Evolution of a Homeschool Family–One Year Ago…

I wrote this about a year ago, at the end of one of my more zealous attempts at “traditional” homeschooling. I found it amusing and wonderful to realize how far we’ve come since then.

So at the moment, shocking as it sounds, we literature-based homeschoolers are taking a much-needed respite from all things “schooley”.

Several weeks ago, I managed to have what I considered an uncommonly good, productive, well-rounded homeschool week–but by the end, the kids were fighting, cranky, and acting like next Monday’s lessons were so abhorrent as to have already ruined their weekend.

Burnout had struck. Even the most seasoned homeschoolers have to recognize that burnout happens with kids too, not just parents. What to do? Well, I am older and more mellow than I was, say, five years ago, and so I didn’t agonize over how to get them to focus on their Shakespeare (or worse, try to force them to do it arbitrarily)–I just quietly told the kids that it was clear to me that we all needed a break from schoolwork for awhile. My analytical oldest child pressed me for more information: “How long of a break? Do we still have to do math? Can we watch Netflix tomorrow morning?” and so on. Now, I am much more of a “ride-the-waves-of-inspiration” type of person, and so I didn’t want to set an arbitrary “back to schoolwork” date.

Instead, I tried to shift my focus toward joyful, cooperative living as a family, and figured we’d hit the books again once it no longer felt oppressive. I realize this is probably where some readers may see my non-Christian viewpoint peeking out from under the piles of books. Shouldn’t I be cultivating a respect for authority and creating deadlines for my kids to adhere to? What if they never want to think about math again, and gorge themselves mentally on “junk TV”?

Well, first off, I think that’s a load of bull. “If I let that kid watch TV, he’d do it all day long.” Math is unavoidable, and sometimes pretty interesting, or pretty, or interesting…..and I bet it’s even on Netflix somewhere. Anyway, what harm can possibly come from trying to consciously attempt to live more joyfully? Everything else must necessarily stem from a place of joy, or else it becomes drudgery–if not worse.
Homeschooled or not, I don’t want my kids to have uber math-whiz brains in exchange for even a week or two of rotten childhood memories. Would you want that? Really? Happiness is the priority, and as important as a good education is, our familial relationships should not suffer for it.
One of Charlotte Mason’s key concepts was that of Habit Training. (For the uninitiated, here’s a brief concept overview) I’m quite sure we don’t do this in the way that other, more religious/conservative homeschoolers might–but the core concept of habit training drives home the point that school time is about more than facts and figures, handwriting and memorization.

It’s about the cultivation of our minds, and the growth and development of our relationships. We are not raising children, but adults–and so when confronted with a problem, be it burnout, or something more simple or serious, I try to co-create solutions with my children, instead of against them.

Today, with no limits or structure imposed, my 8yr old was talking about herds of bison in pre-colonial America, and happily working in a Handwriting Without Tears book. My 11yr old was playing and laughing with his little brother, and yes, we watched some Netflix. It was surely what Charlotte Mason purists would call “twaddle”, but if Hello Kitty brings us closer as a family, I’m cool with that. People before things.
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2 thoughts on “Evolution of a Homeschool Family–One Year Ago…

  1. Sounds a lot like something I would have written a year or so ago. It took a lot of struggling and a long time for me to finally realize that we aren't cut out to be a "traditional" homeschooling family, and that's okay with me. We have a lot more fun as an unschooling family. 🙂 Not sure what being Christian or not has to do with it. We are Christian, and we also strive for joyful, cooperative living. We also try not to do things that feel oppressive to our spirits (which for us generally includes a regular scheduled "schoolwork" routine). The "Christian homeschoolers" may appear more homogenous from the outside than the group really is on the inside. I may be a bit spoiled because of the diversity among homeschoolers in our area. I'm in a secular homeschooling group, and we've got Christians, atheists, and lots of not-so-easily-categorized folks all in the same group. I know plenty of ultra-traditional-academic people who are atheists or simply not religious, and the Christians I know are all over the map as far as educational philosophy. My biggest inspiration to finally throw off the traditional school mindset and embrace unschooling came from a wonderful Christian mama in my group who has two sons she unschooled (both happy, smart, and motivated adults now) and one son still at home getting the same awesome upbringing. I do remember the frustration of feeling like all the homeschoolers fit a specific mold, though, when I still lived in our hometown. I'm so thrilled to be living where we are now so that we get to experience lots of other mindsets.Fun post. It's cool that you can reread your words a year later and revisit your attitude near the beginning of your journey into this new lifestyle. I'd be interested to read more about where you're at now, and how your family has changed as a result.

  2. Hey, I didn't realize you guys were unschooling =) I've been drawn to that path for years, and, well, it's complicated. =)You are also completely right, of course, about Christianity having nothing to do with it in the slightest. 😉 I think that mention was also a product of the time and place at which I was writing–because there does seem to be a certain "mold" for the homeschoolers here. Maybe it's also the military influence and turnover, preventing people from making lasting connections face-to-face. Whichever it is, there's certainly not a lot of JOY-based homeschoolers that I've met locally! DFW, however, at the Rethinking Everything conference….THAT was a breath of fresh air like no other. More on that later, I promise!

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