For whatever reason, I found myself getting pretty stressed out last week. Well, I take that back, there was a BIG reason I was stressed out and it has to do with women's pesky hormones. I kept praying about it, and the overall message I kept getting was "relax". Since this is my first year homeschooling, that has been a big source of the stress.
I've always been the type to really analyze stuff and research things out and do my best to reach perfection the first time. I am one of those that wants to please everyone and make everyone happy. I guess if I had been homeschooling from the beginning it wouldn't seem so stressful. Jumping into it with two school age children that have already been in public school had some challenges. And, honestly I just realized last night that we haven't totally separated from the public school system. Alexa came out crying because her math lesson didn't go well with Dad. He was appalled that she couldn't do some simple math problems mentally and without using her fingers or something. I said you know, I was still doing that when I was her age, and maybe we should just not focus on trying to learn certain things by a certain age. He agreed and told her she could do whatever she needed to do such as counting with her fingers.
As adults we forget when we learned things, or when we mastered them. I hadn't thought much about when I mastered mental addition until that conversation. So, as I was praying, I felt the Lord say to let it go. Let all the fear, worry, stress and whatever go about school. And I would think, " But I have to think about it because I have to have a plan. I can't not think about it." Then I would get frustrated again.
And in the past few weeks I have been asked by so many people how I like homeschooling! Or, are your kids out of school early? I do not broadcast that we homeschool at all because I don't want to answer those questions. I realize most people have no concept what homeschool is like, so my answer has to be quite vague and positive sounding. I have not had a lack of support, but rather a huge lack of knowledge. No one in my family or immediate circle homeschools, so no one has an accurate picture of what it looks like.
Monday was a holiday for my oldest, so we put off school work and plus we had a guest. I took the time to do some research on relaxed homeschooling and even unschooling. That is such a weird term- unschooling. It sounds so ambiguous and scary, and unbiblical. So out of curiosity I did a search for "Christian unschooling" and I actually found some good stuff. Some really good stuff. It was thought provoking and challenging. Still feels kind of unsettling to think about. But a lot of it does make sense.
In my effort to relax and let things go, we have taken this week to not do any formal homeschool work. We have gone to the library, checked out books we are interested in, spent time doing things that we are interested in and enjoying it. We have worked pretty hard this year so far, and I think taking breaks is helpful. I am trying to feel out what the girls are interested in and run with those things. The main idea about unschooling is trusting that the child will learn regardless. As both my school age girls are born again, they have the Holy Spirit guiding them, and He guiding me, and ultimately has the plan for their lives. He can lead us in the path we need to go, and I believe He has put things in them that will lead us to the right path.
Let me say it again, I am leaning on God's leading in myself and in them to guide us into the path we should take for their education. Alexa has a big interest in rocks and crystals, I mean honestly, I have to make the girl NOT take home pieces of the road or rocks from people's homes. She likes rocks. So I've been looking for books and things that can lead her more deeply into the subject and see if she's still interested. Rocks can lead to learning about the layers of earth's core, volcanoes, the goldrush in America, precious stones and minerals, the geography of where the gems are found, the history of those places and so on. As long as there is interest, you keep going.
Sarah, who is about to be seven, just came and told me she saw on our map that Madagascar was a real country. (we were watching the movie Madagascar 3) Then she asked if there were Christians there. I said I wasn't sure, I'd have to look it up. I can look it up and her curiosity could be satisfied, or she may want to know more. I can see how just living life and answering their questions can teach them a lot.
Still, children need to learn basic math, reading, handwriting and so on. So I'm seeking for direction on how to go about this more relaxed homeschool. The girls also enjoy doing workbooks and such, mainly because of their public school background I'm sure. So I want to include that as well.
So, that's where we are now. Working on incorporating our learning with our living all the time, not just in school time in the separated subjects. It feels very freeing, but at the same time uncertain. When God started working on me about homeschooling, what finally clinched it for me was realizing that all I had to do was obey, He had promised to take care of the rest. As the months have passed, I've come to try to depend on my own strength. Now I'm being asked to take another step of faith, a deeper level of trust. It's kind of hard, but since the last step of faith I took has ultimately been good, then it's easier to do this. The Lord has given me some real life examples of how child led learning does work.
1. At the end of the school year last year, Sarah, who was 6, was reading very simple readers like the old 'Dick and Jane' books. On her own, she began reading harder and harder books, mainly the Cat in the Hat. She practiced it over and over, checking with me on the words until she got it. At this point she is reading almost as well as her older sister that's 9. In less than a year, SHE jumped her reading level two years.
2. I have never sat down and tried to 'teach' Samantha who is 3. Yet by simply living in our family, and especially since we started doing school, she has learned what kids go to preschool for. She can name shapes, colors, count in order, say the ABCs, trace the letters amazingly well and her own personal skills such as dressing herself, getting herself a drink of water and so on have made her so independent. I did not teach her any of these things. I sit with her and she names the things in books or we have some flash cards I got after she had learned some things that we might do. She's learned to do puzzles that the older girls can do as well. But, she is a repeater-she repeats everything she hears, so I'm sure that's helped in her learning.
3. Myself. Since I got out of highschool I have learned to cook, bake, make soap, sew, knit, embroider, garden, natural healing and herbs, run a home, care for children all on my own. Well, with God's help, but it was outside of a school environment. I can make our clothes, curtains, bed quilts, socks, hats,sweaters, bread, fancy cakes and so on because I was interested in something and worked at it till I mastered it. I educated myself.
Alrighty, this is long already, so I'll cut it there. I think the idea has been conveyed :)