Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
And then I tore the math workbook into pieces while my stricken son watched, and I knew something had to change.
I closed my eyes. What’s gone wrong here??
I’m ashamed to even share it here, but I’m guessing if any of you mamas is schooling a special needs kid, you have had a day when you JUST. CAN’T. TAKE. another school-lesson sidelined by endless interruptions and dropped pencils and blank stares and suddenly forgetting everything taught up to this point.
Chances are this day happens to fall when you’re most hormonal and have approximately 87 other things to do before noon. Chances are you woke up with a headache, gained three more mysterious pounds, are agitated about another issue altogether, and this all creates the perfect storm for that mommy-fail moment you wish you could forget.
This was mine. It was a little math workbook–something I’d picked up for him “for fun.” (Oh the irony!)
We were so not having fun.
Thankfully, my son and I snuggled and prayed, I apologized and he forgave, I recycled the shredded pages, and we talked about how things had gotten off track.
Reflecting, I could see how the tension had mounted for weeks — we’d had a hard few months and as the end of the year approached I became the drill sergeant, pushing to complete the pages, eager to cross the whole year off and be done.
I was so deeply saddened by this. I just kept thinking, “This is not me! This is not the home education I’ve longed for and aspired to and envisioned for my kids. What’s happened?”
I took a few weeks to contemplate this. I prayed, talked to close confidants, read articles here, and processed my feelings with my husband Jeff. Two key things rose to the surface:
The first was the realization that saying yes to homeschooling means saying no to many other things. I know we “know” this but some of us (me) continue along like we can wear all the hats at once and stay sane.
I have been Pastor’s Wife, Author/Blogger, Speaker, and Homeschool Mom for six years now, along with all the other things like taking care of our house and property, leading Bible studies, being a friend and daughter, making the meals, keeping track of finances, doing the taxes, completing several large house projects …
I recently told a friend, “I don’t know anyone who is an author, speaker, lead pastor’s wife, and who homeschools. I think that’s because it’s not a good idea!”
I realized that if we were going to live out the beautiful, restful, inspiring home-education I had envisioned, we were going to have to do less. A LOT less.
Although I wouldn’t characterize our life as busy (we aren’t out and about much), I do attempt to do too much in any given day.
If I’m going to enjoy these days with my kids, if I’m going to enjoy education, I must do less.
The other truth is, we had veered far from what we love. We love learning. We love nature and exploring and spending hours lost in the woods.
We love reading aloud and on our own and diving into science books and finding places on the map. We love history and poetry, we love art and silly songs.
We even love — wait for it — using math for real-life problem solving. We love baking bread and building with wood and planting flowers in the yard.
My kids love catching voles and moles and skinks and snakes. They love collecting larvae from the pond and building dams and waterways. They love field guides and Life of Fred and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. We love Story of the World.
We love life. We love learning.
We don’t love workbooks. We don’t love long-division for 45-minutes straight. We don’t love memorizing 150 prepositions with no plot or purpose. We don’t love lists of dull spelling words disconnected from the depth of a riveting storyline.
We love Pippi. And Anne. And Louis the swan. We love Pa and Ma, Nicodemus and Justin, Romeo and Juliet, Gandalf and Bilbo.
One weekend, I went back and re-read Educating the Whole-hearted Child and it felt like coming home. “Yes! THIS is what I set out to do. THIS is why we homeschool.”
And so I asked Jeff for a day, a whole day, to go to our local homeschool bookstore, and read and explore and peruse and recapture my lost love of learning. I vowed to leave with exactly zero workbooks, but to purchase anything and everything that would feed and fuel our hunger for knowledge, our love for learning, our zeal for life.
Several hours later, I had a treasure trove of educational delights, both for me and the kids. I had Jamie’s favorites for myself, all the Life of Fred language series (my kids adore anything Fred), a creative writing curriculum that I couldn’t wait to crack open with Dutch, and an entire language-arts series that uses our beloved Classics to teach mechanics, vocabulary and spelling.
But even more than great books, what I got was a rekindled love for learning. I realized that I could not require learning, I must inspire learning.
Even now, as I type these words, it’s a summer day and my kids have wordlessly wandered out here on the deck by me, books strewn about them in the sunshine, poring over pages, literature, language-arts, and yes, even math.
We’re not doing school. We’re learning.
And loving it.
Your turn! What has cultivated a love for learning in your homeschool?
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