Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Discipline of Homeschool Planning Days

The long task of planning for our homeschool year has begun. Some years this has really stressed me out, others, like this one, are pretty easy. Actually, I think it gets easier as you move along, because, like parenting, you know what seems to work for your child and what doesn't. Also, I am nearing the end of all my "firsts," because my sweet, elder daughter, Maia, is graduating this year. So, while homeschooling high school seemed so daunting at the outset, now I am quite relaxed, having navigated the courses required by colleges, swum the seas of ACT preparation, counted credits, traversed transcripts, sat in on PSEO orientations and toured a few campuses. I'm no expert, but I am more comfortable with all of it as my younger begins her freshman high school year.

In regards to planning for high school, if your child has designs on attending college or university, one's coursework gets pretty mapped out for you: 4 credits of English, 3 of Math, etc. It can be - for me, anyway - a little less fun than the earlier years. So that seems to be the biggest challenge I face: keeping things interesting for the kids AND for me. I am always on the lookout for hands-on or experiential activities to add interest and diversion to our curriculum. My girls write a lot for school, for example. One of the curriculums we were using last year wanted paper after paper after paper. Some were shorter than others, but frankly it got tedious and boring after a while. So I took some of the papers they were assigned and changed them to "Power Point" presentations or had them write skits or dialogues expressing the same information they'd learned, but they were able to present it in a fashion beyond writing a paper. Yes, I know that writing is the main way they will be evaluated in college, but I have the advantage of knowing them and knowing what they've learned and I don't require a paper to document every bit that I've taught them.

Pintrest has proven delightful for homeschooling parents. There are so many great ideas there for lesson plans, activities, and curriculum planning forms. Most of the forms are free and plenty of those are not just boring documents, but are designed by those with an eye for color and fun as well as function. Here is a super-fun one that I'm looking over. I don't know if I'll use all of her forms, but she's got a lot to offer!

Often, when I tell people that we homeschool they will say to me that they don't believe they'd have the patience for it and they may be right. It may be, when they mention this, that they are referring to not having patience with their children, but I think that a greater challenge is to have patience with learning which can be a "two steps forward, one step back" pattern for a while in children as their brains develop.

The greatest trait, though, that I believe a homeschooling parent needs, beyond patience, is self-discipline. Like anyone who works out of the home, you really do need to have work time set aside if you and your children want to succeed. Planning is imperative. Materials and books need to be gathered, schedules for outside activities (both school and home-related, such as dentist appointments, etc.) need to be accounted for, records kept for state taxes and/or state requirements, and the will to do it every day for 180 days of each year for 13 years for each child. Plowing through subjects you don't particularly care for is still necessary in order for your children to receive nicely-rounded educations.

And here's why it can be hard. We don't get raises or a bonus for a job well done, because well, we don't get paid! :) Our incentive needs to come from within: a vision you hold of what you want your child's education, childhood, friendships and home life to look like, because homechooling affects all of it. And it can be... and really is... quite wonderful. But no, it isn't for the faint of heart if you want to do it well and we all do, of course.

Even unschooling families, committed to delight-directed learning, also must commit to - if not a "regularly scheduled program" - taking a keen interest in their children's interests and talents and then finding resources and/or financing opportunities that will foster the growth of that learning. They do not simply check state-required classes off a list, but instead must pay close attention to the unique ways each of their children is going to gather some of that same knowledge in his or her own, individual way.

So, for anyone interested in homeschooling, I say that self-discipline is the #1 character trait one must have or certainly work and pray to acquire. That, plus patience are key. But above all, of course, as the Apostle Paul noted, is love. And aren't we blessed that these are all fruits of the Spirit and are available to us at any time for the asking? Just don't forget to ask, friends. Before you sit down with your pretty new planner, your fresh paper and pen, your stacks of books or that curriculum catalog, don't forget to pray and ask God to guide and direct your new homeschool year, week, or day. You'll be amazed, then, at how it all will begin to fall into place.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some printing and planning to do. Blessed Tuesday to you!

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