Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Day We Quit Homeschooling

We started this school year (our first year of homeschooling) with all sorts of charts and schedules and high expectations. I read books and mapped out timelines and planned and planned some more.

I printed pictures of all the tasks in our "morning routine." The kids colored and numbered the pictures and put them in order on a huge chart.

My plan? To have the entire routine finished so that "school" could start by 9am.

Oh. And I should never have to remind or "nag" the kids to do it because, you know, it's on a very readable picture chart.

We would start the day with a Bible lesson, the Pledge of Allegiance, daily scripture, The Lord's Prayer, then onto handwriting, language arts, and math - all before lunch.

After lunch would be the "fun" subjects - history, science, music, and art.

Don't forget reading to the kids. And Chloe should read on her own for 30 minutes too.

Wait. Then there's outside playtime or "PE."

And bread. I should make homemade bread, right? And let the kids help me so they can be learning fractions and such?

But then there has to be time for things like housekeeping and meal-making, right?

Oh, and a baby. I should probably do things like change her diaper and feed her.

Wait. I need to make time for my husband too. Must be cute and make-up'd and happy to see him when he walks in the door.

For that matter, everyone should probably be happy, at least 90% of the time.


We tried this, for like a month. Then we struggled through our second month, only accomplishing a handful of the assigned daily tasks, and ending each day feeling like a failure. The third month, I changed our demanding curriculum and kept plugging ahead with the rest - exhausted and stressed out.

My kids were learning math and letters and history and science. They were also learning that mom is mean when she's stressed. That if a worksheet didn't get done in the allotted time, the "whole days is thrown off schedule." That math is something "we have to get through" and art has to happen in "art class."

By Thanksgiving, I was pretty much scraping the bottom of the energy barrel and feeling like I wasn't teaching my kids anything except to hate learning.

So we quit. We spent December baking cookies and going to the park (on nice days) and the library (on rainy days). We made a huge board game for my hubby's Christmas present - which included hand-painted pictures, physical challenges, and more creative engineering than I thought possible from a four year old. We put a big "X" over all the schedules and lists and simply wrote three words: "No Screen Time." They could use their hours for anything they wanted except watch TV or play on the iPad.

And you know what? It was amazing.

They took blank copy paper and made paper dolls. Empty toilet paper rolls became a hot commodity as they created "spy glasses" and bird houses and animals and "turtle tunnels" (poor Charlotte the Turtle).  Chloe got to pick out any book she wanted at the library, and she ended up reading the entire Junie B. Jones series. Maple started memorizing her math facts, simply because she loved to "surprise" her daddy with what she knew each day when he walked through the door.

And me? I took a deep breath. And felt our entire home relax. And fought the part of my brain that was telling me it wasn't enough, and that I was damaging our kids, and that they would be "behind" in their schooling - forever.

So now it'sFebruary, and I think we have found a happy medium between hustle and rest. We have a curriculum for math, literature, language, and spelling. We have allotted screen-free hours each day where they get to choose which subject they want to work on.

I am often pleasantly surprised to find that Chloe has chosen math. Because we take our time. And we breathe. And if she doesn't get it the first time, no big deal. We'll move to a different subject and try again tomorrow.

Maple ends up doing a lot of painting and coloring - which is actually a huge accomplishment for a little girl who never likes to sit still for more than a couple minutes at a time. And she's learning her ABC's and 123's as an unexpected side effect of Chloe's lessons.

And me? I still have days when I'm stressed and frazzled when my hubby walks through the door. But they are few and far between (and often happen at the same time of the month every month, ifyouknowwhatimean.)

We have days when we don't do any "formal" schooling. And we have days that are packed with worksheets and finger paints and math songs and "place value" blocks and poems and impromptu spelling quizzes. And both days - the "off" days and the "on" days - are exactly what they need to be.

And this makes me think about the rest of my life. The song By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North keeps drifting through my head over the past few days:

Why are you striving these days?
Why are you trying to earn grace?
Why are you crying?
Let me lift up your face;
Just don't turn away.

Why are you looking for love?
Why are you still searching,
As if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where will you run?
To where will you run?

I often find myself striving. Making lists. Goals. Unrealistic and demanding daily, spiritual, and life schedules that I'll never be able to live up to.

And as I look at our home now that we quit "homeschooling," I wonder what would happen if I quit striving in other areas. What if my hustle looked less like hustle and more like flow?

I don't really have an answer for this tonight, except to say this question is part of my February hustle.

I want to know.

What part of my hustle brings strife? What part brings peace?

What part leads me in passionate pursuit of Him? And what part leaves me feeling ashamed and incapable?

I want to hustle smart. I want to hustle hard. I want to hustle in the name of being better, not just being busy.

For tonight, I'm putting aside my hustle and spending some time seeking Him. So here's to the hustle. And to the flow.

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The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood