Homeschooling From Rest

This year, I wanted to quit homeschooling. There was no more joy, I was inadequate and my son deserved more.
Yet, I didn’t want to enroll him in a brick-and-mortar school out of fear or as a way out of something.
I knew there was something amiss with the teacher and I wanted to get myself sorted out first before I wanted to make some serious decisions on my son’s schooling.
I got to the bottom of things and realized I was stressed because I was frustrated. I was frustrated because we couldn’t keep up with our routines. I envied the homeschooling families who started their morning routines at breakfast and by a certain hour in the morning, all kids are seated ready for some tablework. Meanwhile, I struggle to have us start on time all the time. Im constantly reminding for our son to finish his food, do bathroom routine and by the time he’s ready, his toddler sister needs to go to the bathroom and the baby needs to nap. We’re lucky if we could do four days of school work in a week. In fact, we are just at week 15 of 33 weeks of lessons in our curriculum and were already starting a new school year in a few weeks.
For someone who likes getting things done on time (I mean, that was my job as an editorial manager and a video producer!), I felt so helpless that what I knew I could easily do…I now couldn’t.
In my search for answers (mostly on homeschooling sites and books on the subject), I stumbled across Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie.
From the first page to the last, this book felt like a soothing balm whilst giving me the feeling that I was looking at a mirror. I could relate to practically every point and there were some truths that I needed to read.
As a homeschooling mom to a highly creative, intelligent boy (with two more students coming!), I felt like the task to keep him stimulated and interested was on my shoulders, that I had to keep up all the time with his inquisitive mind and that if his interest waned or if he failed at any point, it would be all on me.
Homeschooling became a task. An arduous task that I had to do and keep on doing for the years to come not only with our son, but with our girls too. I felt overwhelmed and I was ready to throw in the towel. I couldn’t see the blessing that it was. This book reminded me why we chose to homeschool in the first place.
“We must drop the self-inflated view that we are the end-all and be-all of whether the education we offer our children is going to work out…He asks us to faithfully commit every day to Him and then to do that day’s tasks well. He’s in charge of the results.” (page 10, Teaching From Rest)
This book drilled into me that the daily grind is holy ground. Faithfulness in the tasks are little seeds we plant everyday…every bit as important as the grand sunshine or the richness of the soil they grow from.
And that in this whole homeschooling enterprise, the most important aspect is not the curriculum, the timetable,  or the checkmarks in the to-do lists. It is, always have been, and always will be the children. I have lost sight of this. And I’ve only been homeschooling for three years!
“Put relationships above everything else.” (page 37, Teaching From Rest)
No wonder there was no more time to just cuddle up and read a book. Everyday was just nag-time to keep up with the schedule. No wonder there was no more joy and I couldn’t bring myself to get more creative in teaching. It was because I was teaching from a place of fear and frustration.
Besides the teaching perspective, this book also helped me realize another thing–that our feelings, though not to be used as basis of decisions, can be very good indicators of something amiss. I learned to listen to myself again and respect where I was and who I am. That translates well to teaching well.
It’s been about three weeks since I’ve started reading this and so far, I’ve been more at peace at home. Not just in homeschooling, but in parenting as a whole. I’ve learned to see the kids more than the tasks. To be quick to listen and to sit down with them to play. To prioritize reading books again and to not fret when things aren’t going as planned. More importantly, I have come to be thankful that I am here at home with them, to be the one to take care of them and to teach them.
I’m grateful for having stumbled across this book. I’m a fairly thrifty Momma but this book–I’m glad we bought this and this one is staying right on my work table. I know it’ll be handy for those moments when I’m way over my head again and need a good reminder of what teaching, and parenting from rest looks and feel like 🙂

Non-Linear Schooling

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My then-2-year-old student playing with and scooping colored ice as an intro to science, and to practice motor skills.

We’ve been homeschooling for about three years now. We started early, when our son was just two. I guess it’s by the same reason that schools now open a toddler program and parents have been eagerly flocking to enroll their chubby tots in them. It’s exciting to watch them learn and do new things. Not to mention cute.

We considered homeschooling because we loved spending time together as a family. Plus the preschool years are a lot of playing and answering curious questions, more than anything. And we do that already everyday.

However, it’s another thing altogether to plan lessons. My first job was as a preschool teacher and the worst thing about it for me was lesson-planning. Only because I had to cough up some activities everyday for a child to do.

My eager student

My eager student

Now with homeschooling, since it’s a natural extension of parenting for us, we find that the lessons are integrated in our daily lifestyle and implemented proactively  with our student. And one of the many, many things we appreciate about homeschooling is that it, absolutely does NOT need to be straightforward and linear. We study whatever interests us at any given time. We learn as life deals with us, and as we deal with life.

For example, we first learned about numbers as Gabbie started to walk up the stairs as a toddler. We simply counted as he went up and down. We naturally had to learn about how tadpoles grow into frogs, and caterpillars to butterflies when our friend lent us the book, “The Tadpole’s Promise”. We tackled the “tricky” lesson of getting pregnant, pregnancy and birthing when else? When we got pregnant and did our water birth! We delved into the solar system when Gabbie devoured anything Star Wars.  All of these were child-initiated, and the lessons imprinted themselves onto Gabbie’s brain simply because he was interested.

His drawings and activity sheets

His drawings and activity sheets

The curriculum that we use supports this way of learning for us. We’ve been using Five in a Row for almost a year now, and the memory of my son cuddling next to me as we read wonderful stories is my best takeaway. As for my son, he’s learned so much and more importantly, he said he enjoys homeschooling! Among many memorable lessons, we’ve discovered many different countries and culture, the complex emotions we deal with, the different characteristics of people, the important values we want to imbibe as well as the various parts of a book and a story, simple machines, steam shovels, nutrition and the different kinds of food and quilting.

Now, to a traditionally-schooled and “type A” gal like me, this kind of seemingly “random” learning is too chaotic and unpredictable. It seemed so disconnected, and I didn’t want my child to be lacking by the usual standards. But, it soon became pretty clear to me that my son was learning, and learning well. There was a thirst and he had the initiative to quench it. Whatever it was, whatever we were doing, as a mother and teacher, I am extremely contented and excited with his learning process and journey. It may seem that if I looked at Deped’s milestones, our four-year old may be lacking in some areas (he doesn’t know how to count by 2’s or 5’s yet), but completely off the charts in another (he can put together a book on his own with title, table of contents, page numbers, copyright, dedication with a complete and interesting storyline and detailed pictures).

What I’m saying is that learning does not need to be confined. It can, and should be continuous and unbound. I say this even as I am sometimes delayed in implementing lesson plans from our curriculum. “School” does not really end because Gabbie does not stop asking questions, and we don’t stop answering either. He does not halt creating, as proven by the books, Lego structures and Play-Doh figures he makes everyday. And what makes homeschooling extra special in my mind is that he (and we!) is learning parallel to life and the current season we’re in.

And this is why I am so excited for another season in our family journey which is also our homeschooling journey. We are set to go on a long trip very soon, and I am so excited for our son who will surely enjoy learning about so many things. I’m excited for him that the places we’ve only read about will finally come to life. Or that he will be exposed to a different culture, to a different music scene, and go on another adventure with his family.

And we might be able to purchase the curriculum we’ve been wanting to try for so long–Sonlight. My heart skips a beat just reading through their full-grade package. We can’t wait for our next school year.

School. It’s never looked this interesting in my whole life. Whatever, and however we should learn–I’ve thrown out practically all notions I’ve had out the window. I don’t need to confine my son to a desk all day, five days a week, nor does he need to go through textbooks for a given school year. In fact, he does not have to have a “school year”. We can just keep going and going while he’s interested, and move on the next that piques his curiosity. We love homeschooling! And it is a privilege to be able to do this with my son, and hopefully with our daughter too.

Patiently looking for the flag of Canada.

Patiently looking for the flag of Canada.

As their teacher, I just have to make sure I don’t stay confined or boxed too. We learned a new word today, “flexibility” from the book, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”, and I am reminded that I need exactly that to maximize and enjoy homeschooling to the hilt!