Wednesday, September 24, 2014

From Dumbledore to Dori and From Max to Marie, Wisdom for the Classical Lutheran Homeschooler

In July I attended the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education Conference held at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. One afternoon I gave a presentation entitled, "Wisdom for the Classical Lutheran Homeschooler." Self-evalutions are a booger, and I suppose I did alright. I was thanked by the attendees and some personally told me they appreciated my talk. But self-depracating extraordinaire that I am, I imagine they were all simply polite.

I was thinking about my presentation over the last couple of weeks as our school year has begun and I've been reviewing what from my plans works and what does not. I decided to share the main points of my presentation and add a few comments about how it looks in our home this year.

Being a book and movie loving family, I used quotes from both genres to introduce each point. Hannah helped me put together a nifty powerpoint which was fun to use. You'll have to find one of the people who attended and ask how fun it actually was to sit through. I won't be sharing all the slides, just a few of the main points.

Dumbledore may have been trying to keep Harry from wasting away in front of the Mirror of Erised, but his advice applies to homeschoolers. All the conventions and presentations we attend, the books and articles we read, the curriculum catalogs, the forums, and email lists we pour over are our "Mirror of Erised." Those are ideals and dreams and we have to remember to step away from the mirror and live in reality.

The reality of multiple kids at multiple levels. The reality of dealing with health problems for a family member. The reality of being not only teacher, but chief cook and bottle washer. The reality that interrupts all those ideals, dreams, and plans every time we turn around.

This quote of C.S. Lewis is a perfect reminder of how to view life's interruptions.
"The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one's 'real life' is a phantom of one's own imagination." (from a 1943 letter included in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction.)
Time to wake up and live and use the advantages of being a homeschooler. All of life is a classroom and I have continued the home economics of the youngest three by still enforcing chores. Saturdays have become our "clean-the-house-and-make-mom-happy" day and those three are great at checking off the list I make of what needs to be done.

Another advantage is I don't have to teach them only between the hours of 8-3. Tuesdays through Fridays find our day starting with Latin at 7:00am. Yes, you read that correctly - seven in the morning, the time I would rather be drinking coffee, reading blogs and emails, playing Words with Friends and scrolling through my Facebook feed. But no, instead I'm teaching Latin to Sam while David is teaching Latin to Nathan and Abby. We're done by 8, which is when we head to church for daily Matins.

Last night was an example from the other end of the day - we were watching Smarthistory videos at 8 pm. Some nights we are sitting and discussing the logic book, or like tonight helping a child figure out why his account balance and his actual cash do not match.

Included in this is my flexibility to schedule piano lessons in the morning, which we love. An hour and a half where we are forced to sit, relax, and read. I'm either reading something I need for teaching them or a personal book. The kids choose what school lessons to bring and complete or personal books to read. Library and grocery shopping is another afternoon. Some days we find we all need to have a larger break in the afternoon. Taking advantage of an entire day gives us flexibility and options.

But how do I fit teaching school into life?

The often-dreaded "o" word is important to not being rushed - too much. Organization.

You can't get around it no matter how hard you're kicking or how loudly you're screaming at me right now. You DO organize your day even if you decide you have no plan except to get out of bed. . .or not.

The key is to learn how you think and utilize that to organize your time. For me, I like lists and binders, schedules and color-coded plans. I make lists on paper, I make schedules in a computer program. And then I feel like I am in control. For a while at least. No schedule has ever been perfect and definitely has not fit our life even for a whole year. I'm always having to rethink and reschedule. It is an ongoing process. But the basic plan stays the same, just the details change.

This year I thought I would be able to reuse the list I made last year each week for the kids' assignments. But after two weeks, it just wasn't working and neither was our schedule. So I rethought them, redesigned them and this week we are all readjusting. Jury is still out on whether or not the changes are effective.

On those days when nothing goes as planned, our schedule gives us a framework of what we should be doing "now." As well as what still needs to be done, what is finished, and what will have to be put off till tomorrow or the next day, or even next week.

My way of thinking and scheduling will not necessarily work for you. Think instead how your family life is - how many people, their ages, their abilities, their needs and organize your day the best you can. Be flexible  - it will change as your family grows and time progresses. Be forgiving - you are simply trying your best to manage the time you have each day. Planning is the key to getting things done. Mostly done.

This next slide is very important.

All the curriculum you buy is a tool you use to teach your child. It will always look good in the catalog or in your good friend's home. You will always want to think that if only I used "that" curriculum my child will finally understand. It might, but it might not. In the end, you still must teach your child. I finally realized that I need to pick the curriculum that I understand. (I'm looking at you Saxon.)

Oh a side note. You do know that you don't have to do every subject every day, right? It is okay to only do art or music one day a week, or history only 2 or 3 days or science only 1 or 2 days. It is okay to do them every day! You are teaching your child who has strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Whether they are like Ron or Hermione, use the curriculum to teach them where they are and move them along to a greater knowledge of the subject.

So look at those catalogs, talk to friends and strangers at homeschool conventions about the curriculum that strikes your fancy. If possible, try to see the book in person, and do the best you can to figure out if this book is laid out in a way that fits your thinking. Then, get to work, teaching your children.

Life as a homeschool mom looks different for every one. It even looks different for the same mom depending on the day, month, and year. But this is what every homeschool mom needs to remember.


Spice of Life Mom said...

Thank you. I'm starting to get some of these things, but I have a bad feeling I'll need it drummed into my thick skull a few more times for it to stick with me.

Susan said...

It struck me as I read the post -- in every place that you wrote "ideal," the word "idol" could be substituted without changing the thrust of the sentence. I wonder if that's coincidence or if that's true in many areas?

PS: Thanks for writing this. It's encouraging!

Anna Ilona Mussmann said...

Thanks for this post! I'm nowhere year being able to formally educate my kiddo yet (he's still learning to crawl ), but I can't help reveling in planning how I will do it. It is a healthy reminder for me that I will need to be prepared for the realities of educating him instead of just assembling a mental basket of ideals.