In life, flexibility is the mother of all things good. In homeschooling, it is do-or-die. Want the dictionary definition for “do-or-die?” Here it is: requiring supreme effort to avoid the dire consequences of failure. As a recovering perfectionist and schedule-oriented person, I feel flexibility does take a supreme effort on my part. But I want to avoid the dire consequences of failure. So, I get flexible.
One of the greatest books a homeschooling newbie can read is Things We Wish We’d Known by Bill and Diana Waring. I am reading it right now. Fifty veteran homeschoolers share lessons from their own mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I sure want to learn from other people’s mistakes. What I get from most stories so far is that flexibility equals homeschool success.
Take this example… This homeschooling family was traveling through South Dakota on a cross-country road trip adventure. The children did not finish their workbook assignments, so the parents did not allow them to see Mount Rushmore. They continued on their not-so-merry way and showed the children who the boss was. Astonished? Yeah, me too.
I would have used that instance to teach grace, i.e. unmerited favor, and remind them of the great gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. I would say something like, “Grace is a gift from God and we do not deserve it. You children did not finish your workbooks, but we will show you grace and take you to see Mount Rushmore anyway. Grace is what God gives to us through His Son, because He loves us. And we love you. So we show you grace… We will see Mount Rushmore and then you finish your assignment.”
As our first official homeschooling week was drawing to a close, I realized I was already making adjustments to the plans I had so carefully laid out, based on our circumstances (my sister and her family left after spending the summer with us) and my students’ responses (the emotional letdown of saying goodbye took a toll on them; plus, they found it hard to get on a schedule after unschooling for a month).
To help me flex my weak flexibility muscle, I came up with 4 steps:
1. Teach according to the lesson plans you made. You have to start somewhere. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Make a plan and work it, even if you feel it is incomplete because you do not have the time or the expertise to take everything into consideration. As a homeschooling mom in my first year of teaching, I definitely fall in this category.
2. Tinker according to the events of the day. Many things happen in a household that interrupt homeschooling. Some are as banal as a UPS delivery. Others are life-changing like a pregnancy or a death. Take a deep breath (or many) and wait for the moment to re-start where you got interrrupted. Or how about this example? DS says, “I am tired” after reading six three-letter words to me (mud, cud, run, sun, rub, tub). Is he tired or lazy? That’s for me to determine based on what I know about his life in the past 24 hours.
3. Tweak based on the responses of your students. Some nights, my children just don’t sleep well. Or they are just being kids. Or something. They do not cooperate during the morning devotional. No matter what consequences I dangle in front of them, they will not listen. I go to my room to pray and ask for wisdom. They know I do that because I tell them. When I come back, they ask me, “What did Jesus tell you?” and I can see it in their eyes. They have come to their senses. They are ready to obey before I even tell them what the plan is. I learned this technique from one of the best books on parenting I have ever read, Kay Kuzma’s Easy Obedience.
4. Troll back to your lesson plans. Were you too ambitious or too lax? Adjust based on what you learned in the previous steps. Change is the only constant.
So tell me, is flexibility an issue for you? How have you had to adapt and change your plans in your homeschool? Please leave me a comment below.
I enjoyed this post. Flexibility is easier said than done, so good for you to learn it this quickly. I can’t survive without flexibility. On the other hand I still struggle with it, after all the time that I put into planning and thinking, (and I’m confident my plans are good ones,) I hate to change them, but things are always changing up on me. That’s pretty much life in general though, I guess. Maybe I’m an over planner. I think I’ll go have a look at the book by Diana Waring. Do you get the Homeschool Minute? She writes a column in it each week. I try to read it each week, unless I’m too swamped. My favorite person that posts in there is Todd Wilson though. His humor is always a breath of fresh air for some reason. If I don’t have time for anybody else’s column, I always read his.
I feel every word in your comment, because I tend to over plan as well.
We have a saying in Romanian, that the counting you do at home is different from the one at the market. It stems from the farming culture of the last centuries, when farmers thought about all the money they would get for their crops. But once they got to the market, it was a different story altogether.
I think it’s universal wisdom, because other cultures have something similar:
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Scotland
“Man’s plans cannot compare to heaven’s plans.” – China
“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” – Israel (Proverbs 16:9)
Thanks for the comment!
Yes, I do get the Homeschool Minute. As a rare homeschooling dad author, Todd gets my attention. Not sure if I have a favorite of all their authors yet though.
Well, hi there! Love, love, love your blog! I am starting my first “formal” year of homeschooling, too. Anthem is in 1st and Solace is in K. I’m taking a VERY relaxed approach to things this year. We’re actually just doing workbook stuff for math and handwriting but I am doing a curriculum for reading. I tried one last year, they hated it. This year is going much better. (different curriculum, plus they’re older…) Soooooo….I’m pregnant! 23 weeks along with TWINS! They’re due in January. Thus, the very relaxed approach to homeschooling this year. I really love reading your blog. You’re doing a great job. Very inspiring. Your children are beautiful!
Congratulations on your new pregnancy! 🙂 You will be doubly blessed and you have two big helpers while daddy is away. Thank you for the kind words. Please spread the word about this blog.