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.
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
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.