No doubt about it, teaching is not an easy job. You are constantly bombarded by disrespectful students, disconnected parents, an at times semi-supportive administration and an education system handed down from the government that is focused more on testing and “critical thinking” than actual knowledge based learning. Not only does this distract a teacher from actually teaching, it also makes a students job harder and learning more difficult. These things are all part of why we chose to start homeschooling.
Though, with that in mind, we certainly aren’t unschoolers, as we do believe that there are some things that school teaches: one must learn how to sit quietly and patiently, focusing attention on something that you may not want to. While society wants us to think work-life is fun and exciting and we should do something we love, it does not always work out this way and many times we are stuck behind desks focusing on a task we have no interest in. Learning to force ourselves monotonous events we have no interest in is a mighty gift public education teaches us. Another of those school taught maladies we must be comfortable with is busy work! How many times do we have to do something superfluous in the real world if only because some regulation says so? (Sorry for the rant, but hey…).
Anyway, in order to actually teach a thoughtful lesson filled with substantive knowledge and interactive tasks, much research, planning, and development must be completed. Unlike a public school teacher who can reuse most of their unit plans from year to year – provided they don’t change grades – homeschoolers, have to develop units every year. We can reuse them for siblings but there’s still necessary creation for the eldest. Yes, there are box curriculums, and we utilize them to some degree, but we always find them to be sub-par. Unfortunately, this creation is where we get bogged down. Creating curriculum like we want takes time, and we need to borrow that time from one of our other many tasks: trying to run a small homestead – planting, firewood, butchering, etc., foster children with weekly appointments, making shoes for the masses, and other pet project we find ourselves engaged in.
With all of our “distractions” sometimes homeschooling takes the back seat. Planting seeds, keeping court appointments, stacking firewood to cure, filling shoe orders are all time sensitive and while homeschooling is also time sensitive to a degree, it can, in a sense, be “put off.” This is not to say it is altogether skipped, but over the last month or so, we find ourselves relying more on worksheets and handouts: the easy fill-in-the-blank stuff we wanted desperately to get away from when we started homeschooling. Yet, here we are. We still put in effort and there is still work being done on both ends, but compared to last year, we can’t help but to feel like we’re failing.
This past weekend we somehow (between three birthday parties, a drama performance and two doctors appointments) managed to dig a little deeper. Yes, we still included a number of worksheets for this weeks lessons, but we were also able to get out our Home Depot shower board out and get a skeletal framework for the next month. We made time to develop a couple of projects that will require our son to reason and think about what he has learned.
I’m sure to some degree these lulls in intensity are fairly normal. (Everything else ebbs and floes, why not homeschooling?) But, last year we hit homeschooling hard, this year, we hit it hard, and lost steam. We’re gathering steam again and know we can maintain it for the remaining seventy or so school days this year and it’s exciting. It gives us hope for next year and beyond, something that we started to doubt earlier this year.
If you’re a homeschooler, what keeps your steam from wavering? Do you use worksheets or other forms of busywork when you can’t get your act together?