Recently, a follower of mine “tweeted” (twittered? Twitted?) a link to a homeschool conference video. The particular topic of the video was, “What did Your Kids Teach You this Past Homeschool Year?” As humbling a thought as this is for many of us who pour hours (not to mention dollars!) into curriculum and who sweat over flawless execution of our plans, it is very real. I should correct myself: it is very real if we are willing to step out of self and embrace the fact that we are not the only vessel through which education can flow. So, I thought about my own year, and what my children taught me. At first, the answers were superficial, and I almost felt silly. Yet, a spirit willing to learn something new led me to delve deeper, and I was left with such a spine-chilling sense of purpose until I thought it might bless you, too. This is what my kids taught me on last year, and each year, for that matter:
Patience is not just a virtue; it is life and breath to your home environment. Whether you are entering year 1 of your homeschooling journey or year 101, it is your journey. Though some will take it as their personal responsibility to tell you what you should do, where you should be, and how you should have gotten there, what will be most important is to create an environment where your children can learn. Set goals, even stretch goals, but be open to your children’s needs, their challenges, and the way that they learn best. You will gain far more this way than by following a strict list of have-to’s.
Field trips in-the-moment can be very effective, but on a budget, a living book will free both the body and the mind. Not too long ago, our own trial with temporary unemployment during this recession left me somewhat depressed about all of the trips and tours we did not take this year. As an aside, our area offers a number of free/ low-cost trips and tours, but I prefer an in-the-moment excursion that enhances our current studies to a field trip just for the sake of a field trip. This means that our field trips often take us away from our immediate area and require planning and budgeting. We were not able to do that this past year—a real source of frustration and anguish for the way that I like to educate. Yet, one of my favorite bloggers described best what can happen when we experience learning through quality literature (if you read the blog regularly, you’ll recognize this from my sharing it before in a previous post):
‘Music, art, animals, nature, politics, literature, poetry, equations, Rome, Iceland, Ireland, the moors, the sea, metropolises, machinery, the universe, the past, the poor, royalty, Heaven and earth…you name it, they have dipped their hands in the chest and pulled out something of value as they have explored truth and beauty in the world around them.’
From LindaFay’s HigherUp and Further In, “Ask and it Shall be Given You,” May 25, 2009
Taming the tongue is harder than taming a lion. This applies not only to how we speak to our children, but also to the negative self-talk we fall prey to when things are not going well. Once those plans go awry, it becomes easy to embrace what others might have said in a moment of sheer brainlessness:
“Maybe you aren’t cut out for this.”
“I’ll never be able to…” (or worse, thought about our children:) “You’ll never be able to…”
Come against the attack of the enemy, confess what the Lord says about you and your children, and step out on His renewed grace and mercy.
It may be the song of an unfamiliar bird, not the travels of Odysseus, that inspires a child to explore and discover. The end result is the same. I love to plan. I get excited about planning the way that some women get excited at a shopping mall or a lady’s night out. But, I realize—though it took some time—that plans can sometimes get in the way of what I really want the homeschool experience to produce in our children: a natural yearning to know more, to grow more, and to be more. When the kids run to the field guide to identify a stranger at our feeder, or launch into a discussion about some historical event or character (when I want them to do something else), this, too, is learning. Just because it was not written on my outline does not belittle the value of a purposeful diversion or its power to catapult their interests and overall education.
When you cannot feel God’s hand in your plans, trust His heart. Jeremiah conveyed it to us so very well, and my words will never be as eloquent as the Word of God:
For I know the plans that I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
May God bless you and quicken your spirits to the lessons He wants you to teach, as well as the lesson he wants your young ones to teach you.