Do you ever think, why am I doing this homeschool thing? Nobody’s having fun and I’m not even sure they’re learning anything! That’s exactly what I was feeling like as our studies came to a close last week. Officially, anyway. We’ll still do a light schedule to keep a hand in over the summer.
When we brought our oldest home 6 years ago, he was 7 and he had a 3-1/2 year-old sister and a toddler brother with special needs. It was a crazy time, but in a way it an unexpectedly relaxed and happy time. It was nice to learn quietly at home instead of having the daily “I don’t wanna go to school battles” or last minute dashes to strap the littles in the car and zip over to school to pick up their brother.
We were enjoying learning.
David was doing “Daniel Boone” math (word problems based on the life of Daniel Boone), learning about the Iceman, drawing the Epic of Gilgamesh, and narrating Bible stories.
Now, I realize that the mind tends to forget the inconvenient little uh-ohs that happened in the corners of the past. But the simple truth is that it really was easier back then.
It is harder and more serious when you have 3 kiddos to teach at different levels and the oldest is only a year away from high school. Oh, and that crazy preschooler to keep tabs on. Add in a few learning challenges, behavioral issues, and my own human frailness…well, I am pooped.
I told my husband, “I’m not having any fun. I don’t even know what fun is anymore.”
That is the major insight I had as I looked back over our year.
Now, I know there are those who will say that “you don’t have to make it fun all the time.”
I agree, learning doesn’t have to always be made fun. It doesn’t always have to be games and colorful worksheets or making cookie maps. But what I realized is that learning, real learning is exciting! It doesn’t just seep into the brain unnoticed, it wakes you up!
Hey, this is a cool thing I figured out, woohoo! Lightbulb! Those woohoo moments don’t just happen to toddlers, y’all, they happen to everyone.
So what happened to the fun? What put out the light?
I got too “schooly,” I think, trying to stick to somebody else’s schedule. This year we were using a Sonlight Core (5/F, Eastern Hemisphere). I’ll be honest with you, I spent a bunch of money on this core, even used, and I was determined to get the maximum bang for my bucks.
The first half of the year went really well and I added in a whole bunch of free supplements I found online. The spring sort of fizzled, because: I got tired of tracking down and preparing the additional stuff, plus we were getting behind schedule and I wanted to finish on time.
In retrospect, I should have pulled some of the core and added more fun extras. The Africa unit was a dud and we could have skipped that entirely or done something else for it.
My take-away: If I’m going to use someone else’s schedule, I don’t need to stick to it. No matter how much it cost me. In the end, I’ll feel like I’m running a marathon but still not getting anywhere! Next year I’m planning a much more fluid, personally tailored learning experience with more time for rabbit-trails.
The other thing that happened is my 13-year-old grew up! Well, sort of.
This has forced me to change my expectations. He simply learns more by going off on his own and reading while I’m teaching and making messes with other kids. The cozy idea of everyone learning together is a nice dream, but it’s not really a reality for us.
On the other hand, he still needs me to help him get organized and to put a fire under him to get things done.
My take-away: I knew this was coming last summer, but it’s hard to let go! David has shown me he’s capable of taking more responsibility for his learning and that means we’re making the transition towards high school. That’s a good thing, but I was fighting it a bit.
But the biggest realization that I had…
…was that I’ve lost track of myself. I’ve so closely identify myself as the “homeschool mama,” that I’ve forgotten about parts of me. I haven’t been a very fun person, because I haven’t been myself.
I’m always researching a homeschooly thing, or writing about it, or preparing a lesson, or something…something related to teaching my kids. This is so far off the track of how I imagined myself educating my kids 6 years ago. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing since we can’t always really tell what the future will be until we are living it.
But it also doesn’t line up very will with my philosophy of education. And I don’t think that it’s my philosophy that needs to be revised.
Plus, as I’m seeing with my oldest son, my kids are growing up. Some day they will not need a homeschooling mama…and then what?
My takeaway: I need to find my happy place, again. I’m feeling some burnout and I need a recharge.
It may not sound that way, but overall, it has been a good year.
The children really have matured, conquered some challenges, and learned a great deal. But it could have been better. I’m shooting for a stellar year next year.
Did you learn anything about yourself or your kids this year?
This post is part of The Blog Cruise from the Schoolhouse Review Crew. The topic this week is Year-End Homeschool Evaluation: What Worked? What Didn't? (link goes live 5/24) Visit the Crew blog to read what other Crew members had to say.