Reevaluating Your Home Schooling Strategy
As I reflected back over the years of home schooling, I began to sense that something was growing amiss in our home schooling journey. Seven years ago the Lord called us to home educate our children. Visions of nature walks, math games, acting out history, painting and other whimsical thoughts wandered through my mind. The children were going to learn a lot, and they were going to love learning. We started out well. We read lots and lots of books. We talked and played. As the children have grown older we have moved away from the relaxed philosophy that we began with to a more traditional approach. For us, this spiral toward a more traditional approach took us away from our original philosophy of education. Over the years we have gravitated to a more classical method of home schooling which has been a blessing in many ways. We have been enjoying the content, but something was still missing. Last fall I began reading a book by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn entitled Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style, which melds the methods of Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick and the classical Trivium. As I read Laurieís practical words, I realized that we needed a change. We had become very bogged down in completing a certain number of lessons a week in various subjects, taking quizzes on those lessons, and other more traditional means of quantifying learning. I donít know who needed it more the children or me. I do believe if I had continued in the same pattern I would have created a strong dislike of learning in my children.
Then, moved by the Holy Spirit, I began to uncover the missing element in our education plan. It was so obvious; I canít believe I missed it. I neglected to make our education God-directed. I had been going on my merry way reading curriculum reviews, listening to other home schooling moms share about the best materials, and even plodding along in my own comfort zone of past experience as a classroom teacher without finding out what Godís plan was for my children. He created them. He knows the plans He has for them. He knows what they need to fulfill the purpose for which He created them. I donít know this. I am finite. He is infinite. Why would I think that I could plan their education apart from His direction?
The first practical step I took was to go into my room and pray for God to lead me as I sought to plan each childís course of study. I prayed and wrote His answers in my new composition notebook that I have affectionately entitled, ďMomís LogĒ. Some of the Lordís directions surprised me. He led me to curriculum that I had not considered. I admit I was slightly apprehensive about some materials as I had used them in the past and was not all that comfortable with them the first time around. In addition to praying I also wrote goals for my children and our school in general. I have been home schooling for seven years with no written goals. I had ideas in my head, but nothing was written on paper or on the computer. This was a grave error on my part. Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision, the people perish. As I wrote goals, I could see more clearly the path we were to follow. It took several months for this to all flesh out.
In light of the goals I had written and my time in prayer, I needed to examine my current curriculum and methods. Was the curriculum that I purchased meeting the goals that God had directed? What if the curriculum wasnít meeting those goals? This is where I often panic. I have spent a few hundred dollars on curriculum to find that parts of it are not helping me meet the goals that the Lord has given me. What to do? Has this happened to you? Be encouraged. It is possible to continue to use what you have purchased, but in a different way from that which it was intended. Perhaps there are sections of the curriculum that could be used and the rest of it dropped. It is possible that none if it will be useful and you will need to put it in a box for the used curriculum sale. It is okay. Chalk it up to research and development. It is more important that you meet your goals and the childís needs than use a curriculum that is not working. Try to step back from the curriculum and remember that it is merely a tool to help you meet your home schooling goals.
Next I had to examine my schedule. My children teased me this year for always starting a new quarter with a new schedule. I found that I needed to recreate my schedule to include larger blocks of time for writing and reading. This change benefitted our home education more than any other. We added a 45 minute block of read aloud time each morning. I found it enjoyable and relaxing. The children were able to draw and do other art work while I read. Does your schedule need some refreshing? Perhaps you have decided that your first grader is doing too much in a workbook and you need to include more math games and math manipulatives. Maybe your seventh grader just is not ready for a heavy science curriculum despite the fact that everyone else is using one. You will need to figure out how to work this in to your day. Donít scrap the whole schedule. Just find ways to tweak what you are already doing. I am sure you worked hard to put that schedule together in the first place. On the other hand, it could be that you are too relaxed in your home educating and need to add some more discipline to your days. Either way, pray. Seek the Lordís direction for your home school. No two home schools should look the same, and that is the beauty of home education. It is tailor-made. It will suit best each individual family.
Whether you are evaluating your home schooling plan for the first time or reevaluating it after home schooling for several years, take heart. The Lord has a plan for you, your children and your home school.
Jennifer Zeitz lives in West Seneca, NY with her husband David of 15 years and their four children: Jonathan(13), Natalie( 11), Carolyn(7), and Brianna(7). Jennifer has been home schooling since 2000
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