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Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Many Paths of Relaxed Homeschooling

 What steps must I take to reach the cat?


Have you ever had the experience of reading an article about homeschooling, seeing a post on Facebook, or talking to another homeschooling mother and feeling like you don't quite measure up? And then maybe you have the impulse to suddenly overhaul everything you do in order to be as awesome as someone else seems to be? There is that fine line between being inspired and feeling inferior.

I remember reading a blog post once that implored home educating mothers to be real on their blogs, to give a more balanced view of what homeschooling is really like, not just the Pollyanna version. I didn't quite agree with this. As a blogger, I want to be encouraging and inspiring. Who wants to see pictures of the messes and bad days?

But now I get it. For example, I received an invitation in my inbox yesterday from Lori Pickert for a master class on project-based homeschooling. I have Lori's book. I think project-based homeschooling is a great idea, and oh dear, I had forgotten all about it! I had the sudden urge to entirely redo Beezy's arts and crafts area and then remembered that I was simply not up to it physically, and I'd have to wait. I was thinking that I'd better finish reading Lori's book and make sure everything in my home is perfectly arranged to optimize the doing of self-directed projects!

But let's hit the pause button and reflect on this for a moment. Beezy has an ongoing self-directed project of writing daily in her diary, sometimes several times a day. She regularly creates drawing projects and likes to invent potions, mixing together various lotions, perfumes, shampoos, etc..., which can yield interesting chemical reactions. Recently she redesigned her desk area in her bedroom. A couple of days ago she assembled a few of her Monster High dolls and created a store where they were buying and selling things. And of course when Beezy gets together with a friend, the projects do not cease unless the girls are sleeping. Do we really need a master class?

In Lori's blog post she made the point that children learn by doing. She said that if you walk into a classroom and you see children copying notes from the chalkboard, what they are actually learning to do is to copy notes. Reminders such as this keep us on our toes as home educators. We must leave enough space to allow children to learn how to learn, to think critically, and to create in organic ways. There is a place for formal lessons, but we need to be careful not to spoon feed. And even in those formal lessons, nothing should be wasted or done just to check off a box.

Beezy loves to do work pages. They might seem like busy work to me, but she intuitively knows that they facilitate her learning in a way that she needs. She also knows when her mind is not being fed. She announced one day that she hates math because it's boring and too easy. Too easy! So I realized that she doesn't have to do a thousand math problems when she learns a new concept. We can skip what isn't necessary in the workbook and move on.

Thinking in terms of relaxed home learning, that restful schole that I wrote about recently, reminds me that homeschooling takes on a unique form in every home. And those pictures of perfect homeschoolers on Facebook? I have been in some of those homes, and I know better. Those perfect moments are about as brief as the time it takes to snap the photo. The beauty is in the reality of life.

Once you get your system rolling, through trial and error and experience, your family will find its natural rhythm. You'll roll with the changes as you observe your children, and you will provide them with exactly what they need. In trying to meet Beezy's desire to make potions, I checked out a gigantic book of such recipes from the library and was promptly overwhelmed by all of the ingredients I would need to find. Where the heck would borax be in Wal-Mart? I sent the book back and kept thinking about how to do chemistry at home. Then it hit me. I went on Ebay and found a kit with all of the stuff already included for 16 edible experiments, for only $13 with free shipping. Huzzah!

It's good to read blogs and books and to share ideas with other homeschoolers. Just don't get caught in the comparison trap. Don't imagine that what you are doing isn't already wonderful. Because I assure you, it's the bees knees!

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