My oldest son likes to use our GPS to map out trips. Even if we’re just going to the grocery store, he gleefully plugs in coordinates and calls out eager directions from the back seat.
Things don’t always go according to plan though. More than once we’ve followed directions to the letter and found ourselves staring at a clump of trees where a road should be.
Often our educational journey is like that as well. We carefully plan out goals. We try to be intentional about the learning choices we make.
We choose wisely what books and ideas we chase after, and as a result, our choices take us just where we hoped to go… until they don’t.
Perhaps it’s a child who before could not get enough to read, but now hasn’t cracked a book in weeks. Do you force her to read at the risk of making her view it as a chore?
Or maybe you started homeschooling with a classical approach but are finding yourself leaning toward an unschooling mindset. Do you completely switch philosophies?
No matter how well we’ve plotted our educational path, we all eventually arrive at a time when what we thought would work, just doesn’t.
Do we forge ahead? Do we turn back?
How do we move forward on our learning journey when we find ourselves at a crossroads?
Photo by Ice Man Photography
As with any journey, it helps to have a few guideposts to find your way:
1. Follow Your Instincts.
In our first year of homeschooling, I spent a considerable investment on a particular curriculum. Right away it was evident that none of us liked it, but I continued to use it far longer than I should have.
Eventually I realized that in choosing not to follow my instincts, I was wasting something far more precious than money – I was wasting time that my children and I could have spent enjoying our learning adventures together.
Now, with several years of homeschooling road behind me, I’ve learned that my own instincts are often the best guide.
You know your children. You know yourself. You know intimately the goals you hope to achieve through your homeschooling experience.
You need only to ask yourself if you believe that you are on the path that best serves the people you love and the dreams that you hold.
2. Listen to Your Copilots
The beauty of home education is that it can be tailor made to fit the learner, and then remade again as he grows, changes and matures.
One afternoon, one of my boys declared that he hated math.
This was a child who had always loved playing number games and had a natural talent for understanding the mathematical world. My knee jerk reaction was to spend countless hours researching math curriculums that might better inspire him, but after a while, it occurred to me that we didn’t need a new curriculum.
We just needed to get to the heart of the matter.
I spent some time listening to my son. I asked specific questions about what he liked and disliked about math.
Together we came to the realization that it wasn’t MATH that he didn’t like, it was writing the problems and answers! His fine motor (writing) skills had not yet caught up to his mathematical knowledge, so what should have been fun wound up feeling frustrating and tedious.
It was freeing for him to explain his feelings, and once he could voice them, the solution was simple.
I played his “math lab assistant” as he dictated problems and answers to me. Eventually his fingers caught up to his calculations and he took over. Math became, and years later remains, his favorite subject of study.
Photo by Johan Larson
3. Ask for Directions
I often find that when I’ve lost my way, it helps to talk to someone who has been down this road before.
Talk to other homeschoolers, read their blogs, read home education books, and ask questions on homeschooling forums.
There are thousands of homeschoolers out there, and chances are many of them have faced issues that are similar to yours.
Rely on their experience and learn from their triumphs and trials, but proceed with caution! Take heart, take advice and take inspiration, but in the end, remember that YOU are in the driver’s seat and your family’s journey is yours to make.
Nothing will lead to frustration faster than trying to travel someone else’s path.
4. Roll Down the Window
Sometimes we feel like we’ve arrived at a dead end, but actually, we don’t need to change directions at all.
We just need a new way of looking at the road we travel.
My oldest son has been taking fiddle lessons for over two years. After the first year, he grew restless. He didn’t want to practice. He grumbled about going to lessons.
After talking to him, and to his teacher, we arrived at a plan. They put the violin book away, stopped working on scales, and just had fun together. They played copycat games – she played and he tried to mimic, and vice versa. He learned, by ear, bits of songs that he liked.
This went on for months until my fiddler decided, of his own accord, that it was time for him to buckle down.
His passion was renewed, and he wanted to play more complicated songs. He knew this would mean doing the hard work of learning to read music, playing scales and perfecting his technique.
It would be easy to feel as though this little detour was wasted time (and money!), but he learned a valuable lesson. Nurturing his passion plus some diligence and persistence, will help him get where he wants to go. That’s a lesson that will serve him far beyond his music studies.
If you or your child is struggling with some aspect of your homeschooling, try to approach it from a new angle or maybe even take a break.
You might find that a little fresh air will breathe new life into your journey.
Have you had to change directions on your homeschooling journey? How did you decide what direction to take?