I've reached a point in our homeschool journey where I feel really GOOD about homeschooling.
It is no longer the way we choose to educate our children, it is the way we choose to live our lives.
It feels like this is just how things are SUPPOSED to be - like they were early in our nation's history when people just taught their kids at home and did life with them - together - all the time.
This view of homeschooling changes everything - and it has me asking a BIG question:
Do we fill our lives with activities and subjects that will TRULY matter when it's all said and done?
This has been heavy on my heart the past year.
Perhaps it is because I can see the "finish line" for my oldest, or maybe it is because I can see the last months of childhood slipping away for my youngest as he inches towards being a teenager.
I want every moment to COUNT. I want everything to be purposeful and meaningful.
I want TRUTH, BEAUTY, and GOODNESS.
Recently, I was feeling very much this way and recorded those feelings on Instagram:
And that's just it, isn't it? BEAUTY and PURPOSE in the busy-ness.
In order to achieve those ideals it's necessary to know the big picture. Why do we homeschool, and what is our expected outcome?
What do we REALLY want from homeschool, and what are we doing to nourish the souls we are raising under our own roofs each and every day?
This year I'm coining a term for myself: Big Picture Homeschooling
I want to school with the end in mind. I want to school with intention and focus.
Reading through Teaching From Rest (for a THIRD time) is helping me keep focus this year. I love how Sarah writes about ordering our children's affections and not being a slave to curriculum. Oh my - such a great book.
I get motivated and passionate when I think about Big Picture Homeschooling, but that needs to translate into our every day homeschool, and that is not as easy as it sounds!
Let's break it down into practical pieces. Wha does big picture homeschooling loos like on a macro and micro level?
What is REALLY Important?
In our homeschool I needed to decide what was TRULY important.
Please know this is MY important. It can't be anyone else's important or it won't work.
Do some soul searching. Pray. Figure out what your goals are for your children's education.
Put aside what the world says education needs to look like. Stick to what you KNOW education needs to look like for your precious children.
The four areas of importance in our family are the following:
Core Academics, Fine Arts, Physical/Spiritual Well Being, and Margin.
If something doesn't fit into these areas then it's not becoming a part of our days.
These two children are my mission field. I have one chance to get it right with them, and through God's grace and guidance from the Holy Spirit I pray our Big Picture Homeschooling will help us focus on what is truly important.
I've come to love the simplicity of doing less to see greater results.
All of our academics fall into the following areas:
Grammar & Writing
Language (we choose Latin)
When my children were younger we were more eclectic and at times almost unschoolers. As my children have grown, however, I have seen the time demands creep in and we can no longer pull off those carefree days from the preschool and early elementary years.
(I will NEVER regret our time spent using Five in Row, designing our own unit studies, or notebooking leisurely through The Story of the World. Those were magical days and there was definitely benefit in those years.)
When I think about everything I would have missed had we not homeschooled it makes my heart hurt... thank GOD I listened to that small, still voice that told me I could teach my kids at home!
Currently our core academics are set forth through participation in Challenge II (Anna) and Foundations/Essentials (Grant).
Being exposed to the fine arts is a priority in our homeschool.
What better way can our children experience truth, beauty, and goodness, than through music and art? Whether it be simply observing and appreciating, or creating and performing, children need ample time to explore what makes us HUMAN, not to mention the discipline that goes into the fine arts.
The kids take piano lessons and of course help with me field testing each and every SQUILT lesson! This year my Anna is branching out to guitar, too - fun!
Physical / Mental Well Being
One of my favorite things about Big Picture Homeschooling is that as we find opportunities to volunteer, be on sports teams, or whatever it might be that seems SO GOOD at the moment, I can truly choose just a few things to spend our time on.
How does this activity fit into our GOALS for our children? How does this activity help us fulfill God's call on our lives?
As my daughter has gotten older she is developing a passion for working with the special needs population. Through our church she works with a wonderful ministry - she works with a music group and also helps with a Bible study and small group ministry. For the past two years she has been a volunteer for a special needs VBS at our church.
She is expressing a desire to be a music therapist or a special education teacher.
These volunteer opportunities fit into her BIG PICTURE!
It isn't that she has "too much homework" or "not enough time" to do these worthwhile activities.
I love that we aren't beholden to an academic institution and hours of homework each evening because it allows us to truly tailor Anna's education to her desires and interests.
And don't we want our children to live their lives this way? Passionately, and with purpose?
Let's talk about organized sports, shall we?
I believe in the value of teamwork, and working hard to achieve a goal, but I don't believe in being a slave to a schedule, and putting a sport ahead of family time or time for worship.
Again, how will this sport fit into our big picture?
Having a pre-teen boy has made me keenly aware of the time suck organized sports can be, so we proceed with caution (because I do have a boy who loves sports and is good at them). I also was NOT happy with many of the team environments we experienced when my son was younger.
If I had a child that was passionate about a certain sport we would seek opportunities and make time.... but we're not at that point right now.
Right now, tennis has been a great compromise for us. Learning a sport that can be played your whole life is important, as well as a sport that can be played individually or as a team.
It is important to be physically fit, so my children know that something physical will be a priority - whether it is tennis, winter basketball, or something else.
I've long been a fan of the book Margin.
As my husband and I strive for margin in our own lives, we want to teach our children to have margin, too.
It's OK to have down time. In fact, it's good to have time to be bored.
You don't have to be everything to everybody and you don't have to say "Yes" every time someone asks you to do something.
As I look at the big picture of our homeschool there must always be plenty of time for MARGIN.
I will never regret the hours spent on our back deck reading aloud to my children, and I am so thankful I didn't crowd out that precious time with busyness and silly commitments.
(and by the way... even the middle school boys love to be read to - we're loving our current read aloud!)
Implementing on a Daily Basis
It's so easy to get caught up in the "busy" of every day life.
Finally - this year - I feel like our days have purpose, structure, and discipline. Yes, they are busy, but that busyness has a purpose.
Here are a few things we do to bring peace and order to our days - to keep that BIG PICTURE in mind.
I'm so thankful for my friend, Pam, who has taught me so much about Morning Time.
Our simple morning basket helps us spend time together each morning focusing on Bible, Latin, Fine Arts, and current events.
We're at home every morning of the week (except for our CC community day). No outside commitments creep into that time, and the earliest we are leaving our house is 4:00 for afternoon/evening activities.
With a 10th and 6th grader we need this time at home to really dig into our school work. We will take breaks to play tennis or run a quick errand or two, but I don't let anything get in the way of our protected school hours.
(Yes, things come up. I know that. But for the most part we stay home!)
Outsourcing Hard Things
Math and Latin weren't really getting along so well with me the past couple of years.
Anna takes outside math through Mr. D Math and a Henle Latin class through Memoria Press Online Academy.
We no longer struggle in these areas, and it has made all of the difference! Sometimes it's just necessary to have an EXPERT come alongside a homeschooling mom to eliminate confusion.
"Staying in Our Lane"
This is my new favorite expression. It's the death of any homeschool when you start to compare yourself to anyone else, or start to copy what works well for your friend down the street.
Find your lane and stay in it! Don't go in someone else's lane. Stop comparing and start doing!
I see this as we homeschool high school. It could be so tempting to look at friends who have kids in traditional school and feel that somehow my children are "missing out" because of a certain subject we aren't studying. Or maybe it is because my kids aren't taking a lot of "AP" classes. Or maybe it is because we aren't hyper focused on college being the ultimate goal of a high school education.
It takes a whole lot of faith - not fear - to homeschool upper grades!
I keep telling myself this: we decided to homeschool because we wanted to step away from the crowd, so why would we follow the crowd from the confines of our own home?
The Big Picture Challenge
I challenge you to look at the BIG PICTUE of your homeschool - and of your life.
How does what you do with your children each and every day fit into that big picture?
Are you checking off boxes, meeting requirements, and spinning your wheels, or are you intentionally focused on pursuits that will benefit your children for the rest of their lives?
If we look at our homeschools from this vantage point I believe it changes everything, don't you?
Talk to me about your big picture.
Do you have one?
What is it?
Have I challenged you to think differently about your homeschool?
The following books have been extremely helpful to me as I think about our big picture: