Friday, April 30, 2010

Slow Homeschooling

The other morning, I read this post from this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, and it really got me thinking...

I did not have a slow childhood. Actually, that's an understatement. I have been a busy, overachieving perfectionist ever since I saw Mary Lou Retton get her "perfect 10" and told my first grade teacher that I was going to be an Olympic gymnast some day (and meant it). When I wasn't busy with gymnastics, there was always something else--swimming, ballet, tap, strength training.

Getting ready to compete in one of my first gymnastics meets ever. I think I was seven.

By the time I grew to be a 5'9" high school student (that's right, a full foot taller than Mary Lou) and put away my Olympic dream for good, gymnastics was replaced by a whole new list of busy endeavors--theater, swing choir, forensics, my own show on the high school radio station, and a job serving hamburgers at McDonald's.

Me, as a high school sophomore, in my Letter Jacket. My sister, on the right, was 12 years old, and would soon be even taller than I was.

Thankfully, by this time, the LORD was getting a chunk of my attention, but even this often amounted to "busyness"--leading the lunch hour Bible club, singing in the church youth choir, not to mention an endless stream of Campus Life and Youth Group activities. My idea of serving the LORD amounted to seeing just how busy I could be for Him.

A rare photo from my swing choir days. That's me on the far right (wearing a lot more make-up than you'd ever catch me in now!).

Reading this litany of activities may make you dizzy, and lead you to the belief that I was never home.

And, that's basically true.

I was home long enough to do my homework and sleep...and maybe eat, occasionally.

There were a couple of times when my schedule got the best of me, and I had to back out of an activity or two to keep myself sane--for example, the time when I discovered that I couldn't be on the high school swim team and in the fall musical at the same time. Slow down a bit? Maybe. Truly slow? Never.

It wasn't until I read the aforementioned blog post that I realized just how much slower of a childhood I have chosen for my children. I have several reasons for this:

--It makes life simpler and less stressful. I don't have to run around to fifteen different events per week, so I can spend more time actually being with my kids, instead of merely being their chauffeur.

--It's less expensive--in time, money, and resources. If I want to continue to be a homemaker and have a large family, something has to give. My little ones can run around and play outside. We can have a play date at a friend's house if we're bored. When my daughter does headstands or sommersaults on my living room couch I sometimes wonder if I'm not somehow depriving her by not sending her to gymnastics lessons. At the same time I know that if she had to choose between being in gymnastics and having me home with her and her brothers, I know which choice she would make.

--It nurtures creativity. Right now, my oldest is building a grain combine out of Legos. Because he can. He got the idea to build some farm equipment from something he was reading, drew a picture of it with pencil and paper, and then went upstairs to build it. As I type this, he periodically comes down to show me which part he just finished, and what he's going to add next. If we had every minute of our day scheduled, this kind of creative accomplishment would never happen.

--It allows for spontaneity. This week, we had the opportunity to visit a friend and her new baby in the hospital. There are other days when daddy will have an unexpected day off of work, and we enjoy an unplanned family field trip. Then there are the days when the weather is so gorgeous that it would be a shame to spend any of it inside "doing school". The kids run and play outside until their hair is windblown, their socks are full of sand, and there's another hole in one of Asher's jeans. Then, they come inside for a healthy snack, a snuggle with a good book, and a nap. Try pulling that off in a conventional 8-3 classroom!

--It helps to prevent mother burn-out. When I talk to mothers who have given up on homeschooling, they say the same kind of things over and over again:

          "I never felt like I was doing enough."

                             "I was tired of fighting with my kids over schoolwork."

                                              "I guess I'm not cut out to be a teacher."

                        "It was too much. I just don't have the energy for it anymore."

I think, for a lot of these women, if they slowed down, focused on enjoying their children, and allowed for a more natural learning process to occur (instead of trying to make their home into a conventional classroom), they would see the light at the end of the tunnel. A slower pace means that we can take a day off--or a week off!--when we need to. When we're having a "blah" day, we can spend it playing "Candy Land", "Go Fish", and "I Spy". We can play dress up. We can read every story in our Thomas the Tank Engine Collection. Twice. We can organize the toys in the basement and clear away the cobwebs. We can bake cookies.

I've found that, especially with young children, academic subjects can be handled in short, relatively painless spurts. Yes, there will be the days when we have to work harder than usual to master a concept, but, more often than not, learning is a pleasant, peaceful experience.

--It allows is to "major in the majors". We've all had times when our lives have been out of balance. We wake up in the morning realizing that we have more to-do list than day to do it in, and none of it seem particularly worthwhile. Ah, the tyranny of the urgent. While there will always be dishes to wash, clothes to launder, and bills to pay, I have come to the realization that many of these "must do's" I have brought upon myself. In the past year, I have dropped out of many outside activities, and I'm on the verge of cutting out most of what's left. I cannot do it all...and what's more, I don't want to. If I want to have any energy left for the things that are truly important, I need to make some space in my mind, heart, and calendar.

Now, don't get me wrong,  I value the opportunities given to me when I was younger, and they have helped to make me the person I am today. I can't help but wonder, though, if I wouldn't be struggling so much as a homemaker if I had been...well...home more often.

You see, there is this war within my soul. A war between Mary and Martha. Mary says I need to spend more time sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha says I'm lazy and a lousy housekeeper. Mary is proud of me for blogging right now. Martha keeps reminding me of the sink full of dishes and the kitchen floor that needs to be mopped.

There will always be the "mundane" tasks to do. But even then, there is something sacred in living a simple life, free from the endless deluge of attractive distractions. Perhaps it is my lust for attention, recognition, and importance that makes the basic daily tasks of this life seem mundane to begin with.

Maybe, after having lived a more simple childhood, my children will not be surprised by the fact that sometimes life is mundane. Maybe they won't see their basic responsibilities as drudgery.

I don't know all the answers, but I think I've learned at least one thing:

If I'm going to be able to "get it all done" and still have time to read, pray, think, learn, write, and grow,

I need to


Jodi Tuten said...

Great thoughts, Tiana! We love living simply, having the freedom to take time off from "school," and just enjoying one another. I pray that this way of doing things, most of all, encourages wonderful, close relationships between my children and us.

Carol Flett said...

Great reminder for me. I even have to check myself with the pace I am setting for my grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that Tiana. I had a conversation with my Mother this past week about having a buys childhood and the fact that I don't want that for my kids. I gave up ALL of my highschool years for dancing, for what?

Hannah Kuehmichel

Deb Chitwood said...

Great post! Ironically, if your children end up being homeschoolers with busy schedules, their schedules and lives are much more manageable because of homeschooling. My two children (now young adults) were both competitive figure skaters. Even though they skated 6 days a week, we still had a lot of time together as a family because of homeschooling.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for the flattery (link). I am so glad that my post was humbly able to inspire yours. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on it. I think it is always hard to go "counter culture" but so far, its been worth it for us. Although I do wonder if it is inevitably going to change as they get older. I really hope not, I sure am enjoying our life now that we have slowed down.

Jamie said...

Slowing down is so important! Much like some of what Charlotte Mason would call "masterly inactivity." Thanks for sharing this post. It's way too easy to get way too busy. All with good things, but just tooooo many! :)

Richele said...

I like that the next time Martha is mentioned it merely says, "Martha served." Though still serving she had peace and was at rest internally. Her heart was in the right place.

Ditto Jamie. Masterly inactivity would be impossible with a hectic pace.

Snuggling is much better than chauffering.

Really good post.

Karisa Rivera said...

Loved your post!
I did have a slow childhood, thanks to my wise mother.
But as I start the homeschool journey with MY children, society in general makes it a big point to try to make you feel inferior if you are not doing EVERYTHING out there - at the same time!
Thank you for sharing your heart!

Mountain Home Quilts said...

Great post and a great reminder! Thanks for sharing!

Megan said...

Very well put! You've summed up beautifully some of the main reasons I've chosen to homeschool when my children reach school age. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I really like how you made the message a personal one from your own experience rather than an accusatory one to the world in general. That's a very special talent. Thank you for sharing through the Raising Homemakers Link-Up.


Lecia said...

Wonderful post!

Cheryl said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I needed to have it spelled out to me. I wanted to give up today. I was so discouraged by comparing the wonderful activities of the public classroom with my off days. I had the public school entry form for my child filled out. After my husband's thoughtful discussion and encouragement and your blog entry, I think I can keep going.

Tiana said...

Cheryl, I am so happy to have been able to encourage you! Hang in there!

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I'm a Stay-at-Home, Christian, "crunchy" mama. I have been blessed with the calling to be a godly wife and mother. I am passionate about bringing up my children in the discipline and instruction of the LORD, through home education and discipleship. Helpmeet to my best friend and soulmate, Christopher since 1/29/2000, and mama to four little blessings, including a tiny, precious, newborn baby girl.

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Fixing Your Heart on Titus 2

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Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Bible--Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos, Apologia Biblical World View Book 1, "Who is God and Can I Really Know Him?"
Catechism-- "Training Hearts, Teaching Minds" by Starr Meade
Phonics--Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
(Kindergarten), Year 1 Booklist (1st Grade)
Handwriting--Bible Copywork, made using Educational Fontware
Spelling-- All About Spelling Level 1 (1st grade)
Math--Math-U-See Primer (Kindergarten) , Math-U-See Alpha (1st grade)
World History--Simply Charlotte Mason's Genesis Through Deuteronomy and Ancient Egypt
American History--The Light and The Glory For Children Series
Art--Interest-led projects and handicrafts
Geography and Missions-- "Hero Tales" by Dave and Neta Jackson, as well as various other missionary biographies, incorporating globe and map study
*We will be studying music and phy-ed., participating in a writing club and nature club, as well as attending various field trips, with our church's homeschool group.*

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