NOTE: This is Part 5 of a 10 day series on Accidental Unschooling. If you are OCD and want to start from the introduction or Part 1, hop to the bottom of this post and use the conveniently provided links!
We are all inclined to judge ourselves by our ideals; others, by their acts. ~Harold Nicolson
THE DREAM AND THE IDEAL
Most of us start off with an image of what homeschooling will look like. Sometimes a mom comes to the decision to homeschool because she feels "led" to the decision by the Lord, and others are led by their husband's conviction and coaxing. Rarely is the decision made lightly; and always, the hope is for the children's betterment. No one wants the experience to be miserable for child or mother. Armed with our best dreams for our children, and the picture of a perfect educational utopian dream, we set out on the great homeschool unknown.
For me, my convictions were religious ones first. My hope was that my child would not grow up to lose their faith by young adulthood as I had in my public school journey. The effects of my teen years left devastating scars on my heart and conscience. I wanted better for my children - after all, why have children if they will grow up to just repeat all your regretted mistakes, and possibly not rebound from them like you did?
My picture of the ideal homeschool day would put God first, and then unfold in a unhurried manner and be filled with laughter and joy. There would be cuddling and reading together on the couch or bed. There would be long walks and time to sketch and research the things we found in nature. Every week would include a new art project. We would naturally progress through our books together - none of them "twaddle" books (mind-candy) - without me having to make lists of what pages we needed to read and when. Time would be available for the children to play and delve in to their own interests. Baking and cooking together would be enjoyed by all. The kids would recite things they memorized over tea and cookies and put on performances or do oral reports for daddy or family. The big ones would read to the little ones. Fighting would be rare. Chores would be done without nagging. Everyone would learn a language together so we could practice speaking beyond the Rosetta Stone headset. Dad would read with us in the evening and help mom teach some (and do the dishes more). Chores and school would consistently run like clockwork every day as a lifestyle of learning and discipline so that free time could be enjoyed by all family members. Young ones would nap and play together contentedly (and always be quiet during read-aloud time)... and naps would be regular and taken at the same time every day without fail.
Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing. ~Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller's Housekeeping Hints, 1966
I'm sure you are nodding your head in agreement that a lot of the above image is similar to your own hopes. Even the non-religious homeschool types have many similar goals for their kids. On a regular day, though - what happens? Homeschool Entropy.
Entropy (as defined by Dictionary.com) is...
entropy (ěn'trə-pē): A measure of the amount of energy in a physical system not available to do work. As a physical system becomes more disordered, and its energy becomes more evenly distributed, that energy becomes less able to do work. For example, a car rolling along a road has kinetic energy that could do work (by carrying or colliding with something, for example); as friction slows it down and its energy is distributed to its surroundings as heat, it loses this ability. The amount of entropy is often thought of as the amount of disorder in a system.
Also numbered in the definitions were:
* (in data transmission and information theory) a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
* a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.
* lack of pattern or organization; disorder
"I spent years complaining about all the interruptions that occured, keeping me from my work. Then one day I realized the interruptions WERE my work." ~ Unknown
The regular day has irregular and regular interruptions. Some of them you can foresee, but others will come along and sideswipe you. Life is surprising like that, and there needs to be a plan for days that go off-course so that meltdowns are kept at bay. Mom needs to know that just because the lesson plans must be discarded, learning doesn't have to stop... and God often uses derailment to put us on another, more important course. He takes us down different paths to grow us. Seeing the interruptions as divine assignments may be difficult in the face of an unchecked list (especially for us OCD types), but it is crucial to being able to live with yourself when July rolls around and you are only 3/4 of the way through your Math book.
FALLING SHORT OF THE IDEAL
The picture of a normal day in our homeschool might scare those of you who are still operating closer to the "school-at-home" traditional method - especially if you have less than 3 kids:
Most of the time we start with God. After breakfast, the kids write in their prayer journals. We read a few bible verses (reading straight through) and some sort of devotional (currently Raising Maidens of Virtue and Our 24 Family Ways). There's a lot less cuddling than I would like because I'm often overwhelmed with the amount of homemaking a family of 6 requires of me. It's a good week when we get outdoors for PE once or twice. Art is last on our school list (unless the kids are sneaking in a math page drawing or caught doodling on some other assignment). Progress through our science and history reading material happens slower than I would hope (attitude over who has to read and bookmarks stolen by babies) - which adds time to our already dragging history unit. After babies, school, and chores, there's a lot less free time than either big kid is happy with. We stop school half-way through lessons to bake or cook to prevent trips through the drive-thru. There are no tea parties and the only memory work is bible-verse-related. We don't read enough to the babies. Fighting happens often - usually over chores - and mom has to hound the kids to stay on top of them. Only the 13 year old is progressing on Rosetta Stone. Dad is mostly too tired to do much reading or be very involved with school. The house is often dirty and when we devote a lot of time to learning, chores go undone. Mom gets less free time than most folks could survive on. Discipline is something I would admit our entire family needs to work on. The youngsters rarely nap at the same time and are known for skipping naps all-together (and a lot of times they try to scream over our voices during read-aloud time - or get caught doing mischief that must be cleaned up). We scramble to keep up with mom's lesson plan list because of life's interruptions and it seems like there is always something unforeseen competing with our time.
Sounds like a homeschool reality show gone awry? Not trying to make excuses for any of our shortcomings - or take away from the fact that we have much to change to do better (as we constantly strive to do)... but I do want to tell you that every day - whether we accomplish what we originally set out to accomplish or not, the kids LEARN something.
An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life. ~Author Unknown
LEARNING HAPPENS ANYWAY
One thing they are learning is that providing for a family's needs and relationships with others are more important than any higher academic pursuit. That's a big life lesson. People come first.
Last year I was thinking that there would be no way my kids were going to pass their end-year tests (Texas public school tests are available online to print and give your children for free - without any government involvement). I was biting my nails because my pre-babies homeschooling looks so drastically "relaxed" compared to my post-babies homeschooling.
You know what? They both passed the tests. I had been giving myself ulcers for nothing. No prep, different scope and sequence, no calculator - and they are passing tests that public school kids spend months of wasted classroom time getting ready for. The only test they had trouble with was the history section - which was only due to the fact that we had been studying a completely different time period that year; but to my surprise, they STILL got more than half of the questions correct without even learning the material.
The best angle from which to approach any problem is the try-angle. ~ Unknown
THINGS TO WORK ON
Being aware of your goals and the reasons why you might experience burn-out or feelings of discouragement can prevent you from giving up. Seeking out support and reason for encouragement along the journey is a must. It doesn't matter what method you are using, you will need the inspiration and direction. After all, if you have a direction in mind, it helps to aim yourself in that direction so you end up meeting the mark. Being flexible about the journey is important, too.
My painfully honest assessment of how far off we are from our ideal is something I have shared for two reasons: 1) I want you to know that you aren't the only one who struggles, and 2) I like to figure out where I can improve and know what I need to be praying for. Remember that list I made of the "Recipes for Disaster"? You can pray against negative habits and attitudes - and also pray about specific areas that you feel would help you along in your daily routines and general homeschool journey. Prayer is powerful.
You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink. ~G.K. Chesterton
GRACE IS FOR HOMESCHOOLERS
Life is not ever going to be perfect. People make mistakes. Even in a fallen world where God expects us to seek His face and TRY to be holy (be good), He says in His Word that all of us have fallen short and require salvation. The message to a fallen world is GRACE. Homeschool Grace would look a little like this:
Smiling more - no matter what is happening around her
Relaxing more - even if you feels like getting "school done and the house clean" is like swimming through peanut butter in a wheel chair
Hurrying less - because if you are already late for a play date, there's no sense in a bad attitude to top it off
Encouraging more and scolding less (creative rewards and positive discipline work wonders)
Celebrating more (if you don't enjoy your kids now, when will you?)
In the next few posts, I want to celebrate a few Accidental Unschool moments and do a little show-and-tell. I think you should be praising your kids for what they are accomplishing and the progress you see - even if it was not on your lesson planner.
Sorry that I didn't have day 5 up yesterday. Life threw me a few interruptions that were more important to embrace than a blog post!
Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture. ~Kak Sri
Introduction to this series
Day 1: Not So Super
Day 2: Morphing Methods
Day 3: Out of the Box
Day 4: Learning From Life
Day 5: Grace is for Homeschoolers
Day 6: Taste and See
Day 7: Grease and Sugar
Day 8: Carschooling and Fieldtripping
Day 9: Reading to Succeed
Be sure to join me each day. I'll be giving away a prize to a random winner in my comments section on these posts. Each comment counts as one entry. I love comments! Even if I don't have time to answer every comment or email, I cherish them and enjoy getting to know my fellow homeschooling moms.
This post is a part of the 10 Days of... Series at iHomeschoolNetwork. Check out the other amazing homeschool bloggers who are participating in the writing challenge by visiting the landing page there.
Thanks for joining me!
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Other Good Reads:
Order of Operations Series
If I Can Homeschool, Anyone Can
Rising From the Ashes of Homeschool Burnout (at the Homeschool Post)