Thursday, September 1, 2011

Starting the school year-Jumping in vs. wading in

Our school year has generally followed a pretty distinctive pattern, that goes something like this:
August: Mom (me) reads a homeschool book or article about a family using a method that creates organized, well-rounded, socially-adjusted geniuses. She reads up on that method, and decides it will work perfectly.
Mom then spends hours and hours reading about this new method. Then she spends hours planning how to make this new method work for the five distinctly different learning styles and personalities.
Then there's a family meeting.
At the family meeting, Mom lays out the new schedule. Generally this schedule bears a close resemblance to homeschool boot camp. Everyone up at the crack of dawn, breakfast and chores done lickety split, everyone settled and following the schedule immediately afterward. And we don't stop until we finish what's on the schedule, I said more times than I can count.

It was about five years ago when I realized that I needed to modify our fall routine. We sat down for our family meeting and I went over my latest masterpiece of scheduling wizardry. I was about halfway through when Skylar, then seven, burst into tears. My first thought was that someone had kicked her or something. After all, she couldn't possibly be reacting to what I had said-this was the most exciting plan ever. So I asked:
"Skylar, honey, are you okay?"
Wailing. I pulled her into my lap.
"What is it, sweetie?"
 (Still crying) "How are we going to do all that? And when will I read? And I don't know anything about..."
At this point, the oldest two are laughing. Irish comes over and gets Skylar and leads her to the couch.
Irish starts to talk to her in what I can only assume is a stage whisper.
"It's okay, kiddo. Mom does this every year. Just humor her for a month or so, and everything will go back to normal."
(Sniffling) "Really? Just a month? I can do this for a month."
She hops up off the couch and comes back over to me.
"Sorry, Mommy, I didn't know it was only for a month. Go on."

I've never seen a story about a wonderful, talented homeschooler or a really challenging and exciting way of homeschooling that didn't make me feel inferior. What if that method would have given my children more...of anything? What if that homeschooler's parents are really better at this than I am, and I should have left this to the experts?
So, every summer I used to doubt myself, and this vicious cycle continued. I was finally able to let go of the yearly freak-out this year, and I'm very proud of myself. Part of it may be that I've run out of methods to try, but I doubt it. I think it really is that I've started to trust my children's ability to get what they need.  I'm not trying to turn them into superhumans any more.
Instead, making sure they're getting the core knowledge they need and helping them find new ways to embrace learning are my real focus. Does that mean I never get excited about something new? Heck, no.
Bits and pieces of everything we've tried have woven themselves into our learning and enriched our daily lives. It has definitely been worth the journey, even if the path has been ridiculously winding. Now if only I could develop a similarly zen-like attitude towards getting organized...

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