"This year I will...."
It is August 2022, and since last week excitement for the new year of homeschooling and co-op has been bubbling up inside me. Most of the summer I try to avoid the group posts and chatting sessions about curriculum and new routines, but once that excitement for the coming year hits me? I am a mom on a mission! I am combing through Pinterest for project ideas and browsing the bookshelves (virtually and physically) to squirrel away my plans for another AMAZING school year! Do you do that?
September is always so full of details and checklists for me. "This year I will...." is a declaration I make in my journal and to my family at the end of each August. It has probably become one of my husband's most smirk inducing statements and he has gotten very good at hiding it from me. See, I am self-diagnosed as a "Defeated Perfectionist." I can make a plan that is detailed and beautiful to look at. I have the highest expectations and best intentions (just ask me!). However, I get a little carried away and often over estimate what can be accomplished in a school day. I don't mention this to put myself down. I had an epiphany about 5 years ago that has shifted my perspective: Knowing who you are is pivotal in managing life realistically. So my mantra is "Progress not Perfection." I am certain that is not an original statement and may be trademarked by somebody, somewhere in the world. But the truth of it is freeing to me! I can make the plans but the goal is to progress not be perfect. And perfect is so subjective and ridiculously unattainable! It requires to much of my energy spent on things that don't last. So, I enjoy the excitment and temper it with a generous dose of humility. I have to limit the articles I read and the comparing to other families who have college students at 14. See, knowing myself also frees my kids to know themselves and remember their goal is also progress. Having graduated my oldest this past Spring and watching him dive into college life pretty well, is a big boost for me this year. I have not always been so balanced in my views. In past years, I may have been a roller coaster of emotions and wonderings. Certain I was messing my kids up if my plans weren't on point and completely amazing. Been there?
My favorite was the ride in the car after family members (once again...we homeschooled from 1st grade on!) quizzed my kids and then proceeded to ask them if they were gonna "be able" to go to "real school" this year. Yep. Awesome. Luckily, my kids thought it was funny and didn't take it to heart. Sometimes you just can't help it as a mom, though. So I would channel all of that in to my excitement for each year and plan a school year no one could accuse of being not "real school."
However, the excitement that comes this time of the year to plan for homeschooling is amazing, BUT the crashing in mid-October is something I dread. If you have homeschooled then you know what I mean. The momentum starts to wane and the pure adrenaline, that propelled you to keep trying to meet the deadlines and check the lists in September, makes you wish for a warm blanket and a day off. Plus, taking a look into the faces of your children as you bark out another long list of all the things that must be accomplished to stay on task can be the most discouraging reality check ever. They want to please you but aren't sure you are in your right mind. LOL! We are going to finish all the school work, clean our rooms, play with friends, and make pizzas from scratch today! Maybe you have been able to do all that in one day, but I started to get discouraged just typing it all. There are two beautiful things to remember:
One of the glorious things about homeschooling is that you can pause. Be kind to yourself and your children and build in days to pause the "Mighty Homeschool Lesson Plan." This doesn't have to be a formal activity either. Some people love a good field trip with friends, others just call it PJs and a movie day on the couch. OR make your plan a 4 day school week with a slow start to the day on Fridays. Then use Friday as a catch-up day on whatever needs a little extra attention. By doing this we acknowledge that we cannot do everything all the time and pausing, or resting, is not a reward for busy-ness. Pauses are necessary and appropriate. Pauses teach us we are not working toward perfection but we are making steady progress. And let your kids see you pause too. A pause day is not a day for you to have a new long list of things to get done. It means play some music and dance with the kids - the dishes will still be there in an hour. Pausing looks like everyone (even you) settling in on the couches with books or magazines to read for a bit. I admit that I did not do this as much as I should have when my kids were younger. But I found out later that my boys never remembered how clean the kitchen or living room was. They do remember the times I paused with them to pick the flowers, walk barefoot in the creek, watch StarWars in my PJs (without my phone in my face), etc. And I remembered how I would beat myself up for not being very productive on those days. I was probably the most productive those days in building relationship with my kids and teaching them that life isn't found in my checklists.
This one ties directly into the last: Our children learn from more than a checklist of assignments, benchmarks, and assessments. (Read it again.) The longer you homeschool the more you will begin to notice the learning happening naturally in play, chores, leisurely reading, taking a walk etc. Begin to notate these learning times in your "master lesson plan" and integration of these activities will begin to flow. You will see that worksheets, online academy, textbook pages, and so on are best balanced with natural learning. Many of us (I was a teacher for 10 years in a traditional classroom) were trained to think learning = paper (or at the very least a plan on paper, to check off). The rhythm of homeschooling will begin to adjust this perspective. You will begin to see and then document that the nature of learning is just within us. You see your child playing with Legos and you want to go buy the Lego curriculum and dive in. Slow your roll....they don't typically need you to purchase a whole curriculum. Look at it this way, they are playing with Legos and using geometry, arithmetic, imagination - creating scene, characters, and narrative, and honing small motor skills. You see, it is not "wasted time." I could go on and on about this. However, what I will do is say it again - Our children learn from more than a checklist of assignments, benchmarks, and assessments. Perhaps you are fighting about the paper because you need some natural learning options. And remember, they don't need to know they are learning. I won't tell if you won't.
So, as the excitement takes over and my intense desire to plan is engaged to the max I will plan to pause and watch for natural learning opportunities. Most of all, I will remember that progress is more important than perfection. AND it is fine to tune out those who may still (13 years later!) be confused by this homeschooling thing. That's okay. We get it. We love it. And we will be just fine. (Pssstt.....you will too!)