Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to School (and why all teachers should have a Keurig in their teaching space)

Last week was back to school week around here and let’s just say, I’m happy a weekend is a full 48 hours.
We took a very liberal approach to learning time this summer, and spent most of our time learning in ways we always seem to neglect when school is “officially in session”.
It was refreshing and exhausting at the same time.
But now we are back into the swing of things, or headed in that direction at least, and I’m excited and exhausted in a completely different way.

After our lessons last week, I was left thinking one, very important, thing:
Do public school teachers have Keurigs in their classrooms?
(Because, they should.)
I tried to start the day out with a cup of tea. It’s part of my attempt to approach the day in a more restful way. Not to mention, I love coffee with milk and sugar and that is not working well with my goal to eat (& drink) more healthfully.
But tea is not coffee, for sure.
And about ten minutes into our lesson, I gulped down my cup of tea and refilled my cup with a nice, strong, cup of coffee (I had it waiting, just in case. This isn’t my first year teaching.)
And that is when I thought about the Keurig and teachers all around the world in classrooms of all shapes and sizes.

Enough about that, here is what I really came to write about: education.
I spent an inordinate amount of time reading and studying and listening to podcasts and lectures and watching youtube videos and even reading old dusty books this past spring all about this one thing.
I came away with some amazing ideas, I honed in closer to what my educational philosophy really is, found some great resources, and walked away completely overwhelmed.
By June, I had to step away from all that information and I spent the next weeks digesting and processing all of what I had learned.
The first thing I did was process the disappointment I was feeling.
I wasn’t someone who had planned to homeschool. When we started, two weeks into the school year all those years ago, I was, quite frankly, terrified to jump into our lessons. I didn’t think I could teach handwriting, reading, math, history, science, and everything else the pacing guide provided to me had listed on it for one school year.
I looked at what was required and cried.
Then, by Grace, we moved forward one lesson at a time  (with many homeschool mamas, other teachers and patient friends coming along side me to mentor me during this time) and we made it through the first year.
And then, I was hooked.
I love homeschooling.
Please don’t misunderstand this statement. I  am not saying it is easy. Homeschooling is, hands down, one of the most difficult things I have done to date.

Homeschool is work and growth and change and even (I believe) a smattering of sanctification all mixed up into one glorious and terrifying day.
For each one of us (not just the students).
But, this route, it is worth it.
Kind of like child birth.
I don’t recommend the process, but the result is a precious miracle.
So here we are, seven years in and pretty much at the half-way point of my oldest child’s education.
Here at this point, I have learned so much; the most precious of which is that I still have so much to learn.
So after listening and reading and learning about all the amazing forms and ways of education, instead of looking at the success we have had, the learning we have accomplished and the joy we have experienced, all I saw was all we hadn’t done.
·      *We didn’t start a real nature study until last year
·      *We don’t use memory as the key tool it can be
·     * I didn’t teach handwriting in the right way
·      *I should have started with a different math curriculum
·      *Why didn’t I know about morning time (or morning baskets, or symposium etc.)?
·      *Why had I never heard about these ideas before?
·      And many, many other great ideas that I learned but had yet to implement into our education life.
And so, for about a week, I wondered what in the world I was doing even attempting this homeschool thing?

And then I remembered (remembering is so important!) my favorite quote by Charlotte Mason
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
Sweet. Simple. To the point.
There are many techniques to providing a solid, well-balanced education to each homeschooled child. Morning time and nature study are some of my favorites, but they are not the only way.
The true beauty about a home-based education is the ability to tailor the needs according to the family, the child, the year, even just the needs of that particular day.

Of course, there are basics that need to be addressed every day. But, the fact of the matter is that what will be most beneficial to your child, after showing their hearts to love the True, Good and Beautiful, is to surround them with these things right where they live and where they work and where they play, and not only making sure they have really great handwriting (although, I won’t lie, that would be nice.)

Atmosphere: is not just how you decorate your school space (ours is a precious 130 square foot room that I lovingly refer to as our “Tiny Room School”.) but it is also the community you surround yourself with. Family and friends and even strangers that turn into friends that can teach things you might never be able to teach. It really does take a village and it can be done without a separate space to call a “school room” (fancy decorations, Ikea rolling carts and a laminator are not as vital as many affiliate links lead you to believe. Books, however, are vital.).
The atmosphere is also affected by our entire family’s own quest for learning, by living out the motto that we are “life long learners” in front of our children and by investing in this quest (especially with our time) everyday.

Discipline: I don’t even want to write about it, honestly. This is my least favorite part of education. It is hard. It requires not only consistency (even amidst change and hard things) but also dedication and determination. It means that I can’t take the easy route. When I tell the kids we will do math every day, we need to do math every day. I can’t shirk cursive practice just because it takes ten times longer than printing. Sitting through the tenth reading of a reader struggling through tough words, explaining math when I’d rather be doing art (and so would the kids), and remembering to still do our chores, is all discipline. Putting down my phone and limiting my scrolling and instead picking up a book or playing a board game, that is discipline, too. Focus is also a form of discipline. I can’t expect my children to dig deep and learn well if I am flooding them with good resources but not making time to actually zero in and pick the best one (for us, for this grade and this season of life and time) and use it properly.

A Life: This is my favorite one. It takes the pressure off the other two, especially discipline. You see, when I remember that education isn’t only supposed to happen in a few short years, or only within the walls of a school room, I suddenly am not pressured to make it all happen right now. Sure, it is better to get the hang of reading down sooner than later (it will happen if it is approached with discipline and sound teaching) but it doesn’t need to happen today. Every day is a piece of a picture that, when combined with the other days of our lives, will make it a complete picture. It doesn’t happen all at once.  When insta-learning is attempted, the picture will not only end up not being what you thought it would be, it will definitely not be what it should be.

Another quote from Charlotte Mason is
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
When I stay true to creating a wholehearted atmosphere, applying discipline to our learning and my teaching, and living this out every day, then my children grow to be self-educators. And since I have no idea what this world will be like tomorrow, much less in ten or fifteen years, this is a very valuable life skill to possess.
And so, as we enter into this new school year, with too many things scheduled for each day (I am still learning) and with high hopes for the math curriculum and the handwriting practice and the co-op days, I can look back at these nuggets of wisdom and remember; it isn’t necessarily the subjects or the activities we do or do not get to this year. It is in how we approach them, what atmosphere we create in our hearts and home, what discipline and habits we work on for both our brains and our stubborn hearts and most definitely how we live these ideas out each and every day.

Here’s to surviving another back to school week, to another day ahead of trying tea before coffee, and  to a new, (large) reminder of  “Cow Theory”  (my new found painting titled “Selfie”) that is facing me everyday as I sit at my desk to both learn and to teach.

Happy School Year!

“It is especially strange that we burden our children with this question of what they will one day do, when so much of our lives is already prescribed. What will my children do? I can already see most of it. They will sleep. They will eat. They will live in relationships with others. They will celebrate special days and live ordinary days that tick with repetitive tasks. The truly important question seems not to be what will they do, but how will they do it.
 Will they bless the food they eat and so receive it within the context of a relationship with God? Will they pursue truth and justice and beauty as things belonging, not to a dark world, but to the light that has come into the world? Will they keep and care for their environments, homes, offices, and neighborhood parks? For their urban centers and national forests and for those who live in them? In these ways and every moment of their days, will they proclaim the gospel, the good news of Christ’s reign and redemption?
   Whether they are engineers or writers or, even, unemployed or bedridden by illness, I pray they will live as priests in this world (1 Peter 2:9). I pray they learn from me and their father what it is to offer with our whole lives the sacrifice of witness. This witness, in word and deed, in happiness and suffering, is always this:
God is God, and he is love, and through Christ all can be redeemed. Everything, including our own hearts, can be made new.”
-From Roots and Sky by Purifoy

Verses to Stir your heart
Psalm 32:8-1 Peter 2:9-Micah 6:8