I've often pondered this article on Simplifying Homeschooling. Partly because I have often seen it linked on other blogs that I read, so I am often being reminded of it. And partly because there was a year back around the time Paddy was born that it almost saved my sanity.
Recently I've been wondering if there can be a minimalist type of homeschooling. I think I've probably tired myself out by always looking for the absolute BEST way to homeschool; and this ends up becoming a Martha type thing where I run around "anxious and troubled about many things..." I know our Lord loves the well-intentioned Martha types, but even so, I sometimes feel He is gently reminding me that this is not of the essence. For some people, complexity is stimulating and manageable, but for me, it leads to a confused daze. My daughter and I had several interesting philosophical discussions this summer on the topic of keeping homeschool in its place -- that is, doing it well, and having a rich life, but not letting the homeschooling part of one's role swamp one's identity.
So I spent some time the other day writing out thoughts on the article above, trying to figure out what about it particularly spoke to me and how it can help me. So here are my notes:
First -- though the most effective educational methods are simple, that doesn't mean that everyone is simple in the same way. So I have to focus on what makes things simpler for ME and my family.
Second -- it's better not to add unnecessary clutter. And complicated, expensive teaching methods and materials can be clutter. There is a lot you can do with a notebook and pencil and a few ideas about what to teach next. Save the variations for the dull days, or skip them altogether and go out for a walk in the woods.
Third -- don't get in the way of learning. It's easy to run around being "worried about many things" and lose sight of the goal, and even obstruct it with your efforts. There is such a thing as cluttering up learning with your own personality.
Fourth -- distractions -- entertainment, excessive activity and emotional drama -- are clutter.
Fifth -- too many things, even good educational things, are clutter. How many games, books and CDs can we REALLY love?
Sixth -- grade expectations can be clutter. (But I do think it's good to have a rough idea of the sequence of expectations in mind, just as it's helpful to have a general understanding of developmental stages -- then you have a general sense of where you're going. But by this time I probably have this part down)
Seventh - the biggest part of quality is priority. If we do a few important things and take care with those, the rest will follow, or won't be missed. Literacy, regularity, and a sense of wonder seem like the key roads to wisdom. By regularity I don't mean bathroom habits but a kind of stability that you want to see in yourself and your children -- something like an internal compass. It looks different in different folks but it's always conspicuous when it's not there.
Eighth, record-keeping (and planning) don't have to be complex. A notebook with lists or even a box where you stuff everything the kids have done (dated, preferably) can work just fine. Or a blog!
Ninth, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." If I keep reminding myself of this every day, and more than once a day, that will be my prayer. Honestly, it all seems to come back to that when you think it through, because what good is anything without it? (I keep saying that, but that's because I keep thinking it more and more as I get older).
Tenth, a question: how can I make homeschooling stable, but flexible as well? I am improving in other areas because I have a clear object in mind, and specific plans that advance me towards that object, and because I try to keep it spare and easy to remember and do. Is there some way of doing that with homeschooling?