There are days when I wonder why we can’t get to all that we need to do. This could be a two fold problem: My expectations and my view of what is effectively accomplishing our goals.
I am a product of the school system and lots of after school sports. All I remember is schooling all day and sports and homework till bedtime. I have to be reminded often that we homeschool our kids partly so that they don’t have to do that. I don’t have to keep their schedules busy from waking to bed every day. Down time is good. More than that. It is necessary. I’m still working on grasping this fully. My husband is a gem in reminding me to stay the course that we know is best without giving in to those stresses that I fall into every so often.
I know deep within me that learning happens in many ways and at many speeds. I still get nervous from time to time and want to throw some workbooks on the table for the kids to complete. I want to have them mark off all of the boxes of a long checklist. But that’s not really how my kids learn best. If I were honest, that isn’t how I learn best either. If only there were not so much security in those little check marks.
So what is a girl in this struggle to do? Make a list, of course! Did I mention I love lists? I made a list of all of the extra curricular lessons that my kids were doing and all of the self directed activities that they were spending time digging into each day. That way I could see what they were learning and what I still wanted to supplement with so called formal school lessons. I was pretty surprised by how much they were already doing. Here is a sample of the lists:
B- She is taking ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance lessons, assisting in teaching a toddler dance class, taking a theater production class, studying make up and various cosmetology topics, watching professional ballets online, reading lots of books, watching historical movies and documentaries, writing stories, visiting the library often for new resources to study on her own, practicing life skills like cooking, babysitting, grocery shopping, etc, participating in youth group activities at church and singing and playing guitar for the Sunday morning worship time at church. She dreams of being a librarian one day.
A- He is taking a hip hop dance class, participating in a Boy Scout troup, attending youth group at church, dreaming up new ideas and building models with any tools he can get his hands on, learning household skills and how to take care of himself, playing chess and other strategy games, figuring out statistics and physics in his play time, watching science documentaries, and reading library books on a variety of topics. He dreams of being an engineer.
E- She has chosen to take the year off of formal lessons of any kind, but while she is at home, she is teaching herself piano, painting pictures, experiencing history through movies and novels, learning to love reading, playing school with her dolls, copying her favorite parts of books for saving, reading ingredients in everything she eats to check for gluten content, attending and doing memory work for her Sunday school class, discovering great things in nature, and training her mice. She is physically very talented, but loves art and animals more than anything.
L- She is young still, and approaches life much like a super bounce ball in an enclosed room. She is full of life and spends her time seeing where she can join the older kids. She watches science shows and memorizes information from them, She plays video games with her brother and figures out the stats and strategies and sportsmanship needed for them. She colors pictures, tells stories for me to write down, and writes tidbits for herself, She helps me cook, plays lots of make believe, spends time outside, attends ballet, tap, and jazz dance class, attends Sunday school, takes care of her fish, enjoys read alouds with the family, and watches historical television programs with her sisters. Her favorite activity right now is probably cooking.
Yes,. A list! And better than that, a list of success! Look at all that they are doing before we do formal lessons! I’m not quite content to leave it right there, so I do require some math lessons and writing practice for each of them along with daily read alouds that I choose, and on occasion add a focus lesson for a few weeks. This way, the kids pretty much decide what they will learn, and I can add in what I feel they need. Instead of making lessons first and extracurricular second, I have reversed it. It works because they kids are learning so much and so fast when they are interested in the lessons. All that I have to do is guide them toward the next steps and let them dig in. When they need resources, I help them find what they need.
When I look over this list along with the growth I see in each of them, I’m convinced that we are doing enough. It just looks different. And that is not a bad thing.