Last week, I began a series on Life’s Essential Ingredients where I listed ten things that I would like to accomplish each day. We have already covered steps for success with the first two Workouts and Worship. Today, we will look at homeschooling.
3. Guide the children through their schoolwork. I hate to admit it, especially as a homeschooling mom, but this is the hardest part of my day to accomplish consistently and successfully. Therefore, these will be the focus of my steps for today. Of course, success is a loaded word; what does it mean with regard to school? For me, with my kids, it means being able to understand and apply knowledge in both theoretical and practical ways. More importantly, though, it means connectedness in the learning process. Am I estranging myself from my kids in the way I lead them through their schoolwork, or am I engaging with them as we explore new concepts? Are we enjoying the journey of learning- together?
I confess, I am guilty of goading the kids through their workbooks and curriculum, barely even checking their work, just satisfied to have it done and checked off for the day. I seldom walk through the material beforehand with them, assuming that they will understand what is expected of them and ask me for help when they get stuck. (I hope I am not the only one who does this!)
Was this the picture I had in mind when I began homeschooling? Of course not! I envisioned us learning together, reading together, exploring together, creating together, with lots of smiling and laughter and expressions of wonder. Most days are not like that, though . . . and that’s okay. School is work, wherever you do it, but I am determined to be more present with them in the work of learning, to help unfold the joy and the beauty of all that God has provided for their young minds to absorb and assimilate.
All this pie in the sky talk, you say, but what are the steps to get there? What is the plan? Ah, the answer is in the question. Planning.
1. Prepare a weekly packet and schedule for learning. In the past, this has worked for us. It’s really quite simple: Just grab a sheet of paper, write down the dates/days of the week and make a list of subjects with the assignments for those days. Attach any worksheets or materials, and have the child mark off each item as he completes it. No fancy printables here. I find that the more I strive to perfect the presentation, the less we accomplish.
2. Make the distinction between instruction time and work time. I need to set time aside to prepare my materials, be they supplementary library books, art supplies, or traditional lesson plans. This will ensure that I spend time with my child(ren), introducing or delving into the subjects with them, before handing them their assigned work/packet.
This fits into a much larger subject: routines. If I have daily routines in place, I will have a designated time for creating lessons. For now, I have chosen the Sunday two weeks prior to the week of lessons. That gives me time to research and gather my resources, then assemble them the Sunday before the week of instruction. I predict I will need 1-2 hours each Sunday afternoon or evening, to both research materials for two weeks out, and to assemble materials for the upcoming week. The more time I spend preparing a lesson, the more invested I will be to engage with them in learning it.
3. Set aside 20 minutes each day to review the work the children have done. As I said earlier, this is something I need to work on. It’s not enough for the children to do their work: I need to make sure it is done correctly and note the areas that need additional instruction. How can I gauge their success in mastering a subject if I have no idea how they are doing in it? I have decided to schedule this 20 minutes during the afternoon study time with my boys who attend traditional school. That way, I will be available to help and monitor them and have something purposeful to do during the downtime.
4. Establish an accountability/support group with fellow homeschooling moms. Although I am blessed to know several homeschooling families at my church, I have chosen to homeschool in isolation, which, after seven years, I am finally realizing is not ideal. It is lonely, for one, and I often feel like I am the only one who has particular struggles with my children. I just assume that everyone else I know has it all down, and their homeschooling days are filled with many productive hours of scheduled learning. I am scared to admit what my day really looks like for fear of being judged (or reported!). So, I have ostracized myself to avoid scrutiny, but, in doing so, I have missed out on the opportunity for encouragement and support that comes from being in community.
I have touched base this year with a few mom friends, and they are open to joining such a group. There are just a few logistical things I need to take care of (reserving a time and space at church, sending invitations, structuring the time). I meant to start this spring, but the time has gotten away from me, so I will use the summer months to take care of the details and plan a couple of summer meetings at the park to get us warmed up!
Homeschooling is a topic with so many facets. I will be sure to revisit some of them in future posts, but for today, I am just wanted to explore the steps that make our homeschool life more consistent and successful. I would love to hear what has worked for you.