Over the last five weeks, I have fielded countless queries about whether or not we’ve started back into homeschooling. The answer is, simply put, no. Sometimes I try to cushion the abrupt “no” with an explanation (we’re in the thick of preserving and canning!) but I don’t think it works. Not “doing school” in September puts me out of the realm of comprehension and smack into The Galaxy of the Weird and Wacko. Besides, now the food preserving is over and I’m not any closer to digging the workbooks out of the attic.
I have my reasons. It’s too nice to be inside, and we have other stuff going on. There’s choir (for my older son, not my daughter) and youth group, a money management class, drama class, fence building, nitpicking, playing, reading, projects, volunteering, housework, etc. My parents are days (days!!!) away from moving into their new house. My older daughter works three full days a week, and my older son sometimes works upwards of two. There are birthday celebrations, routine doctor appointments, and daily rest times. In other words, life.
Maybe my contentedness with living-in-the-moment is shortsighted. Certainly, the educational experts would have me believe I am ruining my children. Children must be coached, directed, and taught so they will be knowledgeable, skilled, and competent. They must be exposed to as much variety as possible early on so they can be informed and adept at whatever they might choose to do with their life.
Let’s apply this logic to an adult, shall we? Say, um, myself. I don’t worry about my future self, career-wise. My present self, yes. I exercise and cultivate my relationships and try new things and pursue interesting topics and feed people and, and, and, etc. What I don’t do is spend the better part of my days randomly bettering myself so that in ten years from now I can get a job that I haven’t yet decided on. That’d be nuts.
See, there’s a difference between planning for potential, as-yet-unknown careers and acquiring practical living skills. Most children (and their well-intentioned parents) don’t have any idea what the kiddos will want to do when they grow up, but we all know they will have to relate to people, manage money, eat food, and sleep somewhere.
I was listening to a conversation between Ben Hewitt and some radio guy when one of the two said, “Don’t think about their future. Think about their present.” Those two sentences were like a splash of cold water in the face. They resonated, especially in light of what I’d just gone through with my daughter. When I give myself permission to stop worrying about my children’s future and instead focus on how they are doing now, everything opens up. Instead of fretting about what might be, I can look at What Is.
*There’s a wedding to attend, the gift registry to figure out, and a gift to purchase.
*The dog has a weird lump on her foot—what should we do?
*How much money was made on puppy sales?
*This book was so good, it must be shared with a friend immediately!
*Sibs are fighting! Time to work it out, together, over stacks of dirty dishes.
*Mom has to run an errand and the juice needs to be canned so here’s how to hot pack.
*If money is invested in a closed savings account at 2.75 percent interest, how much will be there when the money comes available in 2017?
*There’s a snake on the porch! Quick! Is it poisonous?
Now that my kids are getting older, I’m worrying less about their future than I did when they were young. This surprises me. I always thought it would be the other way around. But here’s why I think I’m more relaxed: as the children increasingly interact with the world beyond our home, all while not knowing much (most?) of the information that their peers have squirreled away in their brains, I am observing that their lack of specific facts is not a deficit. It’s simply a difference.
I have read that, in the long run, the information discrepancy is not an issue. I have hoped that this is true. But I couldn’t know. My relaxed, and relaxing, attitude is in direct proportion to my relief.
Education is less about information acquisition and more about cultivating curiosity and the quest for self-understanding. So instead of focusing on stuffing rote facts into noggins, I’m attempting a different angle:
What are my children curious about?
Are they being stimulated and challenged?
Are they contributing and receiving?
Is there a balance between alone-time and together-time, work and play, inside and out?
Is there laughter, a balanced diet, enough sleep?
So back to that have-you-started-homeschooling question. As the weather gets colder, I’m sure we’ll start up with the studies in some form or another. After all, winter is meant for toasty fires, steaming drinks, and books. I can certainly guarantee the books.
But the boxes of workbooks stashed in the attic? About those, I make no promises.
This same time, years previous: dumping: a list.