Put out into the Deep: Homeschool Challenges and Changes

I gotta tell you... sometimes homeschooling is like driving up a mountainous, overgrown, gravelly, pothole-filled, single-lane road... in the rain... with the brakes hung up.

It's not always like that but it is sometimes. I begin my planning each year ready to eliminate the difficulty. I throw money at it by buying better and more materials. Ah ha! I tell my husband. I have finally found the perfect curriculum! He looks at the bill skeptically but agrees to the experiment. I plan out the details and try to force. it. to. work.

Lest I be misunderstood, please know that I love homeschooling and I think it is worth the lumps and bumps. The children are growing well and learning in spite of me. But for a few years now I have been looking for a better way; flailing around in the dark reaching for the answer. This past year I became convinced of this and struggled and prayed like never before for the solution.

The problem is... me. I know that. I keep buying books and programs and trying to fit square pegs into round holes. I keep trying to play teacher without really understanding or embracing the essence of true education... which is entirely different from just "doing school."

This Summer was a period of discernment for me. I have been praying and reading and examining myself and my children. The short explanation of my discovery? I am getting in the way with my limited understanding of what education is and how it happens.

My first discovery is that because my own experience of academic education is limited to institutional school, that is what I have been bringing into my homeschool. I never wanted to do this. I wanted to find a different way; but my limited options (ie my own ignorance) have left me with this default. I dislike it and end up feeling anxious and inadequate on that rocky, grating road.

I know our educational priorities: God, family, academics. What is the best way to get there? I have always disagreed with the idea that the goal of Catholic homeschooling should be to return to the "glory days" of the 1950's Catholic schools. When we see the product of those institutions, how can we seriously say that they were successful? They were not.

My Seton catalog got the boot. Too much like that failed old school approach. As the teacher, I just can't do it to my family.

My next step was to look at the other catalogs and methods: classical, montessori, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, literature-based, unit-study, unschooling, independent study, charter, online...

We've been picking and choosing as we go; coming oh-so-close every year to enrolling in different programs to ease my anxiety. I've spoken on the phone and exchanged emails with all of them. I've had my credit card in hand and then backed out at the last minute. We are often asked if we use a program... Oh, a little of this and a little of that. It has been the best approach for us of the options I saw but feels disjointed. It is not the answer I seek. Where is the magic curriculum that will bring the answer? Where is my magic pill?

As we came to the end of the last academic year, I was filled with anxiety. All I could see were the lists and the unchecked boxes, the scope and sequence charts and the words "high school cometh soon" behind my eyelids as I tried to sleep each night.

No. This was not what God wants for our homeschool. Fear is a poor leader. I felt that I knew the answer... that it was lying hidden on my heart... but that I was afraid to explore it. What does God want from my homeschool? The words of Jesus haunt me at times like these; "Put out into the deep" He says and I cringe and stretch a little bit and then stop just as it begins to frighten me. And then I read the words of Blessed John Paul II...

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

And so it began. Another journey to the deep... seeking that to which we are called. And where shall He take us?

To be continued....

(Please note: our homeschool decisions are in no way a judgement on yours. Each family and child are as unique as fingerprints. I do not believe that God has made us to travel all in the same way, as if we are soldiers or machines.)
Posted on August 5, 2011 and filed under "home education", "homeschooling".