When we first started homeschooling, I will fully admit that I tried to recreate school at home. Yes, yes, many warned me not to. And I swore I wouldn’t. But our son was coming from a background of several years in public school and I was coming from a traditional classroom teaching background. So I have an excuse; at least that’s what I tell myself and others. I didn’t necessarily try to recreate the school environment. I was perfectly comfortable if our son wanted to lie on the couch to do his school work. Or if he wanted to sit on our porch. Or if he wanted to climb up in a tree. We didn’t have an extra room in our house to use as our homeschool room, so we didn’t set up any kind of official classroom.
No, my trying to recreate school at home was through curriculum, and even more so, through pace and schedule. At the beginning of this school year I picked curriculum for each subject and wrote up lesson plans and schedules that would have made my former principals proud. And we set off with the best intentions of completing Every. Last. Thing.
Then we started getting behind. Wait, what? Why were we behind? We didn’t take teacher workdays. We didn’t even usually take snow days! Our son is usually pretty healthy, so we didn’t miss many days with him being sick. I looked around at other families I knew who were homeschooling four, five, or even more children, and they seemed to be able to stay on their curriculum pace and schedule. I thought back to my days with a classroom full of students and remembered how I was able to get through the year’s full scope and sequence with 25 students. Why were we not able to get it all done in our homeschooling? After all, our son was only one student. Just one! And yet many check boxes beside planned curriculum topics remained blank.
As the year progressed, I started to feel that familiar “Oh no, we’re not going to be ready for the end-of-year test!” teacher panic setting in. I wondered, “What on earth have we spent our time doing? Maybe we’re just not very good at this homeschool thing.”
Well, our son had taken a deeper interest in meteorology, so we had spent way more time on that than planned. He had also taken an interest in computer programming, and that hadn’t even been on our year plan! Our beginning-of-the-year study of ancient cultures had sparked an interest in myths and legends, so that was added in, too. Our son had participated in a homeschool science fair that we hadn’t even known existed at the beginning of the year. He had struggled more than we thought he would with long division, so that slowed down some of our math progress. He just didn’t seem developmentally ready for some of the human anatomy and reproduction stuff we planned to cover, so we didn’t do that.
Suddenly it hit me. Duh! Sure, we didn’t check off all the boxes beside all the planned curriculum topics, but lots of learning was still going on. Lots and lots! And it was deeper, broader, and more engaging than I ever thought it would or could be. The year had been exactly what we said we wanted to do when we decided to start homeschooling. We were able to spend time with our son where he was struggling without him feeling the pressure that he had to keep up with someone else’s pace. We were able to let him really dig into topics that he found particularly interesting and exciting, way deeper than he would have been able to in a traditional classroom environment. We were able to have the flexibility to take advantage of learning opportunities that came up that we weren’t anticipating. And most of all, we had a great time learning and living life together as a family!
I hope, as we approach next school year, we’ll remember the lesson we learned this year. Even if we do have only one child, it doesn’t give us extra hours in the day and it doesn’t mean that there won’t be those things that impact what and how much we cover in one year. So, dear homeschooling friend, whether you are educating one child or twelve, rejoice in what you accomplish and in how much your children really are learning. After all, I’d be willing to bet that most of us decided to homeschool in order to provide our children the best education we could, tailor made for them. And that type of education doesn’t depend on checklists, scope and sequence, or pace. It depends on strength, guidance, and wisdom from our Heavenly Father, the relationships within our families, and the unique, wonderful human beings that are our children. And you can’t buy that from a homeschool curriculum catalog!