Monday, June 20, 2011

“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow”?

In my last post, Tilling the Soil, I shared briefly that one of the biggest influences and encouragements in our homeschooling journey has been that of new friends God has brought into our lives who have and/or are currently homeschooling. In small windows of time, I have had the opportunity to question, discuss, and observe these families in their ways of schooling and life, and have, in turn, learned a great deal from them. I have learned about things ranging from cooking from scratch (did you know that using Pillsbury is not necessarily the only way to get good biscuits?!) to teaching my (at the time) 3 year old his ABC’s to how to discipline creatively and effectively when everything I know to do is not working. The resources of these amazing, yet vastly different people in our lives has been immensely rewarding, informative, and helpful, not to mention fun!
As I continued to learn and grow in knowledge (and hopefully, a bit of wisdom) as I watched these families work, learn, play, and live together, I began to implement the things I was learning into my family’s day to day life.
Soccer Mom Sally over here was constantly on the go, actively engaging her children in activities that would strengthen them physically and engage them mentally. Her family stayed busy doing activities, together and apart, most days of the week, studying on the go, learning geometry as they played sports and studied music, etc…
Then, there was Homemaker Helen. She mainly stayed at home with her children, teaching them about what it means to be the keeper of the home, applying practical lessons on how to wash dishes, cook, and do laundry, and using things like making her own super duper laundry detergent, shampoo, and bathroom cleaning solutions from scratch. Her house is immaculate. Meals are started hours early because everything is made from scratch, and it’s always divinely delicious. Her 6 year old washes, folds, and puts away his/her own laundry, and the garden out back is where they get all of their fruits and veggies.
Then there’s Bible Teaching Brenda… Every morning, she arises an hour before anyone else to do her devotions and still have time to get breakfast on the table before the kids awake… They begin their day in prayer, and have Bible lessons, devotions, Praise & Worship time all before lunch. Her kids have memorized more scripture than the Pope and know where to find it and what it means as well. All of their studies, in every subject, are centered somehow around scripture and Biblical truth is the heart of every lesson taught.
Then we have Wonder Mom Wanda. She does it all and she does it well. She manages the house, eight kids, keeps her hubby happy, clips coupons so she can get 27 pounds of ground turkey for $1.25 total. She’s taught each of her kids to play musical instruments and how to speak in 3 different languages by age 5. She coaches the little league team, volunteers in the community, and has a home cooked meal on the table every night by 6:00. There’s no stopping this mamma!
The list goes on and on. Each family had their own way of making it work, and there were/are wonderful things about each family's ways of doing things. I’ve recently figured out that my big problem was that rather than figuring out what worked best for OUR family, I had been spending all my time trying to mimic these other families. Of course, in trying to run around pretending to be all of these things, trying to do all of these things, trying to make my family work, ideally, like so-and-so’s family, I wound up wearing myself out and only bringing stress and frustration to both myself and my family when we fell short of my unrealistic expectations.
You see, I am NOT a morning person by any means, so getting up at the crack of dawn to start my day when, really, I could spend an hour or two more sleeping peacefully in the wonderful comfort of my bed, is just not a practical or beneficial thing for me. I know because I’ve tried it. By 3 p.m. I am exhausted and in dire need of a nap, and I am CRANKY. I am a total grouch when I get up early, so not only do I feel exhausted (YES, this even happens when I go to bed early), so I don’t have as much energy to play with/school my kids during the day, I am also grouchy to boot, so it’s a double negative.
In addition to that, while teaching my kids scripture and doing Bible lessons with them is extremely important to me, at this point, I am just not quite knowledgeable enough to turn every single thing in our every day life into a Bible lesson. Maybe one day, I will be able to figure out how to use “Don’t pick your nose” and “That’s why we don’t put matchbox cars down the garbage disposal” into life altering lessons of hope and faith and back them up with scripture references, but right now, I’m just getting through the day, trying to remind myself that “I can do ALL things [even homeschooling] through Christ who strengthens me.”
And as for staying crazy busy with activities, I just don’t WANT to do that! I can’t imagine constantly being on the go, driving from one thing to another. I love the idea of my kids being involved with other kids/people, engaged in sports, music, dance, art, etc… but for us, sticking with one thing at a time is much more feasible, not to mention manageable…
In regards to that whole keeper of the home thing… Well… I’ll just be honest and tell you now that personally, I stink at it. In fact, I’m still just trying to figure out how to get a load of laundry or dishes done without any disasters happening elsewhere in the house LoL I am slowly learning to let my kids help me in ways that they are able, like putting close in the washer or dryer; or putting away the silverware once it’s been through the dishwasher. The OCD Control Freak in me has to work really hard to let go and realize that it’s not the end of the world of every spoon in the drawer does not face the same direction, but the Mamma in me knows that they will never learn to do it correctly, if I allow my controlling nature to take over and just constantly do it myself in order for it to be done “right”…
My point is this: There is no picture perfect home school or family. While one thing might work for one family, it might be total disaster for another ~ even though both families have similar goals, beliefs, principles, desires, etc… It is so easy to get caught up in holding yourself to a standard that is not yours – and often, not your child’s (or spouse’s) - to meet, trying to fill a mold in which you simply do not fit. And, I speak from experience when I say that when you try so hard at trying to pull off that which just might not be your “thing”, you can be left feeling like such a failure or wondering what you’ve done wrong, or what is wrong with you… or why your kids can’t/don’t do this or that… I don’t know if there is much else that is more discouraging than the overwhelming sense of failure…
But it doesn’t have to end there. You don’t have to go down that road.
Yes, ask, discuss, observe those families around you who seem to have found a way to make it work – for them. If something sounds good and it’s a REASONABLE FIT FOR YOUR FAMILY, give it a try. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, try something else. Don’t try to force it just because so-and-so’s family does it this way or that way and it works for them so it should work for you. No. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY TO THOSE AROUND YOU. Homeschooling is not a cookie-cutter thing. Nothing in life is. In fact, if you are looking for a cookie cutter education for your children, maybe you should send them to school ~ because then they can be taught the exact same thing in the exact same way as hundreds of other kids (nothing against traditional schooling either; I am not criticizing the school system – there are some very good schools and some absolutely excellent teachers out there who are doing a wonderful job… I’m just making a general statement based on my very personal and limited experience with the school system on average today). Find what works for YOU. Don’t try to emulate someone else’s life or experience, because it’s just impossible to do so and will only set you up for failure and disappointment. Cater to the needs and preferences of YOUR family. And do NOT feel guilty or ashamed that you are not or cannot or simply don’t want to do all of the things other families are doing. Forget fitting into the mold. Throw the mold out ~ this is about growing your own successful home school, not taking root in someone else’s.
So, how does YOUR garden grow?
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