“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9, KJV).
This summer many of you were renewed at a Classical Conversations’ Parent Practicum. Some of you may still be weary, and many of you may just be worried about getting through this school year and letting the next school year take care of itself. Doubts often linger even for the most dedicated homeschool parents who seem to have it all together. Let me urge you to be like the little engine that could and keep going! As they say, it is often darkest before the dawn, so you need some tools to fall back on when the going gets tough.
One of the main ideas we have discussed among the CC leadership this year has been assessment. What is the best way in which to evaluate our children? We do not have specific answers yet, but we have started to see this issue differently, and you should too. Most of us remain stuck in the paradigm of our own education which regarded grades as very important. However, the way grades are currently being given does not offer the best way for children to develop a love for learning. Even though we know that children are not products to be measured, it seems that every tool we have is one used for measuring a child!
This year, if that pressure builds on you, take a step back and pause to think. “What do I want to accomplish this year?” Then, base your assessment on your goals. Do not say, “Johnny you got a 71% on your math, you need to do better.” Instead say, “We learned seven new things this month. We also discovered three things that we need to continue to work on if we want to learn them well.” In the next month, work on those three things and try seven new things; do not undertake ten new things plus the three old ones. By the time the school year is over, you will be amazed how much your child knows and how much better they know it than if you had just kept pressing on. Finishing the book is not always the goal. Instead, aim for mastery of key concepts.
As a rugby coach, I know this is the best method of teaching. If a player does not perform the basics correctly, I do not go forward with the next step. Instead, I review the basics. I also do not expect all of my players to be at the same skill level at the end of the year. What I want to see is their desire to improve and their steady, constant improvement. If we take this approach, the classical approach, with our children’s educations, we will not feel so much pressure.
The sense of being overwhelmed is another cause of weariness. Sometimes, even if we are not weary in that moment, we worry that we will grow weary in the future if we continue homeschooling. “How will I know that I am teaching my children the right things?” “How will they get into college?” “What if I fail?” “I do not know how to teach that subject!”
This sense, that many homeschool parents are overwhelmed, is one that prompted the start of Classical Conversations fifteen years ago as my family watched a lot of my friends being sent to public or private school for the upper grades. Parents have the same questions today. I can assure you that you will do fine. Your tutors and directors are here to help you. If you have been in CC for a few years, you will be amazed at what your child will be able to teach themselves as they enter the Challenge years. If you are new to CC, the network of parents around you will help strengthen you when you need it. (If you need a boost right now, join us for the Sailabration Cruise.)
Finally, many people homeschool in the early years to give their children a solid foundation and then allow the system to handle it from there. This is the equivalent of putting a mud home on a $100,000 foundation. Sure, it is better than it would have been, but it is not what it could have been. You will also miss out on witnessing their growth and sharing in exciting conversations as your children become young adults. Many people ship them off to let someone else finish the work they started and experience the joy just when the hard work begins to come to fruition. Instead, keep pressing forward and you will be rewarded!
You will not need to know everything. You only need to assist the student in finding answers. God called you to be a parent; He will not allow you to fail if you trust in Him. So, if you grow weary or feel overwhelmed this year, look to those in your community for support. Remember why you began this homeschooling journey. Step back and assess whether you are falling into the world’s paradigm or standing in the Lord’s. (If that does not work, there is always chocolate.)
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, KJV).