Saturday, June 8, 2019

Third Year In Homeschooling: Reflections


I think I'll start out with a public service announcement that this post is more for myself than anyone else. As the Lord does his good work in me and my family within the seemingly repetitive rhythms of our days, I want to remember and praise him in that. So that's the sole purpose of this post.

This year, as every year, has brimmed with stark contrasts of failure and joy, change and steadiness. We moved and settled, made new friends and tried to keep touch with old, rented and bought, explored new places and delighted in familiar ones, learned new things and touched on old ones. It's been a rich and full time.

As I glance back on our school year in particular, I see one vein running thickly through the whole of it, the blood pumping strongly through it being that of faithfulness. Not just the faithfulness of a creation (all the things we've learned and seen) in its song to the Creator, but also the faithfulness of that Creator-God and our learning faithfulness as a response to his. On second thought, this will probably be the primary hindsight in every year. Still, it's a good and comforting thing to see.

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In family bible readings we read the life of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, celebrated Advent and Lent together, and finally wrapped up the year with Psalms. We talked about waiting in hope, the place of fear in our lives, who God is, who we are, and the wonder of all of it. Do you even know what a joy it is to see kids ask genuine questions? Genuinely grow in the Lord? My heart sings just thinking back on all of it. As always, the struggle to not play the Holy Spirit in their lives has raged on, but praises abound that my struggles don't stand in the way of his work in them.


In literature, we worked through Pilgrims Progress, Hawthorne's retelling of myths in his Wonder Book, Robin Hood's adventures, and both a comedy and tragedy of Shakespeare's. There were other books between, but we devoured those compared to the pace of these regulars. A lot of connections were made between history and these stories, and new literary friendships were forged. In particular, we had a lot of fun comparing Pilgrims Progress and the Wonder stories to scripture. It was here that I saw the most milk-to-meat moments happen for the both of us.


In history, we stood on English soil while watching the world unfold and grow around us. It was fun, but I think we all struggled in truly delighting in this. As intimately intertwined with British history as we are and as wonderful as all the books were, I think this is where we'll be making the most changes next year.


In math we saw huge strides. Huge. Per tradition, we ditched the workbook halfway through the year and focused on really understanding addition and subtraction. We made arithmetic tables of beans, laughed over ridiculous word problems, and finished with graph paper pages of long addition and subtraction. I'm not sure if A saw it as she took a firm hold of the concepts, but I certainly saw order and patterns of a good God written all through them.


In nature history and geography, we made tracks across our country and all 'round our new home. We read about regional Native American tribes, mapping, animals of forests, and experienced a full cycle of seasons for the first time. There was a lot of, "did you see that?" "Look at this!" and "What are those?" moments. Nature notebooks became secondary and mostly neglected as we took it all in with our eyes, ears, hands, and feet, ending the year with as many questions as we had answers.


I think we had the most fun in the area of language arts. A made un-predicted bounds in her reading abilities, to the point that I mostly just handed her a couple books at a time to work through in daily slots of "quiet time." Narrations (retelling of things we read and observed) also became easier this year, possibly because of practice or maybe because we're both learning to relax in them. This learned ease (it really was learned) is probably what led to better writing too. Rather than writing-based workbooks this year, we focused on copying poems a little at a time and writing snatches of narrations in a notebook wholly devoted to just that. Most of that notebook, by the way, is full of my own messy notes of all she retold alongside the odd drawing she added, but it's all her words and a treasure trove for that reason.


There were a few extras thrown into the mix, like the odd Squilt lesson and even our independently devoting one full term to Handel, but not much else. We tried a couple of local homeschool groups, did a season of basketball, and deepened our activities at our church. Everything in this respect was pretty seasonal, in which we were able to find natural rhythms of work and rest.

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This may sound funny but as I close up and shelve all of this year's books, the overwhelming gratefulness I'm feeling is toward the fact that I'm not God. Being a rather single-minded person can lend to a lot of limiting rather than recognizing my own limits. So I had a lot of hard lessons this year in remembering that our God and his true word are singularly firm and unchanging while just about everything else withers and fades. All the responsibilities I hold in life - teaching, motherhood, marriage, homemaking, etc. - constantly give tiny tastes of the massiveness of God's authority. As much as my sinful nature keeps trying to snatch that authority, I'm increasingly aware that I really don't want it and my shoulders certainly aren't made to carry it. Knowing this (over and over again) is slowly building an imperfect yet joyful submission in me. There's so much more freedom in a life of this kind of surrender than in the power-grabbing sort.

As much as Christ himself says that living in him still requires a yoke on our neck and a burden on our back (Matt 11:28-30), they truly are so much easier and lighter than the ones of our own making. That said, I think it's safe to say that we're closing out the year with contentment and wonder in the great goodness of our God, while also looking forward to what next year holds.