The year was 2013. For months, as the time for kindergarten started to approach, I had this whispering thought telling me not to enroll my child in public school, but to homeschool instead. I went through the motions of filling out the enrollment packet for my child to begin in the fall, but as the whispering became louder, and more insistent, I didn't complete the enrollment process. With that decision came a sense of peace. My mind was made up and homeschooling it was!
So off and running we went with me thinking, “Really, how hard can this be? The child is 5! I can color and teach letters and counting. We love games. My child is already beginning to read so we will just continue on. We've got this. We'll explore to our hearts galore; in the woods, along the seashore, and visit museums” and that's how it went; exactly as planned. We learned so much and our perfect curriculum consisted of fun activity books, crayons, paints, arts and crafts, reading books, Legos, games, and lots of adventure time. Year one was nothing short of near perfection. I remember thinking, “This is not only easy, it's fun!”
First grade came up fast and with it came a sense of dread due to newbie mistake number #1. I had researched what homeschoolers “should” be taught in first grade.
I was inundated with information; buy this book, buy that book, do this, do that. I read, as a homeschooling parent, I should teach every single thing that is taught at the local school. Doubt came and anxiety took over. The friendly whisper, of just a year ago, was now a yelling in my head, and on a mission to convince me, I absolutely did not have the ability to teach my child. No way, no how! Thoughts such as “This is crazy, I can't do this. I am not a trained teacher” were relentless.
But buy away I did. A book for each subject, maybe two. I set up our homeschool like that of a public-school classroom. And we began. Along with my sense of dread, and doubt, we plowed ahead. I remember feeling overwhelmed and sad almost every night. Where did all the fun go?
Fortunately, a short time later, I plugged into some homeschool support groups and befriended a couple of veteran homeschool parents. For quite a while, though, I repeatedly asked them “How do you do this?” However, by joining up with various support groups, I began seeing different teaching ideas demonstrating a brighter side to homeschooling. I stumbled across the following quotes, which I have never forgotten. I keep them in our yearly portfolios as friendly and kind reminders.
“Don't question your ability to teach your child. Question putting your child into the same system that left you feeling incapable of teaching your child.” (unknown)
“Homeschooling doesn't mean you have to teach everything. It just means that you get to decide what is taught, how it's taught, and by whom it is taught.” (Jamie Erickson in Homeschool Bravely)
With this beautiful wisdom read, I've never looked back.
By listening to some seasoned homeschoolers, and by reading more practical advice, I realized I was not required to follow someone else's requirements or mandates. Additionally, I learned I was certainly capable of teaching my child, but I could also help my child learn to teach himself. I decided to be brazen and boxed up, donated, or tossed a lot of what I had purchased and we started again. From scratch. Looking back, I realize this decision, this action, was the best thing to happen in our homeschool journey.
I hurdled this major bump and it will only be smooth sailing from now on! I'm an experienced homeschooler. My child and I have a routine. No more bumps should come our way. Or so I thought.
Then 2020 arrived, the year in which nothing feels quite right. Homeschooling, as we know it, is different and feels stolen from us.
Many, if not most, social activities disappeared. Our learning time became boring. Our materials, that were working fine, became dull. The days were getting shorter, the sun less warm. The media told us we were headed for a cold, dark winter. Oh, another bump!
It took several weeks of some serious drudgery before my memory of 2013 showed itself. I remembered “I can fix this.” It's just another bump! I hold the power, and have the freedom, to recreate our learning world to fit our needs and desires.
So, once again, I boxed, donated or tossed what no longer fit our needs. At Thanksgiving, we took a week off. We played more games, cooked, and baked a bit more, and we caught up on some leisure reading. I looked for alternative options and bought new materials. I revamped our schedule while also accepting the reality that social activities are not going to come to our rescue anytime in the near future.
We are well into our eighth year of homeschooling and I am certain there will be another bump or two; another opportunity to toss those well-laid plans. I'm ready and I'm willing.
Whatever the reason might be - and there are many - causing a bump, or perhaps even a small disaster, in your learning world, embrace the freedom of choice. My first experience of plan-tossing was difficult. Yet, it ended up being a wonderful lesson. My second experience with the tossing was refreshing!
I remind myself to never get stuck. Move those obstacles when needed. Toss what needs tossing and start again.
“Remember, curriculum is a tool. It should never be your master.
You are free to direct your child's education as you see fit.
Adjust, adapt, skip, ignore, toss.” (The Homeschool Resource Map)
2020 or not.
By Lauren Lawless