This fall will mark the beginning of our fourteenth year of homeschooling. As difficult it is for me to believe that we’ve been at it that long, it is even harder to wrap my brain around the idea that we have at least fourteen years to go given that our youngest is three years old. Currently, we are wrapping up our current year with just a few straggling assignments in various subjects, depending on the student. I am knee-deep in lesson planning and book buying. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Homeschool Conference is just a few months away. It is at this conference where I get to reconnect with old friends; receive and dole out encouragement for the new year; and buy Catholic merchandise and books that most stores don’t carry. I absolutely enjoy the catholicity of this conference. Most homeschool conferences are generic Christian conferences, often to the exclusion of Catholic vendors. Go figure. Anyway, the IHM Conference is dripping in the faith, so in addition to buying my books, I get a spiritual renewal as well—complete with the Sacrament of Confession. I can’t think of a better way to start a fresh school year.
As I begin to plan the new school year, I reflect back on past years. What worked really well? What didn’t work at all? I have never been afraid to make changes, but I have made the mistake of changing things too much or too often. In the attempt to achieve the perfect schedule I have come to realize that perfection does not exist; at least not for more than a week. The children’s needs and abilities are constantly changing. Life’s demands are never predictable. Flexibility within a structure is a necessity in homeschooling, forcing the homeschooling parent to be a vigilant student of herself and her students.
As in a sacramental marriage where the spouses challenge each other to grow and change in order to sanctify themselves and one another; homeschooling done well challenges both the teacher and the students (parents and children) to grow and change—to sanctify one another. Of course, we are called to do this in the family unit no matter how the children are educated, but homeschooling ups the ante by putting parents and children together for extended periods of time. With my health struggles, this year has offered unique opportunities to stretch our virtue muscles. Even on the days where very little formal schooling took place, my children were learning valuable life lessons that cannot be taught through books or worksheets.
Over the next few weeks I will share with you my experiences, what has worked well for us over the years, and –in true humility—what has not worked well at all. I hope you will share my blog posts with others who may benefit from my experience and weigh in with ideas and experiences of your own.