Having listed the kids’ numerous suggestions on how to improve our school (as well as what they like, lest I focus solely on what not’s right), I was dumbfounded for a moment. In hindsight, it’s probably because the six-year-old went last, and it was hard to write down that long list of what could change without taking some things personally. What did I do with all that information?
I took a few deep breaths.
With that done, I suspended all of my now-resurrected angst from years of performance reviews and feedback in the corporate world. I thought about all those years of having to sit while someone tells you what you didn’t do right, and how difficult it was to resist being defensive versus just listening with a heart that is humble and a mind that wants to get it right. Then I took a few more deep breaths and let peace just wash over me as the list—at least as I read it—revealed a number of things:
The kids really do want to learn, even if their way of showing interest doesn’t always match my vision of what should happen.
Our school is as elementary school-unfriendly as it is high school-friendly.
Our son is an 11-year-old boy. He is also 5’ 3”, with a size 10 foot. Translation? He’s a growing boy who needs to eat more regularly than I (me?), a 40+ year old woman. (As I’ve said before, I find it intriguing that Miss Mason does not begin her approach with a discussion on academics; she begins by discussing rest and nutrition).
Homeschooling your children takes knowing your children, and it only comes with time, determination, and a very watchful eye for who these little people are and what makes them unique from you and unique from each other. I came to this conclusion when I realized how little the oldest had to say about what needs to change vs. the youngest , whom I am still getting to know as a student. The oldest I know very well. Of course, when initially asked the question, she immediately launched into what was wrong before I stopped her. Something about reflecting on the positive first helps put the negative in perspective.
Then, in a move that was totally uncharacteristic of me, I acted spontaneously and changed some things that could change, and probably should change. I didn’t wait for next school year; I call it my "done" phase. In some cases, it was a simple matter of acknowledging some places where we went wrong—for our family, that is. The oldest and I agree that her current mode for biology was not a good fit for our family. Class is over on next week. Totally outside of me, that’s done.
The youngest, among other things, wants to study more about the human body. Guess what? We’ve been studying the human body all year–well, sort of. Truth be told, I find myself at the same place where I am any time I’ve ventured into creating my own science studies. Lack of planning it all out, and lack of some common household item(s) have left us without a science lesson for weeks now. The last lesson we completed was to make a brain using mashed potatoes. I had all the recollection of making the continents with the oldest out of paper Mache, a project the superhero wound up finishing. The oldest hates for her hands to be messy, and, come to think of it, so do I. So, now that Apologia has just published its anatomy and physiology text, I went to Christian Book Distributors and took advantage of their 30% off sale. Plus, she gets to do something that her brother and sister do—she has a science book. Done. While online at CBD, I also purchased next year’s chemistry text for the oldest, believing that she’ll do well in biology this year. Done.
Extending time to do grammar. Done.
Putting our heads together for an alternative to reviewing for the PSAT. Done.
More reading (for the youngest). Done.
More audiobooks (for the oldest). Done.
More food (for our son). Done
There are other items that will take care of themselves over time. However, there are also items for which the answer will be no. I’ve stated before that when the children were in school, my criteria for success was 1) were they learning, 2) were they safe, and 3) did they have at least one friend. Why should I now put pressure on myself to meet every single need and want they have (not to mention that new needs and wants will surface as I’m trying to meet the ones that currently exist)? No, I won’t change the way I list certain subjects in their planners. No, I won’t change the oldest’s book list (although I will try to balance the list in such a way that not every book depicts a battle). No, we aren’t waking up at 2:30 p.m. (lol) and I don’t even promise a 15-minute snooze period. However, I think the youngest was on track with one thing: we need to learn more about God, including His power to perfect all that concerns us. I’ve done the things that are in my power to do; I’ll watch Him do what is in His power to do.