Today ended our very first week of 4th grade! I know what you are thinking, it is Monday, so why would today end the week? Well, last year we discovered the wonders of fitting a school week to your best schedule. Duh, right? Our school week goes from Thursday to Monday because my husband is off on Tuesdays and Wednesday, which allows us to have his days off for family time. Back to the point; wow, school has been remarkably simple for this first week. I have been very surprised by the ease by which we have transitioned into this school year.
Our first school year was cramped, cranky, busy, and somewhat unpleasant. I felt like I wasn't challenging the children enough, and I felt as though I was doing too much work on my own. Once we got the hang of things, and got a copier, things got easier on us all, but it was still not optimal. In our second year, we had a lot more preparation and money for supplies and books, making it much easier to do. The problem with our second year of school is that even though they were necessary subjects, the school work became grueling for the kids, and the grading became overwhelming for me, ending in a 6 week stack of papers to grade over the summer before I could get grades finalized.
When we started this homeschooling journey, many people told me that the way you should go about it is to de-school yourself, to let go of traditional restraints. For me, this was difficult. It took me two years to change our schedule to avoid the stress of trying to get school done while my husband was home distracting the kids. Why? Because you don't go to school on a weekend! This was something that I had to get past, something I had to relearn as a homeschooling parent. One simple change in schedule opened up a whole new world for us, and has made our schooling so much better.
This year, I'm shaking off another learned response- grades and tests. I'm not going all touchy, feely, unschooly with it, but I am really cutting back the amount of pressure I put on the kids and myself. Last year, I resorted to paying my children to try and improve their grades (really there was only one that seemed to struggle to keep the grades up), but in the end, my two good grade kids flourished, and my not so good grade kid suffered and whined. So I'm taking off the pressure this year. There is less emphasis on grades, more emphasis on knowledge and retaining it. Honestly, this is the way it should have been all along, but I was stuck in a public school rut. I was raised in the public school system until the 8th grade, so my mindset has been mainly influenced by that type of education. But the longer I homeschool, the more that I learn, or rather, unlearn, and I get a chance to see the reality of what I want my children's education to be. It's amazing, the freedom we have as parents and teachers, to be able to be moved and learn new things right along with our children.
So, this year is about shaking off the shackles of forced learning, of grade expectations, and of time limits. Our first week went beautifully, (our second week has too, as I'm actually writing the last few paragraphs as I finish the last couple of days of the second week-oops). I believe that this year is going to be amazing; a learning experience for all of us in this family. And like so many other times, I sit back, look at all that we are allowed to do as a family because of homeschooling, and feel ultimately blessed. There is nothing quite like being able to shape and form your children into a mold that is perfectly made for them, as individuals, and not into a prefit mold. This is what we were made to do.
Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Deuteronomy 11:19