Yesterday marked our first day of school. This year, I added a new K4 student (Stephen), which makes for a total of 7 students in as many grades (11th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, K4). This is a new record for our family, and a landmark because it also means we have reached critical mass in our homeschooling. By the time our next youngest child is old enough to "start school," Solomon will (Lord willing) have graduated High School. Unless we have multiples in our future, I will never have more than 7 home educated students at one time. It's all downhill from here!
Our first day of school yesterday was mundane and lacking any special excitement or hubbub. This might sound terrible, but it was actually wonderfully relaxing and blissful, which is not how I would describe "First Day of School" in my early years of homeschooling.
You see, at this point, home education has become a way of life for us that is woven into everyday life. While I do have each child in a set grade, and while I have lesson plans that outline how much work needs to be done by the end of any given week, I have learned not to be rigid when it comes to the nitty-gritty. A master schedule can quickly become just a master, which is frustrating and angering when there are so many things we juggle all day long that could cause an unscheduled interruption. Nobody needs to compound their work being needlessly frustrated by a self-appointed task master!
The easiest way I can illustrate this is with running errands. Every homemaker has a certain amount of errands that will take her out of the house. On average, I guess we all leave the home on as many days as we do not. This compares well to a school year of 180 days of instruction. None of us get up at the beginning of the year to celebrate the first day of running errands, which will be followed by 179 more days like it before the end of the year. We all understand that a certain amount of errands must and will get done every week, but just when they get done will have to follow a lose pattern (for example, buying produce from a co-op on Saturday mornings), while still allowing room for flexibility. If the baby is teething on the usual day for grocery shopping, maybe the trip can be put off until the next day, combined with another errand later in the week, or maybe Dad will run it instead. Getting things done, but being flexible. Being fluid and keeping the flow going, rather than derailing the train every time there is a major curve-ball.
In much the same way, we get our school work done each week. But if Monday is the first beautiful day in a while for playing outside, we might go to the zoo instead of doing bookwork. If I need help with chores or the baby or volunteer work for church, one of the older kids will be called in from his books to do so. We did not reject institutionalized learning for our kids to then have a "play school" at home that enforces a set time frame on us.
If we understand that learning is not limited to ages 6-18, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and does not need to be blocked off from real life (which consists of mostly work and some play), and that rather than having a rigidly enforced time of homeschooling we instead learn while living our lives, when it best suits any given day and its circumstances, we are well on the way to raising life-long learners who are always developing new skills woven into everyday life.
So yes, while we did officially start on our new books yesterday, the day was very much like every other day - we each did our work side by side, learning one set of new skills or facts versus other things on other days. We did not take special pictures because we take pictures year round when the opportunity arises. We did not start with any special fanfare because it was not advisable for us during this stage of life, which is very busy and in which I cannot afford to have high demands on myself and then get frustrated when I don't always throw a pinterest-worthy party, don't always take cool pictures, don't always play the perfect homemaker, teacher, wife, mother.
I am not at all criticizing those who have the time and mental energy to make the first day of the school year extra special. I did the same for many years. I am simply encouraging moms to take the pressure off themselves, and to relax the demands they make on themselves if they are leading to frustration and burnout. Motherhood is a long-distance ultramarathon, not a sprint. Slow down and walk, it will help you do better in the long run. By relaxing and realizing things will get done if you we keep faithfully plugging away and doing our best, more will end up getting done because feeling overwhelmed and frustrated is a huge de-motivator.
Happy (Don't Go) Back to School, everyone! :)
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