Homeschooling: staying on track

Here’s the truth: the unsettling part of homeschooling is that there is no track. Sometimes, structure is provided by the curriculum. The State regulations might have minimum requirements (like days of school and subjects/grades). Often, we can find expectations in a local homeschool group or co-op. Honestly, the choice of studies and the schedule is mostly up to the family. What to do in a day or a year is left to the parents to decide, yet this is both freeing and paralyzing at the same time. Considering that most people don’t have any experience homeschooling until they begin with their own children, staying on track seems intimidating.

Nathan and I regularly remind ourselves of the goals at large when we begin to get lost in the details of the moment. We are after their hearts, and all else is secondary. Praying for the new school year and pleading for wisdom from the Lord gives us peace. Trying to surrender our plans and our days is part of the call of a Christian to obedience and faithfulness.

As parents, we set the atmosphere for learning in our homes by our interests and experiences. Our family enjoys biographies, literature, music, hosting people, road trips, hiking and nature. Since we instill our strengths in our children, we can assume that we will not be teaching them everything they will ever need to know about God’s world. A seasoned homeschooling mom several years ago shared with me her schedule and her prayer request which I have treasured as a nugget of wisdom. She mentioned that she regularly prays “that the Lord would fill in the gaps.” This is part of the adventure of the journey. It would be so stressful to constantly compare what our kids know with the neighbor kids. It would be discouraging to always question if they’re getting ahead or if that other math program would have been perfect. There will be holes that others will fill in as God brings them along our path.

Every year I create schedules and checklists, but that is just because of how I think. I thrive on order, so following a curriculum and incorporating our interests has been a good flow for us the past 12 years of homeschooling. We simply complete the curriculum and move on to the next level. Although we have done hands-on projects, we have mostly depended on literature (reading aloud) and comprehension. We use copywork, converstion, and writing papers (if old enough) to evaluate progress. In the last seven years, we have found support through the tutoring and brief classroom experience of Classical Conversations. I have been tremendously grateful for it especially in the junior high and high school years as have my children.

Keeping on track requires a great deal of intuition, observation, and conversation. When frustration and discouragement seep in, we try to take a break and look at it again with fresh eyes the next day. Sometimes we have evaluated if the material was not suited for that year for that student. Often, we just prayed together and pushed through.

We have never heavily relied on testing. While it’s a constant challenge, Nathan and I have always wanted to inspire a love for learning rather than the academic tasks. We have required diligence more than perfection and required focus more than completion. In recent years, we have seen the fruit of this. Children that struggled to master concepts are able to embark on new and challenging themes with enthusiasm for learning. They don’t exasperate nor retreat. They’re aware of their stumbling blocks yet can fully enjoy their own level of engagement. They’re aware that the learning will take more and varied efforts, but they feel defeated. This brings us so much joy and triumph.

As parents, we tailor the year to suit our children’s interests and aptitudes. While creating a homeschool track can seem demanding, hopefully it is rewarding to each child. I firmly believe that if the parent isn’t enjoying it, nobody is. Don’t hesitate to deviate from what everyone else is doing! Learning should be interesting, fun, and appealing to everyone!

Enjoy as much as you can in a day, and the days will add up to a wonderful year.

 with love, Damaris

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