Why We’re Quitting “School”

Unschooling is a big word these days, and one that certainly creates some strong opinions. I used to agree with the group that saw unschoolers as an undisciplined disgrace to education (sorry!), and while I was intrigued with the concept of “de-schooling,” I would never have put myself in that camp.

However.

It’s easy to form strong opinions when we’re not in those shoes, isn’t it? Coming from a strong classical education background myself, I definitely looked down on those that shunned a formal approach to school . . . until “school” – even my carefully planned and devised homeschool – failed my daughter year after year and our time spent together became strained rather than joyful.

I’ve basically been homeschooling my whole life, since I’m a homeschool grad myself; in that span of almost thirty years of being surrounded by homeschoolers, I’ve seen so many homeschooled kids who love to do school (myself included). These are the kids that get up at five to do a whole days’ worth of schoolwork before co-op, study for fun, enjoy picking out their curriculums and go in-depth with their research … all in the elementary years. We’re not even talking about highschool.

Then . . . there’s mine. The one whose creative light dies on school days. The one who could care less about all the cool lesson plans that I make, the awesome studies on subjects that she’s deeply interested in, the one who shuts down after an hour of school despite all attempts to make it lively and interesting. The one who, despite an intelligence that I think may be superior to my own and certainly a memory that is, just doesn’t excel in school.

After months of prayer and deep consideration, I have been led to understand that education is truly not dependent on the S-word. We’re four years into our homeschooling journey -also the only method of education that Emma has ever known – and I’ve come to the realization that with her, “school” just. does. not. work.

I’ve had to ask myself some really tough questions before coming to the conclusion that I’m announcing. Questions like, “Who am I really trusting with her education? Myself? Why not her Creator?” and “What is the point of  lifetime of quality education if one loses the love of learning?” We can learn anything – anything – if we are in love with learning and the creative process is alive and well within us; but if the educational methods have led us to believe that we hate learning (because we equate it with school), our own doors of possibility are closed.

During my months of prayer on this topic, I believe I heard God speak to me, and what I heard was this: He created her just the way she is, meaning He created her with her particular learning style and strengths and weaknesses. If my intention and objective as a homeschooling mom is to honor God in our home and homeschool, it does not honor her Creator and the head of our homeschool to not honor the way He made her. In fact, I believe it is a form of idolatry to stick dogmatically to a rigid structure (be in classical or Charlotte Mason or any other curriculum) when that is not the best for the child or the way God is leading.

Do I really trust God to lead our homeschool?

I’m learning to. Praise God that He’s patient.

So, we’ve been unschooling a couple days a week. One day is co-op so that doesn’t really count for either, and the two “school” days are carefully selected topics on things I see that she really needs and isn’t getting elsewhere (like spelling and geography currently). We’ve always done literature and living book read-alouds for about an hour a day which has been a wealth of knowledge and enrichment, not to mention fun.

This has been our routine for a couple months now and it’s working really well. I decided on this method because there are some things that she really needs to learn that I know she won’t on her own, but it doesn’t overwhelm the day or the week.

What I’m seeing in my journey as a homeschool mom is grace and sanctification. Grace to learn, grace to fail, and grace to realize that not everything has to be uniform to be perfect, because perfection comes when we are following our Lord. As I learn to be fully dependent on God and less on my own ideas, I am  also becoming the person He intends for me while giving my daughter an example of listening and following the Creator of our souls.

Marital Discouragement, Bad Days, and Waiting

Our local Christian radio station sometimes has listeners call in to comment on what the station means to them, and one in particular always gets me – the caller that says that when she’s having a bad day the station always lifts her spirits. Psh, I think. She must not be spiritual enough. Anyone close to the Spirit should always be “high on God’s grace” because of what He’s done. How can anyone have a bad day (excepting extreme circumstances, of course)?

Ah, the spiritual arrogance behind that thought.

I’m learning that bad days come for no discernible reason, although I’m starting to be aware that while it might not be discernible to us, there is a spiritual dimension that we can’t see that is interacting with us all the time.  The enemy sees our successes and wants to destroy our joy – and guess what – when we have those discouraging days the last thing on our minds is praising God. Eventually, because we’re not focused on His holiness and grace, we succumb to guilt and suddenly our quiet time with our Lord is not so desirable to us.

The enemy has effectively disabled us then.

And I’ve been very guilty of it lately.

A few weeks ago I felt led to “sit” in the book of Ephesians for a while. One of the verses that I was really meditating on was 5:20 “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  At the time, even before my weeks of discouragement and my Really Bad Day, I was struck by this verse and meditated on it for some time. It says to praise God for all things – the bad as well as the good. As my dear friend pointed out to me lately, that includes my failures in the day!

What? 

Today was the latest in a series of discouraging days,  and I elected to go for a walk alone rather than stay inside. The first half of the walk was a disgraceful self-pity solo-fest, until I remembered the verse and my friend’s encouragement.

It’s really hard to praise God when you’re frustrated with Him. He hasn’t answered my prayers the way I wanted Him to. He hasn’t helped me with my personal sin issue the way I think He should. He hasn’t done all these things for me, and frankly I’m rather annoyed with Him.

Ah, the spiritual arrogance.

We praise God BECAUSE HE IS HOLY, and He is above us. While He cares for us deeply, our bad days do not take away our proper response to the Holy God of the universe, which is unending praise.

It’s not about us.

But the funny thing is, that when we learn how to praise Him through everything, we tap into that power that created us and lives in us and has the ability to defeat our battles.

Sometimes, like my recent experience, discouragement comes after a big battle – to save a marriage,  for example – even a year or more after. Sometimes that discouragement is in the form of “just not reaching that ideal stage of life” on our timeline. But, God doesn’t follow our timelines. And it’s in these periods of slow growth that He’s really refining us into who He created us to be.

Praise God, for Lord knows I can’t do that on my own!

The Year Ahead

I had the blessing to spend New Years Eve and Day with the sister of my soul and her family. We spent the evening reflecting on what God had done in 2017 and our thoughts for 2018 (as well as trying to sing some – er- interesting karaoke and sharing glasses of wine. The wine came first).

Truth: 2017 was a very blessed year for us with three major things of note – the year that I found my contentment and identity in Jesus, the year that K surrendered his life to Jesus, and the year that all three of us were baptized together.
God initiated such a change in my heart and brought peace and contentment that I have been lacking my whole life as He helped me to find my identity in Him. I am a stay at home mom – but not just that: I am redeemed.
Last year was especially to be remembered as the year K surrendered his heart to God after previously claiming that Marines don’t surrender. Guess what – God is a powerful God!
Our baptism as a family was special to me. I had previously always let pride stand in the way of me being baptized, but when I surrendered my self-identity and accepted what God did in me, I knew that it is only right to claim that publicly. And while I’ve always understood the symbolic nature to baptism, I did not expect to actually feel anything; however, I truly felt washed. There is power in these actions.

As an early riser, I had an hour alone on the first day of this year and felt a prompting to do something I’ve never done before: spend that time praying for and dedicating this entire year to God. Let me be honest — I’ve not had the capacity to pray for such a big span of time before. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on a day-to-day basis with prayer just trying to get through life’s struggles, but  God is growing me past that and I believe that there will be power in this year in which I’ve begun fully committed to Him without any of my own desires or lack of faith tacking precedence. I look forward to celebrating New Year’s Eve in a year’s time and seeing what God as done with the specific prayers I’ve dedicated to the year!

       2018 Dedication:

  • Our finances
  • Our homeschool
  • A specific person not named for privacy’s sake
  • The ministry that God has laid on my heart

Not to mention that it be a year of intense prayer and storing God’s Word in my heart to truly change me from the  inside.

 

To Everything there is a Time

I tend to be a “stick to the list” type of person. I like to accomplish. You know – the whole house has to be cleaned, all the school subjects covered each day, etc etc.

I can be rigid.

It might be a fault.

However, as mothers we need to be sensitive to our family’s emotional state and willing to respond accordingly. Children have a LOT going on emotionally, physically, and mentally; accomplishing things that have no discernible value to them isn’t always on their list for the day.

I was reminded of this recently when Sunshine Girl just wasn’t her usual sunshiny self – in fact, she was in a downright funk.  All she wanted to do all day was have me make paper snowflakes with her and build a fort in her room.

Now, the List side of me could have forced us to stick to the schedule for the sake of “learning discipline,” and Then Do Something Fun, but that wasn’t where she was emotionally. She needed something from me, and it wasn’t a lesson on industriousness. It was simply my time.

I love the beauty of Ecclesiastes 3 and while I come nowhere near the wisdom of the author, I might add just one more: a time to accomplish, and a time to just be.

To be with your children, your spouse, yourself, your God.

The great and the terrible about our culture is the ambition. Don’t mistake me – I’m a very ambitious person – but it’s taken God years to show me that unwarranted ambition is just a better-sounding word for pride. It’s easy in our pinterest-oriented culture to believe that we should always be pushing for the next thing that’s better than what we have right now, but it could be that what we’re called to be is right here, right now. After basic needs are met, our children care little for our career or life accomplishments; what they need are us. And if we’re too busy working, like I used to be, we are failing to give them what they need most.

So we didn’t get all our schoolwork done that day, but we did play outside for three hours, made snowflakes, and built a massive fort in her room. My List make not have received its coveted checks, but my daughter received the one thing we can never get back: time.

Geography, Geology, and History, Oh My!

I’m late posting about this particular field trip because we went a couple of weeks ago, but we’ve been busy with more so it’s time to catch up! It’s nice that on days that we need to get outside and be in nature we have so many great opportunities relatively near by.

Two weeks ago we went to Old Man’s Cave, the most popular outdoor draw in Hocking Hills and one of the most popular in the state. This is the first time Emma remembers being there, so she was very drawn to the scenic beauty.

20160907_123949

 

20160907_124832

American History Studies Snapshot

20160825_075811

A few of the beautiful books we’re reading this term for our American History Study.

20160825_075944       20160825_075848

Ingri D’Aulaire is well-known in the Charlotte Mason world for the wonderfully written and illustrated living history books. I love them!

The rest of our list for this term:

  • The Legend of Ohio
  • Om-Kas-Toe
  • Leif the Lucky by d’Aulaire
  • Columbus by d’Aulaire
  • Pedro’s Journal
  • Pocahontas by d’Aulaire
  • If You Sailed on the Mayflower
  • Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims
  • Tattered Sails
  • Sarah Witcher’s Story
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble
  • Calico Bush
  • Matchlock Gun
  • George Washington by d’Aulaire
  • Mr. Revere and I
  • Tolivar’s Secret
  • Benjamin Franklin by d’Aulaire
  • Homespun Sarah
  • Carolina Courage
  • Indian Captive

Welcome to 2nd Grade!

Whoa, we’ve been homeschooling for two years already?! I know it’s trite, but truly, where did that time go? Homeschooling has been such a blessing for our family, and now that I have two years of experience under my homeschooling mama belt, I’m feeling very comfortable and excited about the upcoming year for us.

While we actually never took an official summer break because learning is such an integral part of our daily life, I did “sort of” declare the beginning of 2nd grade to be last week. Rather low-key, I’m afraid, but thankfully Sunshine Girl didn’t seem to mind the lack of fanfare.

Here is a rundown of our upcoming winter term:

Daily – Copywork, Math, Reading, and Spanish

Several Times/Week – Science/Nature Study, American History, Geography

Weekly – Artist and Composer Studies, Art and Music instruction/appreciation, Handicrafts (woodworking from Dad, crocheting, and sewing)

Regular Life – Cooking, Outdoor Skills, Mechanics (from Dad!), and lots of field trips!