September 26, 2020

Relaxed Homeschooling

As far as I know, no one has ever set out to homeschool in the most stressful way possible.

No one I know has ever gone up to an exhibitor at a homeschooling convention and yelled, “Show me the most labor-intensive math program you’ve got! I could really use some more stress in my life!

No homeschooler wants to experience anxiety over grades, curriculum choices, extra-curricular activities, testing, and whether or not their kid will turn out “normal,” but somehow, it just….happens.

Why is that?

How can a homeschool mom go from having great ambition in September to having a cow by January?

It has a lot to do with our philosophy of education, the goals we have for our children, and how quickly we forget them.

If we believe that homeschooling should mirror public schooling and include the same classes, same textbooks, same structure, same schedule, same routines, and the same type of testing, then yes, we can expect it to be stressful.

For spiritual, logistical, educational, familial, and social reasons, it makes no sense to try and do what is done in a classroom inside your own house.

If we require our children to attend university, graduate with double majors, pursue a Master’s degree, and eventually be employed in a professional position by the time they are 20, then yes, homeschooling may be stressful.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing academic excellence (I believe Christians should), but if attending university or becoming a medical doctor is not part of God’s plan for your child’s life, the stress of forcing a square peg into a round hole will surely leave its scar.

Relaxed homeschooling occurs if you share one of these two philosophies on education:

  1. You don’t care if your child learns anything or nothing at all. (This is actually non-schooling mislabeled as homeschooling.)
  2. You care about how and what your child learns more than when he learns it.

Chances are if you’re reading a post on homeschooling, it’s not because you’re lazy or could care less about your children’s education. You probably fall into the second category; how and what your child is taught is important enough to invest your life into it. Subtract “when” from the equation, and you’re happily on your way to relaxed homeschooling.

There’s no reason to stress about your child’s academic performance if you believe they have been created by God with individual strengths and weaknesses that make them who He wants them to be.

Understanding that if they are working diligently and heartily as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and still not making A’s across the board, is freeing and stress-relieving! God must have a bigger plan for them than any test score can measure.

If character training is more important to you than academics (and it should be), skipping math and language arts and spending an entire morning correcting a bad attitude should not be considered a waste of time, but time better spent.

If the relationship your child has with his grandparents is more important to you than memorizing a list of spelling words, you can close the spelling book and visit Grandpa and Grandma for coffee, in the middle of the day, guilt-free.

If you prefer your children dive an inch wide and a mile deep into a subject rather than trying to cover all the bases and end up knowing almost nothing about everything, then taking three weeks off in the middle of the traditional school year to tour national landmarks and explore the history behind them should be no cause for second-guessing.

If you find walking through a museum at your own pace, stopping as long as you’d like at an exhibit, eating lunch when you feel like it, and taking a break to nurse the baby without having to hold others up or run and catch up more conducive to your purpose, then why go with a group when you can go with your own family?

If you believe that waiting until your child shows signs of readiness before teaching him to read is more helpful to your relationship and his life-long attitude towards learning than trying to force it to happen at exactly age six (or whatever the standard age is this week), you can smile and nod and brush off any ignorant comments made about your “lack of competence” with grace.

Relaxed homeschooling will look different for each family. It may include any of the following:

  • -letting the kids sleep in because you stayed up late the night before trying to find Orion in the sky
  • -planting good books around the house so your kids “accidentally” learn about David Brainerd, pioneers, and the Cold War without actually doing “school”
  • -keeping the older kids quiet while younger ones nap by letting them listen to historical audiobooks or watching a Moore Family Film
  • slipping a map underneath a clear vinyl tablecloth so the kids can discover the countries, lakes, oceans, rivers, and mountains of the world while eating breakfast.
  • -listening to Kathy Troxel’s Geography CD in the van on the way to Grandma’s house for a swim
  • -discarding the idea that teaching needs to happen between 9:00am and 3:00pm in order to be effective
  • -adopting an alternative schedule that allows Daddy to teach a subject when he comes home from work
  • using meal times for family worship and oral book reports
  • -letting your son bounce on the trampoline or hang upside down from a tree branch if fidgeting helps him recite the times tables more effectively
  • -getting your 7-year-old to bake a double batch of cookies for the new neighbors and considering it a lesson in fractions, multiplication, home economics, hospitality, and social skills
  • -using your fence building project to teach your son how to read a measuring tape
  • -taking a ball out to the backyard to play The Synonym Game where you call out a word (tree) and toss the ball to the first person who calls out a synonym for it (shrub), so covering Phys. Ed and vocabulary
  • -having your children make a card and handwrite a letter once a week to an older or sick person in your church for art, spelling, penmanship, and ministry
  • -shelving the phonics program for six months and not worrying about it because she’s simply not ready for it yet

Charlotte Mason, Classical, Unit Study, Eclectic, Montessori: whatever your approach may be, you can be a relaxed homeschooler if you ultimately believe and remember these three things:

1) My children are created in the image of God with unique strengths and weakness that cannot be forced into an artificial mold that standardizes results and suffocates creativity.

2) No subject, grade, diploma, degree, profession, or my own reputation is ever more important than my child’s salvation. This means that my focus should be on his heart, which by God’s grace, will consequently change his mind. The only effective teacher’s manual for training hearts is God’s Word, and therefore, it should be the most utilized textbook in our homeschool.

3) Humility, a hard work ethic, a good attitude, the ability to forgive, and a desire to serve others are far greater tools for success than mastery of any subject.

Are you stressed out by homeschooling? What do you think is responsible for robbing your joy and ambition? Comparison?Artificial time constraints? How might a relaxed approach to homeschooling change the atmosphere in your home?

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