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Saturday, May 14, 2011

.Our New Approach to Homeschool.


We are about to complete our third year of homeschooling, although I count this year as our first official year. I did preschool with Cadi when she was 3. We did school two-three times a week and concentrated on the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors, as well as simple Bible stories. I made up my own curriculum with the help of free online resources. Last year we did K-4 using Hands On Homeschooling for age 4, as well as ABeka Phonics . I only used the teacher's manual, as I was confident in the ABeka program having taught it for a few years and going through it as a child. I made my own visuals, and we did minimal pencil work. This year we officially started kindergarten. I have been drawn to the Charlotte Mason gentle style of learning since I read Homeschooling Methods by Paul & Gena Suarez back when Cadi was only two.

A friend of mine pointed me in the direction of FIAR which is a literature based unit study approach that uses wonderful children's books to build the units around. I loved a lot of things about FIAR. I loved that Cadi was being exposed to such wonderful children's literature. We spent a lot of time snuggled together on the couch reading and Scotty was right beside us - very Charlotte Mason-esque. FIAR really encouraged Cadi along in her love for reading. She has a voracious appetite for books, and this curriculum just fostered that in her! I loved the character building themes that we were able to bring out in the books, and all of the fun, creative activities that gave us beautiful memories of her kindergarten year because of FIAR. I even recommended the curriculum to my sister-in-law to use with her oldest when she began homeschooling this November.

Having said all of that there is a but - yes, I am sure you saw that coming - it was a ton of work and planning on my part. A ton. I tend to be very driven in certain areas and tend to be an all or nothing kind of person, and it stems from my ongoing struggle with perfectionism. An area I need much refining in.

I really struggle with perfectionism (this should be its own post but provides the needed context here), and it is a daily battle and hindrance in my life. I have heard some people say, with a smug grin even, that their biggest weakness is perfectionism, and I get the impression they are rather proud of this, as if this area of sin might somehow even be desirous to some. I tell you that I struggle with this with sincere remorse. I need God to break this sin issue in my life, and I pray that I do not pass this on to my children. I have been in bondage to my perfectionism for as long as I can remember. I fear not getting things just right the first time. Sometimes that manifests itself very differently - there are times that I am manic and I can make myself sick trying to do things perfectly. At other times I will not even step out and try - I will just first give up - knowing that I cannot be perfect and equating anything less than perfect with failure. Many times I am compelled to prove that I am worthy by trying to be the best - at everything. Everything I strive for, because of this sin area, is unattainable. I try so hard to never make a mistake, to be the best, to do the best. I make one typo on facebook because I am rushed and trying to do 20 things at once, and am apologizing all over myself and beating myself up for an hour. Ridiculous -yes, but the truth. I know the root of this is fear.

This perfectionism crept into our homeschooling big time this year.

I did not think FIAR's curriculum guide was good enough, so I wore myself out by going way above and beyond it. I spent hours researching activities to add to the suggestions in the manual. I hated the Bible Supplement (which I still think is justified) so I created my own Bible curriculum - complete with me writing some of the stories, coming up with Bible verses that correlated with every book we read and a character trait that I wrote and defined and made up a tune to go with it. I did this for every book - every two weeks, and I got burned out, discouraged, and became unhappy. Add this to the ABeka phonics and Saxon math and adoption and keeping house, and trying to be the perfect mom, wife, friend, pastor's wife, etc. It was an impossible standard to live up to. And while I have very fond memories of many of the things we did this year (and Cadi has learned a lot - she was assessed to be reading at a third grade level, and yet I still count so much I did as failure - you see the problem? Nothing is ever good enough.), and I do believe that Cadi will remember those for her lifetime; I regret a lot of things as well.

I have done a lot of soul searching and praying about this fall and first grade. For awhile I thought God was asking me to just give it up and send Cadi to our Christian school. This was hard because for a long time I had held the false opinion that every Christian should be homeschooling, but that again goes back to my perfectionism. If I was homeschooling than I obviously thought it was the best because I could not swallow it not being the best. But God is slowly chipping away at me, and I see now that is not true. As parents, we have all been given our children to train and raise, and part of that is stewarding their education, but I now know that it can and will look differently for every family. So please do not ever take these homeschooling posts as me saying that you should also be homeschooling if you are not. I am not saying that. After many tears and prayers and discussions, I believe God wants to redeem this, but it is going to look very different than I had first thought. And I am going to be okay with that.

I now know that I cannot be left completely isolated when it comes to homeschooling. I think I knew that in the beginning even, and I tried to reach out to others in hopes to get some kind of community growing. But that was not God's plans for the past few years. I think He needed me to go through the isolation in homeschooling in order for me to really pursue what we needed as a family and I needed as a homeschooling mom. I need support, encouragement, and accountability, and although my husband does all of those, He cannot completely meet my needs, as he is not in the daily grind of homeschooling. So in rethinking this next school year, I knew that I had to find community. (I am noticing this reoccuring theme in my life - community) I was desperate for the fellowship. We also want our children to learn what it is to live in community and to be an effective member of the body of Christ. This is not being accomplished by us isolating ourselves at home.

I still love the Charlotte Mason method, and I want to continue on with ABeka and with Saxon math. For one thing they are working really well for Cadi, and for another they are not much preparation for me, and have not caused me to fall into my perfectionist cycle. One strength of Cadi's that I discovered this year was her love for memorizing and her ability to memorize quickly and accurately and incredible lengths of things. I wanted to capitalize on this - even though in the past I thought memorizing was not the best way to learn.... are you seeing a theme? Brokenness, humbleness, etc. Whew. I read an article here on the case for memorization, and I was sold. However, this is an area that I am not disciplined in in my own life, and I struggle. So I wasn't sure how to incorporate it into our schooling effectively. Then I was talking on the phone to my dear friend who mentioned Classical Conversations. It was the second time I had heard of it. My interest was piqued, and I started researching and researching and researching. Then I started praying and talking things over with Jim. I was finally honest with him about my discouragement from this past year, and he in turn was such an encouragement pointing out many of the positives that had come from school this year but the same time understanding what I needed to continue on in this path.

We looked into Classical Conversations more seriously and came to the conclusion that this is exactly what our family needed. We are enrolling Cadi soon, and she will begin this fall. It will be a financial sacrifice for us, but we truly feel as if it is the right sacrifice for our family. You can read about the program here. One of the things that first drew me in was their mission statement The purpose of education is to know God and to make him known. That is my heart's desire, and I had lost focus of that this past year.

My brief description of Classical Conversations is as follows: Cadi (and our whole family, most likely, as it takes place on Jim's day off, and at least one parent is required to attend) will attend Classical Conversations on Mondays from 9-12 starting after labor day for 12 weeks and then picking back up after New Year's for 12 weeks. At meetings, families are introduced to new memory work in timeline/history, science, geography, English grammar, Latin, math, and Bible. The memory work is followed by science and fine arts projects as well as practice in orally presenting information. They work with a trained tutor, and the program is very careful to emphasize she is just that a tutor - not the teacher. We will continue to be Cadi's teachers. Classical Conversations is a community - not exactly a co-op and not a school.

And although the method is Classical we will be putting a Charlotte Mason twist on it at home. I believe with just a little thought these two methods can easily complement each other. So now I suppose our homeschooling method is officially eclectic! But then again, that is probably what we have been all along. In another post (since this is getting very wordy) I will share what we are using for Bible, reading, handwriting, etc, and how Classical Conversations will be incorporated here at home. I am extremely excited about this major change, and I pray that God blesses our family in homeschooling this year.

I am embracing this new school year and holding 2 Corinthians 12:9 close to my heart, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. I am going to try to let myself fail and make mistakes and allow God to redeem that into something beautiful, because He will if I lay aside my ridiculous measuring stick. And the stick is not working. Begging His grace to pour out on me.



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