We chose homeschooling for the simplicity. We chose homeschooling for the freedom. We chose homeschooling to help foster deep relationships within our family. We chose homeschooling because we wanted to provide an education for our children well beyond the school walls.
Sometimes though, it seems that we lose sight of these ideals, and we find ourselves far from where we envisioned our homeschooling days. We become slaves to curriculum that isn’t working for us. We find our children whining and complaining over assignments. We spend all day trying to get our work done with little to show for it at the end of the day. We feel burned out. We feel dread instead of joy.
I was in that exact place two months ago, doubting my ability to educate my children. Surely someone else could teach multiplication tables and grammar better than me. In fact, during my daughter’s ballet lesson on a Monday night, I found myself in a puddle of tears as I confessed to my fellow mom friends that I had been researching other school options. At least there wouldn’t be tears. But then I remembered several of my mom friends that had chosen the public or private school route for their children and they were not free from struggles or tears either.
I realized that the problem was not our being absent from traditional school. The issues we were facing would have reared their ugly heads if my children were in any educational setting. We had lost our joy, and it was time that we found it again.
With much prayer and encouragement from people much wiser than me, we have made a few small changes that have helped us find more joy in our homeschool days.
Breaking the electronic addiction
I have a bad habit of the head down syndrome. You know, the one where we look at our phones every few minutes. I had to break the addiction and delete a few key apps on my phone that were causing the most time: Facebook and silly games mostly. It has been so freeing not spending so much time on those things and more “real life.” My husband did tell me though that I did the same thing last presidential election year. Maybe I just can’t deal with political drama.
Connecting with God’s creation
We have gotten our rear ends outdoors! I can’t tell you what a nice long hike in the woods (even if we’re lost) does for the crabby soul. Lest you think we aren’t learning while we are there, I assure you lots of learning has been had. We discovered orange fungus that we had never seen before. We observed the birds and their calls. We found natural habitats and homes of creatures. We discovered interesting twisting trees, different kinds of bark, and moss. The kids helped guide us by following a map. We tracked animal tracks and scat, as my daughter calls poop. Not only do we learn while out and about, but it encourages us to continue our learning by digging into books and online to find out more information when we get home.
Connecting with nature every single day has been such a blessing to my children and me. In a world that is fast paced and often crazy, observing the Lord’s beautiful design slows us down and keeps us in awe of our Maker and his goodness.
I’ve been trying to find natural places in our town that we have never been to before. There is always so much to explore!
Reading good books
Thanks to Sarah Mackenzie of the Read Aloud Revival, we have sparked our love for good books and look forward to our read aloud time every single day. It might be curled up on the couch, under the covers in bed, or outside under a tree on a quilt. Sometimes my children just listen while snuggled up with me, and sometimes they are actively doing something else like eating or doodling with paints and colors. Books and the characters in them take us to far away places, give us lessons on character development, spark imagination, stretch our ideas, and help us develop our language skills. I recently heard Greta from Ma and Pa Modern say that she would rather read a good book with a solid parental figure than a parenting book to give her encouragement in parenting. I could not agree more! Greta’s instagram is excellent too! So much encouragement for a mama’s heart.
I’ll be honest. I’m not so good at imaginative play with my children, and often I feel guilt about that. Reading great books aloud to my children has been our special connection time during the days that sparks our imagination without me playing Barbies or Transformers with them. It’s a time that we all look forward to.
More time for the arts
With mainly focusing on math, language arts, and reading skills, our homeschool had become dry and predictable. While yes, those things are important, they do not fully encompass a rich education. We have made much more time for the arts, such as music, creating with our hands, observing art, and dance. Rarely is it ever formal though. We have been taking more time to linger with the art basket outside painting to our hearts content.
More dance parties to good music in the living room. More informal plays and interpretive dance. More field trips that introduce us to different types of art or the opportunity to create. There is joy in these simple activities. I have seen my children come alive when we make more time to linger here and not see them as another task to check off of our lists.
Short focused lessons
Taking my educational hero, Charlotte Mason’s lead, we absolutely focus on our core lessons for the day, but we keep them short. No need to beat a dead horse. As one of my seminary professors would say, “coverage is the enemy of understanding.” In other words, often we retain more if we keep lessons short and to the point instead of trying to cram so much into a long lesson. Short lessons have helped us to not dread the assignments every day and keep them manageable. We also often tie our lessons into our outdoor adventures as well. For example, my daughter chose to write her narrative last week about when we were lost in the woods. It wasn’t drudgery because it was an adventure that she was excited about to communicate to others. In the past, we have had many many writing assignments that were drudgery and ended with tears. Connecting them to our real life adventures has helped tremendously.
Gathering with friends for fellowship
I have tendency to be a hermit. I love being at home. I’m the kind that gets excited when plans get canceled. With all that said though, I have found a richness added to our homeschool days when we share them with friends. The kids build deeper friendships and I have more mamas to share life with. We share in each other’s struggles and victories. We love on each other and encourage one another. Sometimes it just feels good to kick a soccer ball around with another mama and her kids, or chat over coffee while our children play. Sometimes we have organized “educational” field trips and sometimes we just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Sharing life with others on a regular basis has definitely added more joy back to our homeschool days.
That about sums it up! How have you been finding more joy in your homeschool days?