I plunged into homeschooling with enthusiasm. I even made a whole set of plans for the school year, shopped for the year, and made all the copies I needed for their notebooks in advance.
I even imagined that I would be able to get my two younger children (at 4 and 18 months) to nap at the same time so that we could do the bulk of our schoolwork during the babies’ naps.
I can already imagine some of you laughing at my naive vision of homeschooling. Those first months were a trial by fire as I was unhappy, the children were unhappy, and no one was learning. Yet, I still continued to stubbornly refuse to admit that I was wrong. I had made an idol of my perfect day, and years later I still struggle against that image of what the perfect homeschooler should be.
Along the way, after one too many late nights up with my infant daughter, I decided to just put the schedule on hold and find something fun to do. It was football season, and my seven-year-old son had been trying to piece together some information about football from watching with my husband. I had a burst of inspiration and searched the internet until I found a great football unit study that we could use to add some fun to our day.
Even though the football unit study was only supposed to last one week, we used that study for a whole month. I shoved the guilt aside at not completing a whole day of the study at once with the children, and we completed as much as we wanted to complete, often spending extra time watching YouTube videos, completing crafts, and reading additional books from the library as the mood hit us.
After we completed the football unit study, I asked my six year old daughter what she wanted to learn, and she chose insects. We proceeded with that insects unit study in much the same way because I had learned three things from my experience with the football unit study.
Children Learn More When They’re Interested
When we started our “fun” unit study, I completely ditched math and language arts at the same time. I found my children continuing to learn math, reading, and writing skills as they still used those skills to read and write and solve math problems in our unit study. It was far easier for my children to learn how to multiply by three when calculating the number of field goals in a game than it was from the math texts they had been using.
My son had struggled to understand that the United States was our country, but learning about football made him aware of where New York, New Orleans, Tennessee, and Texas were on a United States map. He also began learning the shapes of our country and some states from this experience.
I found that later on that year my children were able to absorb an amazing amount about insects, robots, ninjas, and princesses just from being interested in them. Through these connections that they were making, they were learning more about the world. They were also learning the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic just by using them in their daily lives.
Homeschool Lesson Plans Are Overrated
By the end of January, we had completely ditched my whole “homeschool lesson plan for the year” that I had prepared way back in July. We had still learned. We had still grown. The children were still picking up skills, and everyone in our house was far happier than we had been before we ditched the plans.
I learned that it was okay that we didn’t complete the plans. This didn’t keep me from planning. I was still using the children’s interests to plan our days. However, I wasn’t worried about our plans anymore. If we found something better, something that we were more interested in, something that accomplished a great goal, then we were still learning and having fun.
I would learn later that it was okay for us to start out trying to learn about the Revolutionary War and get totally sidetracked by learning about different Indian tribes. Sometimes, we’d even ditch the lesson plan to do something like make quill pens that we’d seen on My Little Pony. It was okay. It’s impossible to learn everything that you set out to learn, so the best we can do as parents is to often impart knowledge that is important, uplifting, and relevant to our lives and interests.
There’s More Than One Path For Success
I’ve seen many homeschool families that succeed quite well and have everyone in their family be happy with a planned out year, without deviating from the lesson plans and by making their way through everything sequentially on the state’s scope and sequence list. However, I have also learned from experience and from seeking out other more delight-directed families that there are many families that are happy and successful without following a particular homeschool lesson plan.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to be the family you are and the type of homeschooler you are. I’ve learned it’s okay to let the Lord lead and to allow Him to set your family’s educational path. I’ve learned that for my family it is much better for us to stray from the lesson plans. If we want to get back to them, they’ll always be there waiting for us. In the meantime, we’ll just follow our interests in educating, and we’ll still be just as successful as we would have been if we had never fallen off our homeschool lesson plan.
This is a guest post, written by homeschool mom and former blogger, Rebecca Ray.