I‘m a fairly academically-minded homeschooler. It could be the former public school teacher in me. It could be my big head. But I like to know that my kids are making progress through their curriculum. I like to know that they score at or above grade level on standardized tests. I like to know that “the experiement is working” — at least from an academic perspective.
But I’m also learning to be a realist: things don’t always go according to plan.
- Kids get sick.
- It takes me a week to prepare for a week’s vacation and another week to recover.
- The library doesn’t always deliver on time the book I reserved three weeks ago.
- On occasion, a child will be sporting two left shoes.
Life is subject to change.
Any variety of moods, household projects, or illness can get in the way of my best-laid plans. Consequently, I have to adjust — and so does my homeschool.
Those of you in the relaxed or unschooling camps are probably laughing at me. But to my brain, this is hard. I see the value of “life education,” I do. But, I also want to feel bien dans ma peau, to feel good in my skin. I want to feel at peace with the education I’m providing my kids.
How do I reconcile a rigorous academic plan with the bumps and turns of real life?
1. Remember what’s most important.
Jamie made a great point recently about making “peace the goal.” It does our kids no good if they become brilliant, but crabby and unkind people because Mom stressed too much or pushed too hard.
I shared that peaceful goal with my kids recently as we headed out for a long day: science lab for my oldest son, a library trip for the rest of us, and lots of driving in between. “Peace and fun are the goals,” says I. Just articulating that helped set the tone for a day that would be generally unproductive — at least where school books were concerned.
At the library, we read stories and chose books for the week while my 9th grader examined mold under a microscope. We picked up subs on the way home to prevent the delays of meal prep and clean-up, allowing us to spend the last two hours of the day working on academics.
My attitude made all the difference. We did what we could with the time we had. And I didn’t freak out.
2. Remember that no educational system is perfect.
When I was in high school, my French teacher became terminally ill. We had months of substitute teachers, few who knew a word of French. Our French learning suffered for a time. Yet, many of us went on to become fluent in the language despite the lapse in instruction.
“Life happens” in every system and it’ll be okay if we miss a day or fall a little behind on our schedule.
3. Ask yourself, “Is learning happening?”
Some of the stupidest people hold college degrees, and some of the most brilliant minds of our time were high school or college dropouts. Schooling does not necessarily equate an education. Academic progress does not always jive with actual learning.
There are many ways to learn and absorb information. A trip to the zoo or a baking session where my son-who-hates-math has to double the ingredients amounts and actually use math can be just as “educational” as getting the math lesson done.
But what if…?
I still hope that we finish the math books, get beyond lesson two in the science curriculum, and that my kindergartner masters the short vowel sounds. The ultimate goal however, is for my kids to have the tools they need to succeed in their chosen paths of life.
These things will come — eventually, and perhaps in ways I least expect it. I can’t let the fears of “what if…” rob our family of peace and joy in the day to day. As Renee says, “What if” is a two-way street.
Life never happens exactly the way we think it should. A homeschool is no different.
What’s important is to live and learn and love each other through the process.
What do you do when things don’t follow your plan?