Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.
I love this season.
Getting ready for the start of a new school year means I get to do all the things I naturally love.
Planning our homeschool calendar.
Typing up our daily schedule.
Researching and (even better) ordering and unpacking new books and curriculum options.
Buying new pens and pencils that we don’t need, but look how pretty they are. (Really, this applies to any office supply – I texted my friends from the store the other day asking if they would help me justify buying a golden stapler. I have issues.)
It all feels so refreshing to me – a new year, a fresh start, a lovely golden stapler.
Then the actual learning begins.
It takes a few weeks, but eventually, I know the newness will fade. The crisp, new books will have coffee spilled on them. A few of the darling pencils will be broken by my ten-year-old in frustration during his phonics lessons. The schedule will mock me. And the curriculum will move too fast for either of my boys, and their learning differences.
It is just part of homeschooling these children.
So this year, I am committed to one goal, and only one:
Homeschooling will not be the boss of me
Better still, my idea of homeschooling will not be the boss of me.
As we begin our sixth year learning at home, I am aware of my tendency to want to cling to the curriculum planner, the daily schedule, all the fun activities on Pinterest, and what other moms have shared about how they are homeschooling this year.
The truth is, this never serves me or my children well.
This time around, I am instead being as intentional as possible about letting go of homeschooling the way I want it to be, and instead focusing on what my children need it to be.
How I modify our curriculum
I still use many traditional curriculum programs. I find that it is easier to modify an existing, really detailed plan, than to create my own from scratch.
The caveat is that any program I am using must have one key element to make it doable for us. The curriculum must have some sort of activity or hands-on option for each lesson. I can manage around any traditional “book work” as long as I know there is an already planned, more kinesthetic option for the planned learning.
If I see that the curriculum has this, I am likely to buy it – I know it will give us some structure, but still work with our unique needs. Examples of what works well for us include All About Reading, Oak Meadow, and my new favorite, History Mysteries.
Building in scheduling flexibility
This is so much more important than I have acknowledged in previous years. I used to make the ideal schedule, and then modify it over and over again as it failed, over and over again.
Now, I build a set of routines that have a ton of blank space to allow for life to happen. I have a loose morning routine, an afternoon routine, and an evening routine. I have also learned to create a general plan for the week, including a day completely at home, a day where we are open for play dates, and field trip Fridays (because nothing is more deserted than a museum on a Friday afternoon).
Every one one of these plans is written in pencil, and completely subject to change.
Reminding myself that our homeschool may be different, but it is not less
This is my greatest struggle and lesson in homeschooling. Our homeschool necessarily looks different. My children have unique needs that require it. For too long, I have felt like different somehow meant less than what I see my friends doing with their kids.
I have felt like our reality is less than my idea of how homeschooling should be.
I am beginning to understand that just because it is different, doesn’t mean there is less learning.
Different does not mean less. It means individualized and special. It means appropriate and learner-centric. It means learning will actually happen.
I will not let homeschool be the boss of me. I will not let the curriculum, the schedule, or unrealistic expectations dictate how I help my boys learn.
No matter what your children’s needs, I don’t think you should either.
Now, let’s get back to the good stuff about this time of year. The school supply section at the store is waiting.
A note from Jamie: If you’re homeschooling children with special needs, you simply must take a look at Shawna’s wonderful new book: Special Education at Home. Her voice is caring, guilt free, and full of both practical advice and inspiration. I highly recommend it!
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