Back to Homeschool

I love the back-to-school season!  I get so excited about all the big possibilities.  I love the return to a settled routine.  I love reconnecting with friends and trying new things in our homeschool.  When we made the decision to educate our children at home, I wondered if we would miss out on the excitement and festivities associated with returning to the school year.  What about school shopping and new school shoes and photos before jumping on the school bus?  Would I regret giving up those things?

I quickly realized that the traditions of back-to-school are easily mirrored in homeschool life.  We go back-to-school shopping, but we aren’t following a prescribed list.  We get new shoes (Thanks, Grandma!), but we aren’t worried about having “the right” shoes based on peer pressure (at least not yet).  And I love snapping first-day-of-school pictures and comparing them to previous years.  Boy, these kids grow like weeds.  Here’s a quick look at our start to school for 2018-2019:

 

Art: A Busy Mom’s Manifesto

I pledge to make room for art in my life.

I will create art with words.

I will make art with my camera.

I will make art with clay and paper and ink and paint and fiber and pencil–even if I only have fifteen minutes!

I will explore new modes of art, and I will relish the experience.

I will make art with my cello and with my voice, even if it’s out of tune.

Even though it is hard and makes me shy and embarrassed, I promise to make art through movement.  I will dance with my children.  I will dance with my husband.  I will dance alone.  I will stretch my comfort zone and my muscles.  I will feel wind in my hair as I turn, and I will imagine a time when I could do that without worrying what others thought.  (Was there ever a time?)

I vow to make art for its own sake.

I will be a “process over product” maker, and I will ignore those internal voices that say my work isn’t good. I will hear the “why bother,” and I will remember that the value of *my* art is in the making, not in anyone’s assessment of the results.

I will claim creativity as a core value in my life, and as such, creating will sometimes come first on my to-do list with no guilt attached.

I will celebrate art in my community and honor the people around me who create in many forms.  I will seek opportunities to see others’ making or displaying art, and I will cherish those experiences with my family.

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I will say yes when my kids want to paint, sculpt, or draw.  I will join them.

I will bring art into my home, but more importantly, I will treat the art that is made in my home with the respect it deserves.

Picasso said, “Every child is an artist,” and I am a child at heart.

 

(Photo from World Ballet Day 2017)

Instead.

The post I planned for today seemed inadequate after I woke to the news of the shooting in Las Vegas.  I was going to talk about something rather personal, and suddenly, it felt too self-centered.  When tragedy strikes, we often find comfort in unity.  For a time, we are bound by our common shock and our collective mourning.  My post would have been inappropriately individual.  It can wait for another day.

Plans change.  Our morning was supposed to begin with breakfast and school work.  Typical.  Pleasantly ordinary.  Instead, our dogs escaped the fence, and we spent over two hours searching for them, crying, and even making missing posters.  One child lost a tooth in the midst of everything.  We did find our dogs. We read about the shooting and talked about it.  We talked about violence and hurting people.  Hurting people and people who hurt.  We talked about peace and about anger that sits deep inside a person.  These were hard conversations.

We abandoned our plans.

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Instead, we had a picnic in the park.  We walked to a local historical site and let our imaginations take over.  We enjoyed the perfect weather on an October afternoon, commenting on the remarkable blue of the sky.  We made note of the leaves just beginning to change and remembered how fleeting autumn color is.  What will the trees look like in a week or a month?

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My oldest son asked why shootings happen.  I don’t have all the answers, of course, and I certainly cannot control what other people do with their hurt and their anger.  Heck, I can’t even control my Monday morning that was supposed to be ordinary and predictable with math workbooks and phonics practice.  But I can make a little home where peace is a priority–where love comes before all else.  I can create gentleness in my kids, hoping that they will pass it along. I can try.

Leading from Behind

As a parent, leadership is a daily job, and it can be all-consuming.  If we don’t direct the day, will teeth get brushed?  Will math be practiced?  Will bedrooms be cleaned?  Will Bibles be read and prayers be said?

If we don’t walk at the front of the line, will these little ones go astray?  Will they know where to go and how to get there?

We are placed in the position of authority in our homes, and that isn’t a job to be shunned or taken lightly.  However, being in charge can lead us to put on blinders as we focus intently on the goal of raising healthy, responsible adults.  We can too easily miss the wonderful people these kids already are.

Early in the fall, we had a remarkable day with glorious, sunny weather.  My mom and I took the kids for a big walk.  We strolled behind as my children walked ahead of us, happily brandishing sticks (and light sabers!), picking up interesting finds, and relishing the  warm day.  I called out to them from time to time if someone drifted too close to poison ivy or became too enthusiastic with a stick.  But overall, I simply chatted with my mom and observed the wonderful way that children learn even without direct leadership.  Their curiosity comes naturally, so I can’t help wondering if their learning actually happens more readily without my interference.  Certainly their joy seems to!

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But this post isn’t simply an attempt to say “get out of the way” of kids’ learning, I have something a little different mulling around in my brain as I reminisce about that particular afternoon and reflect upon some things that I’ve observed in the last few months of homeschooling with a newborn in our family.

When I stand behind the action and watch from a few steps back, I am still leading my family.  I am leading them toward MORE of what they are doing.  I am showing my children that their activities are productive, their conversations are important, and their observations are valuable. I am leading them to do more of the same, to see their choices as good.  By not interrupting, I am saying, “You are doing good things.  You are smart, curious, and important.”  I tell them by my actions that we are on the right track.  School is going well, and they are growing as amazing people on this beautiful planet.  I do have to step in at strategic points in our week.  I do have to make concrete plans from time to time and take the first steps into new activities and new lessons.  However, the more I lead from behind, the more I see the leaders that these kids are becoming, and I have the ultimate pleasure of watching it happen.

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Getting Back to the WHY

We hit a rough patch early in the fall.  We had been working hard on the house–painting, cleaning, organizing, and decluttering.  That’s exciting!  All good things.

But then there was the flat tire, the dented car door, the leaking sink,the dentist appointments, the strange little stomach bug with a slight fever, the lost library books, and those pesky multiplication facts.  Sigh.  Real life.

Suddenly, in the midst of all that LIFE, I kind of crumbled under a whole lot of self-doubt.  Have you ever been there?  You’re working hard to do all the right things–to check off all those boxes–but you always feel behind and inadequate.  That’s where I wallowed for awhile.  Homeschooling, in particular, was feeling like a bunch of “get dones” instead of the joyful privilege that it can be.

I’m not one to linger in a bad mood for long, and I knew I needed to do something to shake the funk.  I reached out to a group of homeschool moms who might understand.  Their responses were incredible.  They were practical, offering actual help for spelling and reading.  They were whimsical and inspirational, reminding me that I’m not alone.  One friend told me to get back to the WHY of our decision to homeschool–to return to all the things I love about educating my children at home.  That advice was a true answer to prayer, and I followed it immediately.

In our homeschool, getting back to the WHY means experiencing the outdoors.  It means learning through all of our sense.  It means learning by doing.  It means reading lots of things from a variety of sources and subjects.  It means learning together as a family.  And it looks a little something like this:

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Learning New Things

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I love many aspects of educating our children at home.  I could go on and on.  I love the freedom to learn what, when, and where we choose.  I love that my children can learn together, developing their relationships with each other in special ways.  I love library visits in the middle of the day and dropping everything to go on a picnic at lunchtime.  But if I could pick the number one reason that I keep on homeschooling even through the squabbles and messes and meltdowns over the times tables, my favorite part of home education is being a witness to my children’s educational milestones–seeing the BIG THINGS as they happen, watching their faces as the light bulbs go on.

 This week Charlotte wrote her name without any help.  She’s been getting close for awhile, but she needed to copy the letters or be reminded of what came next.  On Monday, she wrote it alone–no model, no reminder.  I wasn’t surprised by her ability.  I was taken off guard by her reaction (joy and pride) and her brothers’ jubilation!  The process of learning new things is a joyful one–whether you are 6 weeks old or 106 years old.  I feel such privilege to be able to see new things being learned by the people I love best.  Sometimes–as Mom and Teacher–I play an important role in that learning.  Sometimes it’s only between my child and God.  Those are the most amazing to behold.

Hello, Monday.

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Hello, Monday.

I love that you hold the promise of new things, new routines, endless possibilities.  I love that you ride in on a hint of sunshine, still carrying all the warmth of a weekend well lived.

Hello, Autumn.

I love the beginnings of your glory on the tree outside my window.  The prettiest yellow-orange starts at the top of the boughs, but summer’s green is still going strong at every window.  Autumn, your cool mornings make me excited for the sweaters and pumpkins and cups of tea that will return to our days in the coming weeks.

Hello, School Day.

I’m looking forward to the discoveries that wait in you.  I love the furrowed brow of a boy considering 9×6 and the excitement of a perfect letter “C” drawn by a chubby three-year-old hand.  I love the sounds of poetry and scripture recited by heart.

“This is the Day.”

Hello, Gratitude.