The new school year brings many new things. Among these are new families and new students who have joined Classical Conversations communities around the world. For many of these new families, homeschooling moms and dads are experiencing new emotions: fear, excitement, being overwhelmed, or perhaps feeling under-appreciated.
The truth is you are not alone. Many of us (homeschooling fathers like me, homeschooling mothers, veteran homeschoolers, newbie homeschoolers, and tutors) experience these emotions at one time or another. They drive us to fall back on one singular tactic: imitation.
Imitation in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it is the way we learn. Ultimately, aren’t we called to be imitators of Christ? Even in imitating Christ, aren’t we also called to imitate others along the way? Paul writes in his epistles, “Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ.” The act of imitating isn’t distracting, but the object of imitation can be.
One Object of Imitation for Us Is Our Own Experience
This is commonly our own public school education. It goes something like this: I spent six hours a day in a classroom, and, therefore, my child must spend six hours a day doing school at home; I sat at a desk during that time, and, therefore, my child must sit at a desk during homeschool time; I spent my days working out of workbooks, therefore, my child must spend the day working out of workbooks.
This imitation frequently results from fear and being overwhelmed. We think because we learned that way that it must be the way to learn, but it isn’t. A young child can learn all she needs to learn in two to three hours of reviewing her memory work and two to three hours of play and exploration in the home, the yard, the neighborhood, and any of the places around town you might need to visit. This might be called passive learning, but classical educators often refer to it as poetic knowledge. It is more important than we often give it credit, probably because it can’t be measured on the standardized tests we took in our own school experience.
Another Object of Imitation for Us Is the Creative Homeschool Friend
This friend can fit everything under the sun into their homeschool day. Once, I had a friend from church who was considering homeschooling her daughter. She talked to another homeschool mom in the church and asked her what her days looked like. That mom told her she and her children started their homeschool day at 6 a.m. and finished at 6:30 p.m. when her husband came home from work. They studied all of their core work and added a number of extracurricular and elective classes. Unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, the mother who had asked the question never became a homeschooler.
3 Pieces of Advice for the New School Year
So, imitation isn’t a bad thing. But when the object of our imitation is unrealistic or misguided, then we can lead ourselves down a path of disappointment. With that said, as you enter a new year of homeschooling, here are three pieces of advice to help you set an honest object of imitation.
1. You Don’t Have to Do Everything Everyone Else Is Doing
You don’t have to be as organized, as creative, as rigorous, as comprehensive, or as intense. You can trust the program. If students needed more, Classical Conversations would have created a curriculum that offers more. This program works. If you are overwhelmed or fearful trying to keep up with everyone around you or with your own expectations based on your school experience, just stop, take a deep breath, and find a moment to rest.
2. You Will Know When You Are Ready to Take on More
When that time comes, you can take on more. Add what your individual state requires of you and trust the program. When you can be more organized and remain at rest throughout the learning day, then be more organized. When you can be more comprehensive and remain at rest throughout the learning day, then be more comprehensive. Not only will the Lord let you know when you are ready to take on these new responsibilities, your child will let you know when they are ready for more.
This last point is crucial. How many children do we know who have grown up hating learning? They see school as an enemy. All people are created with an innate desire to learn and know, but the way learning was imposed on us as children takes away that innate desire. We should give our children what they need at a pace that whets their appetites and grows that love for learning and knowledge within them.
This approach will look different from one child to the next. If your child is reading faster than another, then feed that appetite, but don’t encourage another mom to feed an appetite that doesn’t yet exist in her child. If your child is slower at math than another, teach them where they are, not where their friend is. We should love and educate our children the way God the Father loves and educates us, right where we are.
3. You Are the Best Teacher for Your Child
Fear, excitement, feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated: these are normal feelings we all experience. These feelings shouldn’t control you. Don’t let them force you into decisions you don’t want to make. Don’t let them make you think things about yourself or your child that are just not true. You are the best teacher for your child; you have to be because teaching is an act of love and no one can love your child the way you do. Believe this about yourself, trust the program, and depend on God. You will have a great new school year. You just may not know it until the year is over. And that’s okay.
Not yet a Classical Conversations member and interested in our community-based approach to homeschooling? We’d love to hear from you! To learn more about us, click here.
This article was originally written by Matt Bianco on Tuesday, 9 September, 2014.