Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Education Journey - Guest Post

One of our reasons for homeschooling was to individualize our children's education.  Our girls had been in public school for several years and we felt that a lot of their learning was done in preparation for a standardized test.  We didn't want a standardized education-we wanted an individualized education.  We didn't like that they were rushed along, sometimes not understanding a concept, but forced to move on because the teacher had a list of things to cover in the nine months leading up to the BIG, HUGE, MOST-IMPORTANT TEST.

When we started homeschooling in the Fall of 2010, I was nervous.  I had a lot of "school" in me.  I wondered what they would learn in school.  I compared myself and my family to other bloggers and what they were accomplishing.  I kept feeling like I fell short and I rushed my girls along.  Sometimes, as I was pushing them through a concept I know they didn't FULLY understand, I thought to myself: this is no better than what they do in school.  But I couldn't stop.  I didn't know how.  I just kept checking off the little boxes in my planner.

Math was a daily struggle in our home.  My girls had used Everyday Math (also known as Chicago Math) in school.  It's a spiral program that touches on a lot of concepts quickly.  They would spend two days on adding fractions and then two days on multiplying integers and then two days on division and once a month be tested on all of the different concepts.  The teachers and administrators explained that the idea was not for them to understand these concepts, but to be familiar with them.  The end result was that my girls didn't understand that math was something to understand and feel comfortable with, they thought it was just something you tried and hoped for the best.  Our first year of homeschooling, we tried FOUR Math programs.  By January, I was a nervous wreck about how far behind they were.  I couldn't check off the box that said we were halfway through a math curriculum!

We decided that we would school through the summer, but just a few hours a day.  We would make it fun.  Math and Botany and learning games like Mad Libs and Scrambled States.  A funny thing happened when I relaxed: we started to have fun.  Learning no longer seemed like a chore.  School no longer seemed like boxes to check off in a planner.  School became something we enjoyed doing together.  We explored, we took our time.  Since we were schooling all year round, I started to feel confident that we would finish the curriculum in the fall and it would be okay.  Once I relaxed, my girls relaxed.

 I started to realize that even if they didn't finish a math curriculum by the end of the year, they were UNDERSTANDING the concepts and able to work with the concepts in a way that they never would have in school.

 Once I realized that, I became more interested in making sure that they understood each concept before we moved on.  How crazy is it that it took me a year to realize that?  That was part of our reason for homeschooling!  Oh, how I fall short!  I could sit here and berate myself, or I can Thank God for showing me this very important aspect of meeting my children's needs and sit there and help them through the difficult concepts.  I choose the latter.

Many is the week where we don't accomplish everything I set out to accomplish because my girls needed more time with a topic or because they became so fascinated with something that we read in our history book or something we learned in science that it lead to a long exploration.  I am okay with fact, I am MORE than okay with that...I am happy with that because we are being lead by the Lord on the path he has chosen for us.  It is much better than the path I could have laid out in a planner or a the path a boxed curriculum could have come up with!  I stopped planning last spring, we just keep moving forward at a pace that is right for us, veering off into paths that interest us, we never feel behind because we are confident that God is leading us.

Theresa Bond is a former pre-school teacher who now works part-time as an assistant children's librarian while homeschooling her two daughters.  When she remembers that God is in control, her life is always much better and smoother.  You can find her blogging at Red Oak Lane or follow her on Twitter.  She is also part of the team that runs the "Look! What We Did!" monthly linkup for homeschool families.