Written by contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.
The beginning of this New Year dawned bright. We had taken a break for moving and Christmas and now it was back to business.
By mid February, like every other homeschool family I know, we were getting kind an antsy.
We were tired of our routine and so we took a much needed week-long break. We used this time to rest our brains (mine especially!), watch online documentaries and get ready for my son’s birthday. Gastroenteritis paid an unwelcome visit and our one week break become two weeks.
March arrived, we were feeling healthy again and we got back to work.
But I didn’t feel the same rah-rah enthusiasm I did in January.
Where we live March is still very much winter. There are hints of spring, longer and warmer days, but snow still covers the ground. And not just a skiff, we’re talking feet and feet of snow. Then there’s the fact that we live in a 750 sq foot cabin. March cabin fever is literally cabin fever.
Like Jamie, I was tempted the beginning of this month to throw in the towel. Not the whole towel of course. Public school is not an option for us but I could just let the kids watch a bunch of documentaries and craft all day. Right?
Oh wait. I do that. Those are what I call our barebones school days. However, at this stage in our homeschool journey there are only so many barebones days I feel comfortable having during non-break sessions.
Let me explain.
We homeschool our children because we want them to learn in joy and freedom. To discover who they are, what they love, what they are good at, what their mission is and to build an education around that.
When our children were in their early elementary years it was common for me to take large chunks of time off from our (quite scant to begin with) morning school routine of math, writing, and reading. Well, the reading we didn’t take breaks from but anything else that required a lot of my brain power was always open for negotiation.
I wanted to go places and do things. I wanted to explore, learn and discover with my children. Sit down workbook type stuff was not my gig. Nor was I interested in building clever unit studies and lap books. We largely did what inspired me and we had fun doing it. I had fun doing it.
This was important to me. If I wanted to be in this for the long term I needed to enjoy my job.
Weekly farm and library visits. Regular community art and culture events. Museums, concerts, nature walks and hands-on art teaching from local artisans and craftspeople.
Lots of reading together on the couch.
This was the elementary education I wanted to give my children – to grow their natural love of learning and fascination with life.
This was much more important to me than keeping pace with arbitrary curriculum standards and measures. And “staying on task”.
Then my kids grew. (My littlest is still in her early elementary years so her learning is still very play-based.)
And as they’ve grown their intellectual needs have grown also. Certain gaps in their early years education are more apparent and I need to spend a few years - the middle years - reinforcing those areas before they go deeper with their studies as young adults.
I anticipated this would happen. I also knew someday I’d have to step up my game. That once the foundation was set I’d have to get more serious with my time management and (gulp) personal discipline – to model the kind of learning I wanted my young adult children to embrace. Self-directed, interest-driven, and mission minded.
This is where I’m at.
I’m in a new place of personal discipline and consistency with our school routine because this is what I need to model for my growing children.
We like the resources we use. Sure there is continual tweaking that goes on, each week actually, but by and large we like our “curriculum”.
- So when I feel uninspired, it’s not because of the resources.
We like the general groove and routine of our day. The mornings are directed by me, filling in those gaps I mentioned earlier and building other skills. Afternoons are largely free for our children’s personal interests. And for our nearly thirteen year old daughter this includes a fair amount of self-directed education. Projects that apply what she’s learning and grow her skills and knowledge.
- So when I feel unmotivated, it’s not because our schedule is too much.
We like spending our days together. Helping each other reach our goals. My husband works at home and shares in the parenting and schooling workload. Yes, I need occasional breaks and daily quiet time where I don’t hear anyone’s voice but I really do like being with my kids.
- So when I feel frustrated, it’s not because this is more than I can handle.
What it comes down to is personal growth and discipline. Once again, I’m reminded it’s about me, not them.
I have a job to do.
A job I am committed to. A job that I’m actually very passionate about. A job that, at this point, requires intellectual growth (mine) and discipline (mine also).
And that’s not easy.
The answer for me is not to switch curriculums. We like what we use. It’s not to take more breaks. We’ve rested and now there’s work to do. It’s not to say “I’m outta here” mentally and emotionally. I have good support.
The answer is self-discipline. The answer for me is to stay the course.
Have you reached a point in your homeschool journey where you have to stay the course? What does that look like for you?