Monday, March 2, 2015

Be a Pioneer

So a while back I stopped looking at my teacher's manual that goes with the My Father's World curriculum.  It's a great curriculum, but personally I was starting to just feel limited, tired, suffocated and uninspired by following a curriculum.  Honestly I love the manual and looking through the weekly plans and checklist but then in reality it just isn't me.  Having that checklists stresses me out and thus stresses the kids out.  I also felt like some of what we were doing was just creating more fighting and frustration than benefit...I slowly started to skip doing the math some days and instead switch it up with having my daughter practice her math on ixl, xtramath, matific, starfall or math apps on my phone, still doing math everyday and working on the same skills but not stressing about where it was done, book, app, games etc.  We also do Classical Conversations so the kids  cover all subjects each week and do science experiments, art projects and tin whistle so I decided to just let that be that and I was just focus on 1 or 2 main things for each child for now.  For my second grader, it was reading as that has been our biggest struggle and she seemed to struggle with dyslexia or some other learning issue and then math.  For my Pre K son, it was his alphabet and learning to eat better, he is so picky and tends to subsists on strawberries, bananas, whatever homemade baked goods I make and turkey dogs (healthiest ones I can get mind you)...but that's pretty much it.  My 1 year old was really needing to get a better nap schedule figured out and consistent and focus on getting him to eat well too as he has been pretty much refusing most foods offered.  I also was feeling like I was missing my passion, I was missing that spontaneous creativity that the kids and I enjoyed when we started homeschooling our first year and I didn't use a curriculum and just schooled based off of The Thomas Jefferson Education book, Charlotte Mason, Montessori and Everything your Kindergartner Needs to Know.  After I would get through our "school" that day I would either just feel really frustrated, tired, annoyed and wanting space and the kids were tired of me directing everything so much at that point that we wouldn't ever do the things we really wanted to do.  At the end of the day what was a great, rich and wonderful curriculum just wasn't working for us.  My daughter and I weren't enjoying our time together doing it, we were both feeling resentful..especially me because she can be the queen of stalling and avoiding when she doesn't want to do something and I felt like she was taking up all my time and energy and robbing her brothers of my time, attention and energy.  But in reality, it wasn't her fault it was mine.  I was trying to do what I thought was best but it wasn't what was best for us.  I had actually gone against what I had found worked best for us in the beginning out of fear and doubt.
 No, at this rate she would be better of at school because the teachers are paid to be patient and do the grudge work and I'd be home having a break and could just be happy when she came home.  Homeschooling for life or die isn't the ultimate goal here, a healthy relationship with my children and husband is.  But homeschooling is something The Lord put on my heart strongly and I think I started off on the right track but then got sucked into wanting to do the best of everything with Classical Conversations and My Father's World and all that.  It was good last year when we had just moved and I had a newborn to just be able to open and go and not have to think about it or plan...but as we have gotten more settled and comfortable, I didn't realize what was happening but one day I woke up and just had this strong feeling that I was done, that I couldn't do it anymore.  I wasn't sure exactly what that meant but I knew I had to change things up.

I send a text to one of my homeschool mommy friends that morning and said something like "so I think I'm done.  I just found out there is a Christian Montessori School not far from here my kids could go to part time and still be technically homeschooled.  Why am I not doing that?????"  She called me back in response and was such an angel to me in that moment.  She reminded me that we are pioneers of our own lives...we can make out own path, it doesn't have to match up with what anyone else is doing.  We don't need everyone's approval of what we are doing...we just need to pray and figure out what works best for us and our own family.  I mean that's one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling, being able to tailor and design your own life and schedule to what best suits your own families needs, personalities and learning styles.  She reminded me to just think about some main goals and focus the most on those and not stress so much about everything, and if that means skipping things in the manual then so be it...if it's impossible to not stress over what the manual suggests, then PUT IT AWAY and just focus on doing what you family needs to do.  Be a pioneer.
That conversation breathed new life into me and thus into our home.  Since then, I put the manual away, we focused soley on reading as it was such a struggle and then just did the daily math practice.  And then when times were right, I would still bring out some of our curriculum material and read about pioneer children stories from our book American Pioneers and Patriots, which inspired hours of play afterwards...The result of this experiment?  My daughter went from like 0-60 with reading in a short amount of time (about 3 months).  It went from us fighting over having her read 1 sentence and falling on the floor resisting and stalling to her being so obsessed with reading that it's starting to drive my husband  Yes even good things can drive you crazy! lol.  She now proclaims "Reading is my LIFE!"  The most exciting thing for her is if she can get a new book.  She is currently gotten immersed in the Boxcar Children series and also devoured Heidi and Pollyanna by The Illustrated Classics.  She is turning 8 this month and reads herself to sleep every night.  She is officially a book worm.  She reads a lot during the day now too so I am finding more time to start working more with my 4.5 year old with his pre-reading skills.

Adventures in US History by My Father's World is a great curriculum .  If you really are looking for a curriculum I would definitely recommend it.  I still use the resources that came with it even though we aren't really "doing" it.  But by putting the manual away I've found other things that help with the same topics that give my daughter more independence in her learning as well.  For example, I found a great app that teaches all about the 50 states, it includes spelling, facts and quizzes.  I also found a fun game called Frontier Heros in the App store.  It has different games for different eras....there are native american games where they have to harvest and grind corn for corn cakes, shoot an target with an arrow etc to revolutionary war games of Paul Revere riding and your have to ring as many bells and jump over obstacles, to pioneer/cowboy games like the Pony Express, The Railway etc. They are all fun engaging games that teach about those teach era and activity.  So using some technology to add some independent learning and enrichment on along with the independent reading, it has really freed me up just in time for the toddler tantrum phase and also now we are able to do a lot more of what we enjoy.  A lot more child led learning where we persue their interests in more depth, have more time for creativity and honestly, sometimes all it takes is reading them a story based on children in a certain time period and then they create outfits and go into that world playing for the rest of the day.

Here was a day we read about a pioneer family.  As I read the story I changed the names of the characters to my kids names.  They made me read it again and the second time acted it out.  They put a blanket over the Rody horse toy and made it look a like a sheep and pretended to sheer it, they went outside pretending the cats were wildcats and just actually were pioneer children in their minds.  The freedom from a rigid agenda allows us to roll with it and after that one historical story the rest of the day was played out and all the information about that time period included in the story was forever imprinted on their little brains because they brought it to life.  The same thing when we read about Vikings, rather than just some word they heard but don't remember, we created props and a set and they played it out for 2 days.  So all this to say was that whatever it is in our lives, how we homeschool, how we live, how we raise or kids, whether you homeschool or not, now matter what it is, be a pioneer.  Spend less time trying to figure out what's working for everyone else and trying to copy and live up to everyone else's expectations and norm, and trust the Lord and yourself and your family in being pioneers in your own life.

I thought of this mental image while driving one day and want to make up prints for the schoolroom/playroom.

 Know when to...

Go with the Flow

Fight the Current

Sail to the Unknown

I learned that for me, who never liked school growing up and thought it was jail for kids...I don't do best trying to replicate "school" at the house and "playing" teacher.  I realized that when my kids were younger and they learned to crawl, walk, baby signs, talk, colors, numbers etc, I didn't have structured time where I became "teacher" and forced the skill to be learned during those designated times.  It happened naturally and organically.  I delight in helping my kids grow, learn and develop and I've also learned to trust them.  My daughter didn't walk until she was about 17 months old, according to charts that's getting to be developmentally delayed.  But as a 7 year old she is doing amazing in competitive gymnastics.  If I believe that we are created in God's image, I relate that to having intelligence, then I should trust that God has given them a mind that wants to learn and engage with the world around them.  My job is to fan the flames and mentor them along, not input and program information into them.  The intelligence is already there, I need to just not get in the way by trying to control it.  BUT I know everyone is different, some kids loved school, worksheets and listening to the teacher, and if their kids are like them, then they probably enjoy having a structured "school" setting at home with mom being "teacher" and that's cool too, because as I said, rather than look around at what everyone else is doing, do what works for you and create whatever environment you and your family thrives in best.  Just be a pioneer and discover your own environment that works best, if you are struggling to figure out what is best for your family, then just ask.  The Lord will lead you in the right direction, it's just a matter of trusting Him and letting Him lead you even if it's unknown territory for you and you don't know how to explain it to others.  If you are going in the right direction, you will be content and suddenly not care about about trying to explain to others how you live your life and if they approve or not.  You can just love them where they are at and be blessed that you are happy where you are at.  For me, not switching from teacher to mom all the time but JUST BEING MOM, and mentoring and teaching them as MOM in a natural, organic way has for us, led to actually more productive days than when I was stressing over getting everything on an imposed checklist done.  I came across an article the other day that referred to it as "The tyranny of curriculum"  and I think it was the same article but can't remember, that also compared how if we let curriculum or any other self imposed agenda rule our lives, it can be like an idol in our lives.

The Lord has been so gracious to have already given us everything we could ever need.  An intelligent mind, a body, a soul a beautiful earth to live on and discover, family and friends and most importantly, salvation through his grace and forgiveness.  He only gave us 2 commandments during His life here on earth, to Love God with all our hearts, and to love one another.  If we are all wrapped up in keeping up with a curriculum that it causes us stress, anxiety and worry AND causes us to get angry and frustrated with our kids on a regular basis and we are so busy with that we don't have time to think about others, especially our husbands....well...where does that honor God?  I'm not knocking people who use curriculum and saying they aren't honoring God because many people can do it beautifully if it fits their personality and their kids personality styles but for those of us it doesn't...there is no reason to force ourselves to do something that isn't working for us.  If the call to homeschool is clear to you, yet it isn't making sense because you thought it would be better than what it is...well...just remember, you are free to be a pioneer.  And if you are doing things that aren't working for your family, but are doing them to meet expectations of a spouse or other family member, then just pray for them.  If The Lord can put something on your heart, He can put it on their heart too.  I've prayed many times "Lord, I want to be one with my husband and let him lead so please don't put something on my heart and not work it out in his heart too so I don't have to fight him on it" and The Lord has amazed me with that time after time, sometimes it takes a couple of months but He does answer that prayer.  When The Lord does work something out in my husbands heart that He had previously put in mine and my husband ends up bringing it up, I KNOW that is the best confirmation I can get that I am following the Lord's guidance and not just imagining it! lol!

Here is a song I LOVE by Beckah Shae that can inspire you as you seek the Lord's guidance for the direction of your own life

So in sum, for us as far as homeschool...what it's come down to is a mashup of Charlotte Mason, Thomas Jefferson, relaxed eclectic, interest-led/holy spirit led, unschoolish....if that makes sense...but not school at home.  My heart just wasn't in that method, at all.  So now I just have to decide if we will do Classical Conversations next year, I'm definitely not a Classical Education Homeschool but CC is fun and we enjoy it and they cover a lot there but we shall see.  I love Classical Conversations but the more I learn about our style it may not be for us as we decided where to spend our time and resources.  I think of Abraham Lincoln, he went to school for 1 year and hated it.  HIs step mother loved him very much and let him stay home after that and fostered his love of reading books.  He was allowed to read to his hearts content and became a self learner for life.  That is my desire for my kids.  I don't need to create a "school" at our house, but foster and mentor them in their God given intelligence, direct and inspire them into becoming self learners and be free to seize the moment by not having our schedule too bogged down and rigid.

After writing this I decided to post a couple videos along..but there are many videos out there but I likes these.

If you are unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason there is a lot of info about it out there but here is a great video about it

Intro to Thomas Jefferson Education

Homeschooling Class DIsmissed

Delight Centered Learning

Astra Taylor on the Unschooled Life

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