lord will not fail you, and He will not fail your children.

I'm not offering excuses for one who is merely lazy, undisciplined, inattentive, or utterly disorganized. I'm offering hope for one whose life really has sent him spinning off his intended course. God is Sovereign. He knows exactly what is happening in your life and why. Trust Him. Rest in Him. Again, He will not fail you.

I'm also offering hope for one who is tired, discouraged, overwhelmed, or even burned out by the intensity of trying to maintain a homeschool program that is just too much. There is a simpler way where the burden is light.

To reduce this to its most fundamental level, because sometimes that's where we need to be, live a positive, enthusiastic, and encouraging life with your children-- a life of warmth, curiosity, and wonder. Fill this life with books and conversation.

Keep learning yourself, even if it's about just one thing-- cooking or baby care or nutrition or education or theology or nature or quilting or that specific challenge that has arisen in your life. Scale back as far as you need to go to keep things as simple as you can possibly keep them.

Read. Think. Do. But don't overdo.

In a life-giving atmosphere, odds are, if you learn, the children will learn. Read, and the children will read. Write, and the children will write. Think, and the children will think. Wonder, and the children will wonder. Explore, and the children will explore. Be curious, and the children will be curious.

Because, besides prayer, the three most powerful tools in a homeschooling parent's toolkit are:

1. Example
2. Example
3. Example

In other words, at the most basic level of all, do as Gandhi said, and "be the change you want to see in the world."