How was your day?
Recently, on our Facebook discussion group, I read the following comment:
“Today was an awesome homeschool day. With lots of reading, counting, math, science, art, history, even some helping around the house, cooking, and quality outdoor time. It would be cool if every day was like this. I’ve been worried about feeling like a failure, this gives me hope.”
When our kids were mostly young, my homeschooling friend/next-door neighbor and I used to figure: One perfect “school-ey” day in ten was about what we could expect, with varying degrees of progress and differing focus sprinkled in. I used to hang on those days for hope, like the commenter above. They used to define my success as a “homeschooler,” and be my justification for carrying on.
Here’s the thing: I think we tend to celebrate the days that look the most “school-ey” as our greatest successes – especially when we’re starting out. But if you’re honest with yourself, every day can be a celebration of something:
- She got past being “bored” all by herself
- They played together so creatively
- We worked together /or/ we just sat in the same room all day doing random handwork or quiet games – while listening to awesome music and audio books
- He taught himself how to use an audio editing program and started creating with it
- A project with dad turned into a rabbit trail of questions, answers and discovery
- The kids got to serve each other all day while I slept off a rough night with the new baby
- A visit from Grandma/Grandpa turned into several hours of “what was it like…” – one of the very best kinds of history lesson!
- The kids and I fixed the vacuum all by ourselves, and learned tons about how it worked (and didn’t work)
- We explored the chemistry of stain removal, the arithmetic of recipes, and the biology of food forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. For real. We actually learned about them!
- They created a magic mailbox and wrote each other secret letters in code all day
- We watched a butterfly come out of its chrysalis, and did an internet search of lots of things hatching and being born, with tons of questions and tangents
- They played card games all morning that secretly honed their mental math skills
- They holed up with their library books and only came out for food and drink, and I was able to finish a bunch of projects I’ve been putting off
- We watched documentaries on Netflix
- We found a local friend to mentor us on the subject of the documentaries on Netflix
Honestly, if we treat each day as a way to help train up great souls, the lessons will be rich and varied. The academics, truth be told, take way less time than learning to get along, learning to be responsible, learning to be creative, learning to serve joyfully.
The 10:1 ratio isn’t a bit skewed! It really works when 1 out of 10 days is heavy on school-ey stuff. Remember, school-ey stuff is happening, in one way or another, practically every day – even when it doesn’t look school-like. And the other stuff makes the school-ey stuff actually matter, it makes it relevant, it provides real-life application. It gives it context, makes it pleasurable, helps refine the character and detect the purpose of the individual who’ll someday wield that knowledge for good in the world!
And, it makes it so that those academics/skills-rich days are fresh, exciting and new when they come around, so all that type of learning is done “in the zone” – where they’re engaged and interested, eager and effective. Honestly: Why would you do it any other way?
How to Prepare
There is a difference between being prepared to take advantage of teaching moments, and over-programming your week and life, trying to “make” it be that school-ey, one-in-ten kind of day. A few tips can help you get on the right track.
- Lead out in learning.
When you, personally, are doing things that interest you and bring you joy, you communicate in living color the value of self-improvement, education and applying what you do and know in ways that make a difference in the world.
Whether it’s reading, practicing an instrument, hobbies, fitness, talents, entrepreneurship, spreading beauty, sharing love, expanding your awareness of others and your ability to serve or teach or share – all of these things enhance your kids’ lives and education!Invest in yourself as the model of self-education, the learning-leader in your home, and what it means to be an adult who loves life and education.
- Prepare your environment.
A. By de-cluttering your home, you spend less time caring for stuff, and more time exploring ideas and projects that spark learning.
B. By investing in some simple basics for subjects you value (whether that be art/craft supplies, basic experimentation tools, manipulatives, raw materials for creating and building, kitchen science, music makers, technology assists, games that teach, etc.), having a closet of ready projects that require the kids to invest themselves and take initiative, rather than follow checklists and fill in blanks, will teach valuable lessons they can hardly learn in any other way.
- Simplify your time.
One of the big deal-killers for homeschool is being over-commited in your calendar.Large blocks of time are necessary for kids to take initiative, to come up with questions and to follow curiosity and inspiration.
If they are constantly being told what to think and do, there’s way to much work on the adult in the situation, and the kids are not really owning their role in their education.For example, most young children do best with only a couple of outings per month. Mid-age kids, maybe once per week. Teens a couple of times per week.
If you find yourself or your kids never have time to sit and think, never have a moment when you wonder what you should do now, you probably have too much on your calendar. Simplify!
- Read together. Lots!
I cannot stress enough how much of the heavy lifting in family education is done by reading quality stories and books together as a family.The lessons of life, the examples of heroism, of sacrifice, of forgiveness, of failure, of mediocrity, of wickedness, of joy, of service, of friendship, of family – are taught vicariously as we come face-to-face with greatness in the classics.They inspire personal excellence and effort beyond momentary self-gratification. They speak to each individual in their own language, and in the ways that are most meaningful. They provide a bonding medium where the whole family shares an experience together.
Try it! You’ll be amazed at how the math just doesn’t equate – their learning will grow by leaps and bounds just a few months out when you start reading together from the great classics that have delighted adults and children alike for generations!
Own each day.
Be a detective: Know what each day is for!
Work with the natural rhythm that is coming your way to take advantage of teaching/learning/growing opportunities.
For help to know how to identify these, and how to utilize them, check this out.
For ideas on embracing the rhythm of life in your homeschool – consider a Family Reset >>
And above all: Press forward, mamma/daddy! You’re doing great!