Okay, so you have an idea that you want to homeschool. You have been researching for months. You have resources and methods floating around in your brain like crazy. And you kind of feel crazy, too. You are not alone, friend. If you are like me, you have strengths and weaknesses.
In 2008, my cooperating teacher told me something about my 21-year-old self that I had not realized before. It dawned on me that it was conceivable that one person might have known me better than I knew myself. She looked at me with a knowing glint in her eye and in her esoteric style, said, “Holly, your biggest strength is also your biggest weakness, I think.” I looked at her with a little bit of fear. “What exactly do you mean?” She went on to explain that I am a planner at-heart. I will plan ’til the cows come home. But, that came at a cost. My own self-scrutiny would make it hard for me to make a final decision and just go with it. I would also struggle with perfectionism and fear of failure. Since then, I have come to agree with her on most of this. One thing I know is this: I love me some planning. I love being able to sit and plan and plan to my heart’s content. Nonetheless, I have struggled to execute my plans the way they appear on paper, historically-speaking. It happened to me when I taught public school and it still rears its head on occasion to make me all about the planning and less about the doing. It all looks great on paper, but how do I actually execute it?
Also, you might have heard about how in traditional school, the principal makes his/her rounds and sometimes even pops into your classroom unannounced! (GASP!) You know what? I would be that teacher who had a great plan, but it did not matter if my plan said one thing and I was unable to execute. However, I was always prepared to pull my back up plan out. And I did have a great way of not getting to all my plan, so it was instant plans for the next day, already made! Less planning for me! Oh wait, is that supposed to be a good thing? I digress.
My point is, I love planning but have come to love it less and love actually teaching more! This is a good thing, because boy-oh-boy, my kids deserve it. They deserve me invested in them in the moment. I actually love this refreshing way of teaching (homeschool). I love it because I can plan, but I do not put all my hope in my plans. I am more focused on relationships. I love it because I get to learn alongside my own kids. I get to experience the true, the beautiful and the noble right alongside them. I wonder with them. We make school our life, and life our school. I think to myself, isn’t it the way education should be, to be co-learners? Yes, I am still the authority in our homeschool. I get to also be humble and learn alongside them. If not anything else, I am learning my kids.
Planning is great, and it is certainly important. Nonetheless, it is not everything you put your hope in. Real life happens. Some days, you may not even get to what you had planned (DOUBLE gasp!!!). My mother-in-law, who homeschooled before it was trendy (in the 1990s), helped to put things into perspective when she mentioned how some days you will just spend time reading good books, and that will be okay. I understand that now.
With that said, I have mentioned some resources to help get you going.
Getting Set Up
Look at the big picture – through twelfth grade. Watch the whole video to see the big picture.
The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, specifically, Chapter 40: And Just When Do I Do All This? Schedules For Home Schoolers
Blocking Out Time
In the past two years, I can attest to the fact that we need buffer time blocked into each day. In any given week, some days might have more buffer than others. Looking at the entire year, I see the entire year requires buffer time, as well. So, if you know that you are going to school 180 days, you will have to allow for 36 weeks out of the annual 52 to be blocked out. That allows for 16 weeks “buffer”. It is completely up to you how you want arrange your 36 weeks. We do not have a year-round calendar in our school, but I can see the appeal in that. If you live in a place that experiences hot, humid summers (like we do), you might consider doing school through the hot months of July and August, taking more of a “summer” break in June and part of May.
Here is what our yearly schedule looks like, roughly:
Term 1=12 weeks: mid-August to early November
Term 2 = 3 weeks between late November and late December
Term 3 = 13 weeks: early January to early April
Term 4 = 8 weeks: Mid-April to mid- June
= 36 weeks total
Our breaks include about three weeks off in November , when we travel to the mountains and/or a warmer climate. Another break happens between the week of Christmas and New Year’s Day. The last big break before the end of the school year is our spring break, when we take two weeks off to rest, travel and recharge before the final 8-week push to June. Our North Carolina weather is so beautiful in the spring! During this time are also spring break trips to Florida, and this break sometime coincides with Easter. The summer is a big time to go to the river with Andrew’s family, travel to Charlotte to see my mom and dad on summer weekends, and fit in a beach trip and sometimes a conference (for myself). I would be remiss to not mention the help I have received from babysitters and our local village. Living in town, we have had the help of many sweet families that come fully vetted in our little community. We have a preschool teacher who has opened her home to many of the families who send their children to the weekday school. Being a teacher herself, she has many crafts, story times, special snacks, and most of all, fun with friends planned for our children! I usually have her help when we are on our breaks and I need a moment to myself to plan, recharge, or do the mundane tasks of keeping things going (folding laundry, grocery shopping, etc.).
Charlotte Mason described her method of education as a feast set before a child. I plan for each week so I can offer this. I fall short, as I am fallible, and life has its own interruptions. Nonetheless, this is something to which I aspire. I love thinking of the feast set before us all. I am learning alongside my children. Like Mason, I agree that all knowledge is God’s knowledge (if it is indeed true). Karen Glass quotes, “Charlotte was deeply impressed by the depiction of all knowledge having its source in divine outpouring, even the mundane matters of grammar and arithmetic. She admired the complete conception of knowledge having its origin in God, and being introduced into the world by various teachers” (2014, p. 33). Furthermore, we can look to early church leaders to affirm this idea that the truth comes from God. Augustine, in his On Christian Doctrine, wrote, “Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it,”. Truth can fall into the hands of anyone, but it can only come from God, who does dispense knowledge as He deems right. I have also heard of truth being something others cannot see, either because their hearts have been hardened, or God’s restraining hand of mercy has been lifted and they have been given over to their sinful ways (see examples of Pharaoh in Exodus and Paul’s letter to the Romans 1). Yet, I do think it is interesting how God would choose to impart truth to the pagans. I am still working through my thoughts about this idea that all truth is God’s truth. I know there are exceptions as to who is privy to the truth, as I stated above.
As for my family, I am walking in hope and trust that we will be able to experience and to know God for who He is and abide in His truth through His Word, His people, and His revelation in all the facets of a liberal arts feast, with Him at the center. A medieval fresco by Andrea da Firenze gleams in the Spanish Chapel in Florence. Glass writes, “this fresco depicts the classical and Christian understanding of knowledge as a complete, orderly whole, with all forms of knowledge – religious and otherwise – arrayed beneath the Holy Spirit” (2014, p. 32). This revelation to all by means of the Holy Spirit reflects the unity of knowledge, an example of common revelation, common grace.
The Christian recognizes the unity of knowledge as coming from the One True God. I also believe God gives the believer a unique way of knowing Him, through His Word, His people, His indwelling Holy Spirit. Isn’t that the chief end of man, to know God (and to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever)? The chief end of each homeschool year/month/day, in my mind is pretty simple, and yet it is full at the same time. There is so much to discover, so much to know! While knowing God is the end goal, I do not think we will ever tire of learning more about Him and His world! There will always be more to learn. The heavenly feast that awaits us will be a knowledge of Him, but don’t you think we will still be learning Him in heaven, too? It evokes a sense of awe in me to think on this.
What are some goals I have for my home school? Well, how about you? Can you verbalize a goal for the school year? How about for the term? The week? The day? I am still working on my goal-setting. I am a work in progress myself. I would say that for every academic goal we make for our children, we can simultaneously think of a goal that centers on a virtue we long to see developed in our children. Like I have mentioned before, classical education has its roots in producing virtue as a result of knowledge. I am still a novice here, in this realm of goal-setting. Some goals I have had in the past include “N will be reading Bob Books at least 2 to 3 times per week” and “N will count to 100 with accuracy and fluency”. I am working on changing how to go about making goals to work in tandem with virtues. I am on board with Charlotte Mason’s idea that habits make the goal attainable. After attending the Charlotte Mason Together retreat last year, I jotted down a few virtues I wanted to pursue in my son. I think one of them had to do with taking responsibility and initiative. What habits would you try to begin with your child if you want to pursue initiative? I think holding him accountable to begin his morning chore every day before we began academics was helpful. He knew what was expected of him because he had been taught. However, we have incurred a new habit, and it is not a good one. The habit of delay has set in. My thoughts are probably similar to yours: my own example to him may have given him permission to indulge in delay. So, I think, if you are going to cultivate a habit, you must be honest with your children and yourself. When you mess up, take ownership and admit it. Then, move on. Try something different the next day. Flee from delay and distraction. Run toward the next mile-marker. Make it easier to do the next right thing by setting up an end result in your mind, and mini-checkpoints along the way. Keep that picture in your mind, and make it go. Ask God for help. When you mess up, keep killing sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and do not rest in shame. Does this sound like I am talking to myself? Well, go figure!