Homeschool: Under Construction
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As a child I always remember making the drive from Nebraska to Minnesota to see my dad’s family each summer. There was always summer roadwork as evidenced by the bright orange signs that read “Under Construction.” It slowed us down, was bumpy, and made us take detours at times. It’s fall right now so why am I thinking about summer construction?

It’s simple really--that image of “Under Construction” – that could be said of homeschooling. It’s not uncommon to find your homeschooling under construction at different times throughout the year. I’ve heard from many friends and fellow homeschool families talk about changes they are making 3 months into the school year. I’ve heard frustration that things haven’t smoothed out and aren’t working like planned. I’ve seen some families wonder if it’s their fault for selecting the wrong curriculum.

I’m here to tell you homeschool mom, dad, family, do not become discouraged in the journey or in the detour. God can use this experience to strengthen your schooling and your family. How do I know? We’ve been under construction at different times in our 8 years of homeschooling! Put your hard hat and vest on. Join me as I share some of the construction zones we have experienced in homeschooling.

Potholes A-Plenty

When we are homeschooling, regardless of which curriculum we are using, we are likely to hit some potholes. Whether it is attitudes, struggling learners, having to shift approach for different learning styles, or outside chaos, potholes have to be fixed or it’s hard to continue the learning journey.

As a mom to 3 school-aged children (11th, 7th and 4th grades), I can easily forget that all three of my children have individual learning styles. They have different personalities and strengths. What worked for one may not work for the next. My middle child is a very independent learner. He likes to work on his own and at his own pace. He prefers little direction from Mom. I admit, I have gotten comfortable with his style of learning. Next, enter my 4th grade daughter whose love languages are quality time, quality time, and quality time. What seemed to be a large pothole, was quickly fixed when I realized her homeschooling needs were not about ability but about filling her emotionally. She likes to read aloud, have me look at her work throughout the lesson, and have me go over directions with her before she gets going on worksheets. The more we connect during her school day, the more successful it is.

I’ve also had seasons where we have had to adjust the work crew’s attitude (aka children). It can be hard to decipher if your child is unable to do something or just doesn’t want to. At one point, my oldest son had days that never seemed to end. He would start at the same time as everyone else, but not be progressing. When I started asking questions as to why he was taking so long, I discovered he was pausing to rewind and rewatch his distance learning videos to take very detailed notes. I spent the next couple days watching a few videos with him and taking notes. It became a lesson on how to take notes in a very practical way. That impacted his time and he gained a skill that will be helpful. Pothole fixed.

One Lane Roads

In construction zones, it is not uncommon for there to be patches of one lane roads where you follow that pilot car. At times, we have been so busy staying focused on just getting through the semester or the year, that we have lost a little joy. As I am the one driving the pilot car in our homeschool day, I have to be aware of when my kids are needing to shake things up. When I catch this happening to us, I make sure to schedule time to reconnect and have fun as a family. It might be a movie day, a field trip, or lunch out. Regardless of what we do to reconnect, it allows us to come back with a little more joy.

Merging Traffic

Traffic entering or exiting the road during construction can be hazardous at times. This same effect can happen in our homeschooling if we start to view how others are homeschooling as a way to evaluate ourselves. The trick is in gleaning positive tips and habits while ensuring you are staying true to yourself. Through the past 8 years I have learned these things:

• What works for one family, may not work for yours. There is simply no one size fits all model to homeschooling. Realize that homeschooling will and should look different for different families.
• We have no idea what another family experiences in their homeschooling behind closed doors. A good rule of thumb is to not compare yourself to others. If we all sat around to share our homeschool stories, you might be surprised at the struggles people have experienced.
• Advice should be funneled through your reality of homeschooling. Use this, don’t use that, schedule it this way….whatever the advice is, remember you don’t have to implement it if it doesn’t make sense for you or your children. People often offer suggestions from a heartfelt place of wanting to help, but it doesn’t always fit your situation.
• Be confident in your knowledge of your children. You know your children better than anyone else does based on the amount of time you spend with them through homeschooling. Trust your ability and trust that the Lord will guide you as you homeschool. Those whispers of inadequacy, those aren’t from the Lord.
• Be willing to have a fluid approach to schooling. My order-loving self has learned to be more flexible and handle change better. If I try something new, I go in knowing it may not work or may be a success. I am open to evaluating and adapting if need be.

Lane Widening

Whether they are widening lanes or adding more lanes in a construction zone, the goal is to create a safe and effective passageway for vehicles. In our homeschooling, we may have to do some lane widening—aka adapting curriculum. A natural rule follower, when we began homeschooling I believed the best way was to follow the teacher’s guides/notes exactly as written. After some unsuccessful lessons and frustration, I began to really value the ability to be myself and teach in a way that made sense to me and to my children. Some things I still follow precisely, others I look at the overall goals and do It differently. After many years of schooling, I have become more confident in adapting curriculum.

As I look at curriculum, I ask myself these questions.

1. What is this activity/lesson trying to accomplish?
2. How will this activity/lesson impact the overall understanding of immediate material/content?
3. Will not completing this activity/lesson or adapting it have a negative impact on their long-term learning? By adapting it, how will this increase their learning/understanding?
4. Will this activity/lesson create unnecessary stress for my child?
5. Is this the best use of their learning time?

Let me be clear that I am not in the habit of trying to cut out activities or eliminate lessons to drastically shorten the school year or school day. I have learned that with each child, some activities can be adapted to enhance their learning. I have also learned that some activities don’t make sense for us.

I think I will always remember my son completing a craft type activity in Heritage Studies 6 where he was making an Egyptian wig with yarn. Fifteen minutes into this activity I checked on him and he was struggling and moving slowly. Cutting yarn and gluing it wasn’t really going to have an impact on his understanding of the culture and history. In fact, it was creating stress. I asked him a few questions about what he had been reading and confirmed he understood the content. I didn’t make him finish this activity.

My daughter was supposed to create a bug out of craft supplies. She asked if she could draw and label and insect instead. Normally a craft-loving girl, her desire to draw the bug tapped into her growing love of art. The end result was the same—knowing the parts of an insect. She drew a fantastic bug, in my opinion!

The examples I shared are just a few of my family’s “under construction” moments in homeschooling. God has blessed us through each of our experiences and shaped our family’s homeschool journey. I wish you well as you maneuver your own construction zones.

Debra Schroeder

HomeWorks by Precept Consultant
www.homeworksbyprecept.com/Debra-Schroeder


 

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