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Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth of homeschooling is this: there is no track. There are various guidelines or expectations provided by the state government, but other than that, the studies and choices in what to do with a day or a year are left to the family. This idea is liberating and, at times, paralyzing. Considering most parents are new to homeschooling when they begin with their own children, it’s natural to look around for the handrails to show us where to begin.

Mark and I have always wanted to foster the enjoyment of learning, even for its own sake. As two idealists with degrees in English Literature, Writing, Philosophy, and European History between us (as well as plenty of foreign language studies), we love ideas and language, cultural arts and people. This seems important for context, in the same way that it is helpful to know when a parent enjoys discussing Euclidean geometry, music, business finance, farming practices, tech development, or home economics. As parents, we set the context and environments for our home, meaning there will be things we naturally impart to our children because of our own interests and experiences. These may take a little intention with books or discussion or experiences to develop, but they happen more organically within the home as an extension of who we are. The contrasting part to that truth is that we each have underdeveloped parts of us and entire bodies of studies that we know very little about––or as a good friend a few years ahead of me once consisely noted, “there will always be holes.” Part of this journey is accepting that I am not responsible for teaching my children everything they need to know about the world. I couldn’t possibly. The greater task is teaching them how to learn (basic fundementals–reading, asking questions, number functions, personal care, etc.) so that when they step into new arenas or interests in life–because they will–they will feel confident in how to start learning.

I mention all of this because I have always wanted the enjoyment of learning to usurp the task of learning. Both are required of course. I have often researched curriculum or books that best suit our famiy goals or the child’s interests. I have created plans and checklists not because everyone should use them but because it is the way I think and lead others, including my children. We set high expectations that our children will work hard at whatever they do, including their school work, but it is my theory that most children or adults fall out of interest with the rigor of learning something new at the point where they stopped understanding and forming connections. When frustration or discouragement are clouding our learning (collectively or with one child in particular), it has always been more fruitful in our home to put aside the plan and find the source of discouragement. Sometimes it has little to do with the task itself. Sometimes that has meant pausing for a day and starting fresh the next day; other times, that has meant tossing a curriculm or plan altogether and beginning with a new path. Sometimes it has looked like perseverance.

For me, keeping “on track,” requires a great deal of intuition, conversations with my children and observations of them. The “track” is always shifting and swerving in direction, but isn’t that true in life, too? We ask them about their interests and challenge them in areas they have natural aptitudes. If they struggle, we come alongside them with support. Our holes have always been in the maths and sciences, so I’ve always looked for stronger, clearer supports in those areas. In maths, we have always followed a curriculum, often looking for tutoring supports as they have gotten older. We complete the curriculum and move on to another level. With science, history, and literature in the grammar school years, we have relied more on literature, discussion, copywork or hands-on projects (illustration, experiments, etc) to learn. Sometimes we’ve used a curriculum to help guide us and other times we’ve simply followed our interests. As my children have entered the high school years, they have followed a science curriculum, but at that point, their own goals are beginning to take clearer shape, too.

not_to_yield

I gave Mark a wallet for father’s day in June with the last line from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Ulysses, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I might have inscribed the last seven lines, if it would have fit, and so I inscribed the words on my memory instead, and of course here with you.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I do not know what it is to set sail onto the sea without knowing where I am going, as Ulysses and so many great explorers and adventurers across time have. And yet––metaphorically, I do. I know what it is to face a new homeschool year and wonder where our family might land, or what it is like to bring a new baby into the earth and wonder who they might become and whether I can stay the course. I know what it is to stare at a young business or a forgotten house and feel compelled to go and do something with it, even when I’m unsure where it might take me, or how it might remake or destroy me. Perhaps the point of living isn’t so much about where we are going, but the fact that we are going at all. To live purposefully in any manner requires courage.

Wherever you find yourself on this Monday morning, cheers to you, to your heroic heart. May you find strength of will to accomplish the things in your hands today and the courage to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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I said “I am falling”; but your constant love, oh Lord, has held me up. — psalm 94:18

Sometimes life is so busy, so hard, I feel I might be consumed by it. We have been smothered by work and boxes and housing contracts and of course are searching for our new family rhythm as we merge households with my sister’s family. I haven’t quite had the time to process it all, but these words above have been a source of life for me in what often feels like falling.

I’m taking a break from this space the rest of June while my family and I travel various cities and wildernesses. I will be back in July with a full heart (and camera) to share with you. (You can follow our travels via Instagram.) Until then, thank you all for your encouragement and readership. Happy June to you!

blythe

Some of you have already read how we formally started on this homeschooling journey 5 plus years ago. (If you haven’t, you should read it first.) There, I share many of the facts and resources leading us to our decision, but what I’ve shared little of is the emotion in this process. The fear. The doubt. The faith. I’ve now met many mothers and fathers who knew they would educate their children from home before they even had children. That was not me. Until Liam was three, I had never once given it a thought. I didn’t really know anyone who had been educated this way and sadly I still subscribed to the same generalizations and stereotypes many people do concerning homeschoolers: awkward, culturally out-of-touch, geniuses. (Isn’t that embarrassing?) Without even pausing, I had assumed school to be a necessary rite of passage for anyone wanting to be — well, normal. Afterall, didn’t it work for me?

The truth is, no matter how many persuasions or successful accounts you read or hear in defense of home education, in the end, YOU still have to do the work. You have to determine what it looks like in your home, for your children, for your budget and your time. The glory and freedom [gratefully] allowed to home educators in the US can equally cause paralysis and fear, especially when you haven’t experienced it yourself or through observing another family close to you. That was me. For every bit of my idealism and enthusiasm about home education, I felt the equally lurking doubts and fears of can I really do this well? Will my children hate me for it? Am I depriving them of a necessary social responsibility? I wish I could say these feelings have obliterated and I’m completely confident and carefree about my abilities as a parent and educator; I’m not. Regularly, we pray and ask the Lord for discernment about all of these things, and honestly, this is where we have landed each time. Although I work hard, researching and planning and teaching, I’m aware of the Lord’s grace over me in this process. We didn’t choose to homeschool out of fear of public school rather because we asked for wisdom and agreed together this is where the Lord was leading us. I’m mindful of an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s poem, Pioneer, O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing as we go the unknown ways,
Pioneers! O pioneers!

I am not a pioneer in terms of the homeschooling movement itself, but I am for our little family. And with each step forward in faith, venturing unknown ways, persevering, self- educating, staring down the fear and doubt, I am hopeful our children will inherit something greater, even if it is unknown to me right now. At the very least, in all of this, they can also discover that education is more than a class or a worksheet or a book; it’s a life-long process, and we never outgrow it.