by Tamara Eaton
Summer is almost upon us! Homeschooling families are busy finishing up studies and looking forward to a change of pace. Many parents look back over the past year and wonder, "Did I do enough? Did the children progress well?" Others worry about too many outside activities and not enough homeschooling. Or maybe both parents and children are burned-out from too many formal studies and not enough time enjoying learning and being together. It's a time of evaluation of the past year, and of looking ahead and setting new goals for the coming year.
The ebb and flow of homeschooling often gives parents the feeling they're not doing enough some days, and too much other days, but isn't that life? We try to maintain a healthy balance, but sometimes our schedules need adjusting. We want to avoid both extremes--never planning anything and letting homeschooling "just happen" (and it mostly doesn't) or having such rigid lesson plans that the slightest interruption throws everything out of whack. Another danger is planning too many outside activities and having more "road school" than "home school". All of these situations can result in major frustration and burn-out!
There are many worthwhile subjects we can teach our children in our homeschool, but it's impossible to cover them all. We must give them the "tools for learning"-- the opportunity to become well-grounded in the basics first, then teach them how to learn and research things on their own. By keeping our homeschool joyful and as stress-free as possible, our children will cultivate a love of learning instead of viewing it as drudgery. One of my favorite definitions of education is by William Butler Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Homeschooling parents are busy lighting fires!
We have many years to teach our children, we don't have to cram it all into one school year-- nor should we feel compelled to do everything on public school timetables. So what if our child learns about space the year his peers in public schools study animals? We should be free to explore our children's interests in science, history and other subjects!
Our children can become independent learners as well. What if they do have some gaps--for example, you always wanted to teach them Greek, but you just didn't have the time? They can learn it on their own when they're older! When they're motivated, they're able to learn it twice as fast. Maybe they don't have "hands on" experience with dissecting cow eyeballs--if they really want to do it, they can do it when they're grown and have their own apartment!
We hear the best ideas from homeschool magazines, online sites, and support groups. We get the "highlights", the "glorious times"; we also get a glimpse into homeschoolers' lives when some of them are honest enough to say, "It's not like that ALL the time." There are challenging times, too. Sometimes the children are less than enthusiastic about learning. Sometimes we all feel in need of a break. Sometimes we just need a day off so we can get some laundry done!
Homeschooling is a joy even though at times learning something can be plain hard work. But if it is sheer drudgery for them or for us, then something is wrong--perhaps the teaching, or the materials, or even the timing. Sometimes I have to find other ways for us to learn a subject and sometimes I put it aside to try again later. Haven't you ever experienced a difficult time trying to learn something, then put it aside only to come back to it later and find you understood it perfectly? You wonder why it seemed so difficult before. Children go through this, too!
We have been homeschooling for many years and since our youngest child is only in first grade, we have many years ahead of us. I find I must pace myself--that's one reason we homeschool year round in a relaxed style. The Lord doesn't expect more from us than what He has called us to do and be. We don't have to live up to others' expectations or compare our homeschooling with others' experiences. We are free to seek the Lord for the best methods that work for each individual child and for our family! What once seemed complex now becomes simple--loving Jesus, seeking His will in our homeschools and allowing Him to direct our steps. Only then can we be assured that He will give us all the wisdom, strength and grace we need!
"My yoke is easy, and My burden is light." Matthew 11:30
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9
© Copyright Tamara Eaton 1994-2000, all rights reserved.
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.
We have always homeschooled our six children (elementary through high school and beyond!) and enjoy encouraging other families in their homeschooling, parenting and in the Lord! For more help and information, please join us on the Christian Homeschool Fellowship Message Board.
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."