Hey there home school moms! I know some of you out there have closed the door on the last school year and have started opening the one to the new.
Sometimes we just close the door on the previous year and never return. It’s the Let’s-just-start-fresh-and-everything-will-work-out approach. However, I’d like to invite you to step back through that last-year door for just a bit. If you step back now you have a distinct vantage point: some distance between you and the previous academic year. It’s the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on the past year before you dig in to the next.
To be quite honest, sometimes I had to force myself to look back. The negatives seemed to outweigh the positives and I might just wonder if this “homeschooling thing” was really for me. Have you been there? I’ve looked at things “not-quite-right” and even those “that-went-horribly” in my homeschool and rehearsed the MAYBE tunes: “Maybe if I tried harder. Maybe if I used a different curriculum. Maybe if we did “___” differently. Maybe…”
Maybe some of those things are true to varying degrees. Most certainly, tweaking for next year can be done. But before we go there, let’s review certain truths about educating our children. These are important to review periodically to encourage and help refocus our perspective. These truths apply not not only to our teaching, but also to the processes of our own learning and spiritual growth as well.
1. Learning doesn’t obey a calendar.
You’re at the end of your planned school year, but you’re not “done!” There are still 10 lessons left in science and 2 books you didn’t “get to” in reading. Or perhaps one student really slowed down to grasp a particular math concept and now is “behind.” Remember that learning is more about the skills gained than completing all the assignments. Some subjects such as literature and lower level science may very well meet your student’s educational needs at 90% completion. Others, such as Math, build sequentially, and you may need to work periodically through the summer or spend a bit of time on those lessons in the fall. Give yourself freedom. You are the best judge of the skills your child is mastering.
2. Learning is NOT exponential.
A common misconception is that learning starts at the bottom of the hill and moves steadily, in linear progression, to the mountain top of stellar accomplishment. In reality, there are twists, turns and detours. Sometimes we need to slow down, repeat lessons, take alternate routes or pause. Learn to distinguish between a side step and a genuine learning need. Particularly in skills that build upon each other, you may see a more “organic” growth: voracious learning last month and stymied progress this, for example. In some cases, there may not be lots of immediate evidence that learning has occurred; that doesn’t mean it hasn’t. Just last week my 21 year old reminded me of a writing technique I taught during his junior high years. I thought it had fallen on deaf ears. But here he was bragging how he used it in daily writing and even shared it with work colleagues. That particular skill had gestated and he had pulled it out of his “toolbox” later when needed.
3. You are a work in progress.
We realize students are learning and growing; they mature before our eyes. Guess what? The parents/teachers are, too! Remind yourself that you are developing as well. We set ourselves up against this imaginary perfect model teacher who does everything right, who responds to teaching challenges with great poise, flair, and nary a sharp tongue. Remember you are learning to parent, learning to teach and learning the nuances of your child and his/her learning styles—all at the same time. Those are challenging waters to navigate.
So, give yourself some grace. Give your students some grace. Be reminded that, yes, you want the best for your students but also, you are a human in process. I highly recommend spending some time embracing these truths and then spending some time reviewing your schools strengths and weaknesses in a personal retreat. Stay tuned for part two; we’ll overview some ideas for a Reboot Retreat.