4. In order to feel confident that your children are getting what they need, you need to be convinced in your own mind of what exactly those needs are.
When I first started homeschooling, I had lists of things that my kids were supposed know at certain ages. I kept the list at the front of my well-organized binder (with my well-organized lesson plans) and I referred to it frequently. I wanted my kids to be at “grade level” and I wanted to be sure that there were no gaps in their learning. I wanted my children to learn everything their school-going peers were learning and so much more. We would do it all; of that I was sure.
And then reality hit. That kind of homeschooling wore me out. I didn’t want to teach. I was grumpy. I was stressed. I had my first (and only) panic attacks. No one was happy. And, I must admit, I am not sure that they were learning all that much anyway.
Knowing that what we were doing wasn’t going to work, my homeschooling thought process started to change. However, as soon as I started formulating plan B, the little stick turned pink and I spent the next 26 weeks standing over a toilet bowl. School happened. Or it didn’t. When it did, we reached great educational heights such as playing Uno on my bed or knitting baby hats (because every newborn baby that lives 7 degrees off the equator needs thick winter hats!) As guilty as I felt about that year, I learned something (and I’ll get to this more at a later point): So much education happens when we are just living life.
At the same time, the realities of the principles from What is Family, Mission of Motherhood, and Ministry of Motherhood started to become more visible in our home. I started to truly understand that education was so much more than the 3 Rs.
With my new baby and my new mantra of “home is education and education is discipleship and discipleship is home” we started finding our groove. Thankful for the wise women who said it would be year three before we felt confident, we pushed through that year clinging to what was working and setting aside all that wasn’t.
At the end of year three, I read another book that changed so much of my homeschooling philosophy. Well, maybe changed isn’t the right world. Evolved. Strengthened. Refined. Sculpted. I read The Core by Leigh Bortons (the founder of Classical Conversations). I devoured that book, knowing that she was speaking words my heart didn’t even know it had.
And what happened next was so beautiful…I figured out what I wanted my children to know. I imagined them ready to leave the nest (for college, marriage, or whatever else God might have for them) and I could see the kind of people they were. I could see their character. I could see their compassion. I could see their reading and writing experiences and abilities. I could see the grasp they had on yesterday and how it affects our today. I could see the years of hard and diligent work done in a relaxed and loving home. I could see some amazing young adults. I knew what I wanted for them and what they truly needed.
Being confident in what my kids real needs were, I was able to become confident in our educational choices.
I no longer look at lists of “Your 3rd grader should know…” I no longer browse through curriculum catalogs wondering if I should try something new. I no longer worry about what other moms are doing. I know my goals, and while I still fear my inadequacies, I am confident in the road ahead. I know what I want my kids to know. I want them to know how to read purposefully, thoughtfully, and with variation. I want them know how to write effectively. I want them to know that there is a big world with many different cultures and that Christ died for them all (and therefore all are important). I want them to grasp math and the beauty of God’s ordered world. I want them to know how to show empathy, sympathy, and compassion. I want them to know how to care for their bodies, both through movement and nutrition. I want them to learn to be flexible, to sacrifice for others, and to be patient. I want them to know how to work hard and I want them to know how to work smart. I want them to grasp history and to see God’s hand in it all. I want them to see that learning doesn’t happen in isolation but that God is in math and math is in reading and reading is in science and that science is in the kitchen and the kitchen is in the Bible and that the Bible is in play time when “school” is all done.
And I want my kids to know that some days will be hard. Some days will not go as planned. Some days, we will all be stretched to the breaking point and impatient words will get spoken and attitudes will spiral downward. I want them to know that when those days come, we have a choice: we can push through our agenda and check things off a to-do list or we can set our last few subjects aside, realizing that there is another day, and instead grab a blanket and some snacks and just be together. I want my kids to know that their education will never trump their hearts. I want them to know that sometimes the greatest learning happens as we laugh and cuddle and play with those we love. I want them to know that sometimes, enjoying sunshine and snacks is all the education we need.