There have been quite a few discussions in the blog community (and probably Facebook, but I’m not there right now) about homeschooling and offering advice.
I’ve always been surprised at such detailed advice-seeking questions from online people. I understand more of posting in a general forum, to get a survey of different answers, or turn to books for inspiration, but to look to someone online without much previous interaction for highly personalized advice is out of my comfort zone.
That is not to say that I don’t have interaction with many online friends. I have met many in real life, but geography requires electronic communication to keep in touch. There are friends like Erin that I probably will never get to meet because she is in Australia, but we have been good online friends for many years.
But I shouldn’t be too surprised by this influx of seeking advice. I mentioned this in my review of The Little Oratory:
The family is the root of society, and a miniature reflection of the Mystical Body, the family of God. We can all agree there is a crumbling of the traditional family. Oftentimes the family is isolated, no longer having the support system of grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins or even ethnic or Catholic communities. Many in the 60s and 70s eschewed tradition, including of all the parental advice and experience of raising a family, leaving so many of those in the next generation trying to figure things on our own. We have lost our roots, our connections, our culture and our heritage. (No wonder there is a proliferation of self-help books; we have become quite an insecure lot.) Alongside this absence of parental advice is the lack of direction in growing in the Faith within the family, the domestic church….
We are insecure as we try to navigate the waters of family life because we feel so alone. So many of us are entering what feels like uncharted waters. Add in homeschooling, and it feels like drowning. So few of us have any experience in this department. And whether we realize it or not, many of us have assimilated current cultural thinking. Some of that thinking can be simply summarized as
- experts have all the answers
- parents need to ask experts
- parents aren’t capable of teaching their own children.
And who are the experts? That’s where the lines get a bit fuzzy. We do have to follow some educational guidelines to be “legal” but that doesn’t mean the government or those with Masters or Doctorates in Education are the ones who know best for education of our children.
Nor are those who seem to have their act together in homeschooling necessarily the experts. My husband and I are the experts in knowing ourselves and our children. We just need to be confident in our knowledge and act upon it.
Confidence, that’s what we are lacking, isn’t it? We need to be confident that we are our family’s experts. We can gather information from others, but be confident in our path we choose.
I think Melanie’s post Homeschooling is Like Cooking captures more of what we should be doing. Instead of looking for set answers, we are actually gathering different versions of recipes, getting inspired by ingredients, certain ways of cooking, looking at the same dish but with different approaches.
It is then when I turn to my own home I’ve got to make it work for us. We keep things simple. We don’t like curry, my husband doesn’t like hot sauces, we have food allergies. These are just some of specific processes into how we analyze our recipes…and make them our own.
The same applies for homeschooling. I could even have the exact same curriculum (like Seton) as my sister, but it isn’t going to look the same in my home.
I mentioned I just completed Level III Training for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. What was emphasized over and over is know the child, follow the child. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses helps me to work with the child.
The same applies in home education. I need to know my children, their strengths and weaknesses and educate them as a person. I am not checking boxes and fitting the child into the curriculum, but my child IS the curriculum.
And then there is the little matter of knowing me. The first and foremost factor in being a wife, mother, home educator is that I need to work on myself. Most of the rough spots come from my weaknesses. But God also knows this, so He makes up with multiple graces. But so often it comes down to examining my conscience on my failures (laziness, lack of discipline, impatience) that I could tweak our homeschool. Usually it is not the particular books or curriculum to blame.
I’ve been reading Amy’s blog, The Highly Sensitive Homeschooler, which has given me all sorts of food for thought. She points out how we really need to know ourselves and our children.
I know I’m Highly Sensitive Person. I also am aware of the temperaments of my children and myself and my husband. I know a bit of my Myers Briggs personality, and know I’m a introvert. I also recognize that we have a smaller family like mine (I have two active boys, four years apart) compared to the moms that have larger families. Regardless of how I label it, they all provide factors that help me know myself and my children.
Pondering these aspects, here are a few “me” factors that I have to take into consideration for our home education:
- I know that I take time to research something before jumping into it. I don’t like to follow fads. I usually wait to see if it survives the test of time.
- I am slow to make the big decisions, but once I do, I like to stick to the decision.
- I dislike change. I want to stay the course.
- I also am very low energy. Amy linked to a great post on Low Energy Homeschooling. This is me all over. I need my quiet time, and still need a nap almost daily. I don’t like to agree to outside commitments because I’m just afraid I won’t have the energy.
- I have to deal with my heart issues.Whether you call it medical or crisis or survival or recovery mode, we have been experiencing that here for a few years.
- Literature-rich is a perfect fit for our us. I have a houseful of books, my husband and I read all the time, so do my children. When we want answers, we turn to our books. Workbooks don’t work as well for us.
- Visual electronic media is too stimulating for us. We don’t use computers or electronic readers for our homeschooling (yet…I know there’s always room for change). TV is used, but minimally unless we are in crisis mode and need an electronic babysitter.
- I look for a bit of self-sufficiency for work time. Some scripted programs work best for us — Memoria Press Latin, Right Start Math, Sound Beginnings, Primary Language Lessons, for examples. But then it’s reading and narration and writing.
- We don’t do lapbooks or notebooking pages. We do keep various journals, but these are child-led.
- We don’t do unit studies or big projects. Science experiments and art projects are interest driven. If the child suggests, we try to accommodate. Right now my house is awash with origami and folded papers, and small dioramas everywhere.
- Strict schedules intimidate me. I’m afraid of committing because I know I will fail. I like to plan a more flexible timeline, knowing that appointments, tiredness, and just life interrupts. I need very wide margins, and at times my margins are larger than the actual plans.
- I like to avoid crowds. If it’s a “homeschooling day” or a large social function, I usually try to avoid them. It’s over-stimulation for my children and me. I would prefer to pay more and go on an “off” day.
- I like to commit to only a few outside activities. Our local group has clubs and activities but I only pick a few. I cannot be out of the home. Last year we had one marathon day — I tried running all my errands and our outside classes on Tuesday. This year will be different, and I’m not looking forward to that.
- We do consider visits to the library important. We visit once a week or more. But we get grumpy in the summer because the library becomes a noisy, crowded place, not our usual quiet refuge.
- We like field trips, but I don’t like those spoon-fed or over-stimulating kinds. We dislike the museums with all the hands-on for kids and computer modules everywhere.
- I have two spirited children. I need to factor that in for all our activities.
So even if I were to read or ask homeschooling advice, no one is going to understand or know all our intricacies. We have to make it our own and fit into our family’s needs. Everything we do will be unique to our family’s character.
The bottom line: “To thine own self be true.” Know myself and my children. My children are the curriculum. My husband and I are the experts in knowing our family’s needs. We need to work on personal improvement and daily work for sanctity. And finally, we need to be confident that whatever or however we do our home education, if we partner with God in our endeavors, He will never let us down.