Homeschooling Right and Wrong List

This year’s math workbooks are officially recycled (it’s becoming quite a happy tradition in our house), and I have this need to list some things about this homeschool year that I might have done right and things I still need to work on.

Right: I switched from Ambleside Online to Five in a Row for my youngest daughter, and changed her attitude from “I hate school” to “let’s do school!”

I decided to read from Exodus and Luke for Bible class, having the kids tell the passage back to me. No curriculum, no fuss, just the Bible and us.

I did not force my oldest two to continue Spelling-You-See when we finished their workbooks mid-year. I like the curriculum, but they were burned out. So we did some free Bible spelling sheets from Garden of Praise. That went well.

I gave my son a geography workbook. Common core approved (and I’m anti-common core). It’s basically what I would call busy work. He loved it and does it on his own time. He has plans to finish it this summer.

We did plenty of art projects, some inspired by our own ideas and some following the directions of our lovely art instruction video series, Home Art Studio.

I persevered with out-loud readings (at least three a week). My middle daughter has improved her reading big-time since the beginning of the year. My youngest has also improved and is at a more advanced stage than her sister was last year at this time.

We read tons of books this year, and we enjoyed them. I read the entire Little House series out loud for the second time (upon request) and now we are in the middle of the Anne of Green Gables series. I read Robin Hood for the second time. I read Where the Red Fern Grows. And more. Lots more. We love stories.

Wow, this is really encouraging. But now I’m going to start the Wrong list, not to discourage, but to clarify what I need to do better next year.

Wrong: I frequently got too frustrated with my middle daughter’s inability to subtract. It’s not that she can’t subtract; she simply gets overwhelmed by all those numbers on the page. Patience, patience. If I stand next to her and guide her through the problems, she can handle it.

I’d like to have a more exact start time for school. Flexibility is a beauty of homeschooling, but my mornings seemed so up-in-the-air, and the children flung themselves into playing so I wouldn’t make them start school yet.

I need to combine history (so all three kids study the same thing) and forget about English history for a few years (or forever). Why on earth did I ever think Island Story was a good idea? I never learned that stuff and I was perfectly fine. In fact, I am still unlearned, and I have a hard time discussing it with my son because I don’t know what I’m talking about. Seems like a waste, although my son liked it better than I did.

I trusted Ambleside Online too much, and I got discouraged by the AO leaders who insisted things must be done such-and-such a way. We crammed in too many readings and I tried too hard to force them to narrate every reading. As a result, we didn’t enjoy some things and learned to hate narration. I think I won’t even say the word narration anymore. The N word.

Science. Well, I don’t know if this is wrong or not, but I was pretty lackadaisical toward science. We did it when the Spirit moved me. I should probably be more conscientious about that.

Nature study. We didn’t even try to keep a journal this year, and my youngest daughter missed that. I should be more conscientious about this, too.

That’s all for now. If you have read to the bottom of this post, then I hope it was helpful or interesting. Mostly, it was helpful and interesting for me. Sometimes I have to write stuff out to understand what I’m thinking.

Gilead

There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.

— from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, 2004

This is my second time through Gilead, and I pulled far more out of it than the first time. I think it helps to read Home first. This particular quote is near the end. It struck me as encouraging. Sometimes it’s difficult just to find a reason to keep going. We come up empty when we search for one, and then we have to trust that God has reasons we know nothing about. And even if God has only one reason for me to be living right here, right now, then that reason is sufficient. There’s no reason to flee the scene. No reason to hide. No reason to not get up in the morning.

Space and Time

Homeschooling has its ups and downs. Some weeks I feel behind. This week I felt like we had time to do everything. We even got to the art project I’ve been telling my kids “we might get to that later today” for the last three weeks. We finished reading Peter Pan this week, which the kids have been begging me to reread for exactly a year. I finally gave in. Now we’re reading Ben and Me by Robert Lawson, which is another reread, but I love it (way more than Peter Pan). We are nearing the end of our first Ambleside Online term, which means we are nearing the end of two books (Understood Betsy and The Princess and the Goblin). It also means we are finishing up our artist study of the term, which is Mary Cassatt. I am so happy to share her artwork with the kids. I think they like it as much as I do!

This is one of those posts I write mostly for myself. I tell myself, space and time opens up. Just when I’m feeling cramped and pressed and squeezed and processed, life opens up like a big Georgia O’Keefe flower painting. God gives me time to finish off loose ends. He leads me through paths of fresh air, down lanes with big climbing trees, through lawns covered with crisp leaves. He gives me opportunities to really, truly help a person. He leads my thoughts away from bad things. He gives me words to read and write. He empties my fridge of boring leftovers so I can cook interesting things.

Strangely, He encourages me through my own discouragement. I sometimes read or hear about other homeschools, and instantly I know my weaknesses. I’m not a certified teacher, and I know very few technical tricks about how to get different areas of my children’s brains working. I dislike talking my children through social aspects of their training (shaking hands, looking people in the eye); I’m not sure why, but I always feel foolish talking to them about things like that. I feel like some rambling hypocrite. Too much talkie-talkie, as Charlotte Mason might say. So I get discouraged because I think I’m failing concerning these things. But God helps me fight this discouragement. I am good at other things. I persevere. If I’m quiet, well, I’m living by example, then. If I’m inexact in my teaching, well, we don’t stop. We keep moving forward. We enjoy a literary rhythm that perhaps certified teachers might envy. I am their mother, and I am probably the best person for them to be around all day because I care the most.

So I write to myself, even when bad things happen, life keeps moving forward, opening up in new ways. Keep going. Keep going outside. Don’t worry about sleeping too much or too little. Keep eating. Drink Mt. Dew, but drink it moderately. Make yourself some tea, too. Read new books and old books. Go to Bible study. Pray in the shower.