The Flexible Homeschooler

I read something today that went along the lines of this: remember that curriculum should serve us; we shouldn’t serve the curriculum.

This brought back memories of my first year of homeschooling. My eldest daughter was in 2nd grade, my son was in Kindergarten, and my youngest daughter was about to turn one. I’d deliberately delayed the decision to homeschool by a year because everyone told me how much easier it would be when I no longer had an infant. In hindsight, I think these people were crazy – my daughter as an infant was far easier to contain than she was as a toddler. But that’s another article for another day.

I’m an organized person. I like lists and schedules. When I first started homeschooling, I created a schedule for our days. I knew exactly what time was carved out for each subject as well as when we’d break for snacks and lunch. I’d studied the curriculum I’d purchased and transferred its teaching plan to my master calendar. In this way, I knew not only that I’d finish each curriculum according to its publisher’s guidelines, but that each day would be planned out.

For the first week or so, all was well. Then we were invited on a field trip. Hmmm… how was that going to work? If we went on the field trip, we’d be behind by a day. When would we make it up? Over the weekend? At night? An extra day at the end of the year? We accommodated that field trip. Then there was another. Then one of the kids needed to go to the doctor. Then company came. Soon, I was stressing out over the fact that it didn’t appear that we were going to finish our curriculum according to the schedule suggested by the publishers.

I am ashamed to admit that it took me far longer than it should have to give up my master plan. For a while, I made all of us miserable with my insistence that we follow the schedule provided by the curriculum. And then, one day, I had a light-bulb moment. We’d made the decision to homeschool for many reasons but one of them was to have the freedom to learn at a pace that made sense for our family. And adhering to a strict schedule, no matter how much sense it might have made on paper, was not in our family’s best interest.

So back to the drawing board (or planning calendar) I went. I revised our schedule so that we’d have four days of school planned each week. The fifth day would be left flexible for field trips, play dates or whatever. If none of those presented themselves, we’d go to the library or park or play educational games. This simple solution, so easy to implement, was a major liberating factor for my family. Suddenly, we were all enjoying homeschooling.

Homeschooling has taught my children many things. And it has helped to teach me flexibility, a lesson I sorely needed. As you embark on (or continue) your journey, flexibility will be one key to the success of your program. I wish you well in learning to embrace it.

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