(This post contains affiliate links because we like food)
Every couple of months I have an epiphany. That I am not living in the moment. That I am planning too much, organizing too much, not letting enough of our lives happen organically. It’s easy to say, “that’s it, from now I will let the chips fall where they may” than it is to actually do that. Especially for an A type like myself. I have been getting rid of our stuff for the past three years trying to live more simply. I make lists at night as a way to “wind down”. Planning parties and events is actually something that is fun for me. When I teach a class or do a workshop the prep work involved is one of my favorite parts. But this isn’t about just me anymore…
When I started homeschooling this past August I thought it would be a surefire way to live in the moment more with my family, especially my daughter. However, I was still working, still trying to stick to schedules, worried about new obstacles like Board of Education reviews and Kindergarten assessments to make sure I was doing everything right.
I spent hours, upon hours, planning out our curriculum in painstaking weeks of prep once we decided that this was our plan. I didn’t want to purchase one, I was decreasing my work hours mind you, so I was going to formulate one of my own. It was a good plan. It was a good curriculum, but that’s not what we needed.
Our homeschool journey began because of mental illness. I knew that, and I still did not factor in my child’s truly unique gifts and her weaknesses when applying everything I knew about education in the elementary years. I was still thinking like a teacher, like a librarian, like an administrator, not like a homeschool mom of a mentally ill child. I was not worried about living in the moment.
I knew I wanted more outside time for her, but it wasn’t a priority, it was an afterthought. Once we get done our lessons, then we can do that. I knew I wanted more arts, crafts, baking, exploring, after our lessons.
This was wrong. This was so wrong. And I see that now.
One of our biggest obstacles was socialization and I don’t mean now that I homeschool. I mean before when she was in public daycare and then public Pre-K. When there are more than two or three other kids around my daughter gets overwhelmed. She breaks down, she either feels not seen or heard and lashes out or acts out. Either way, it’s not fun or a great learning environment. We have slowly been able to get her around smaller groups and this has helped her come out of her shell in a whole new way. She doesn’t remember most of her friends’ names but she knows something about them, “the boy with the spiderman shirt that one day”, “that girl that helped me out of the ball pit”, “that girl that says she likes my drawing”. She is connecting with people, which was a huge struggle all its own. That is not something I planned in our curriculum.
She’s developed a special interest in baking and cooking, which isn’t surprising. It’s not something I enjoy doing and thankfully I have family and friends who do it with her who have more patience and understanding in the kitchen than I do. I did not plan on baking as being part of our curriculum.
Art has been a saving grace for the past two years but this year even more so. She’s developing a love of photography and cartoons. “How do they make your drawings actually talk?” Animation is something we will probably study for a long time. I did not have that in our curriculum.
To be clear, I believe in some kind of a curriculum. Some sort of guidance of where we are this month versus where we want to be in three months. I want to see growth. But that growth may not always be in black and white. We are growing in so many ways I wasn’t counting for and in so many areas I can’t report back to the Board of Education. Her mental growth and behavioral improvements are by far more important at this stage than her reading progression, which is also where it should be (go figure).
So for now, our biggest lesson is our upcoming garden. We usually spend about ten minutes on a lesson, tops. But when I showed her a video about how to make compost she wanted to watch another and another. My first reaction was to say “well let’s move on to our other project for the day” but I didn’t. I put on another video and another. She drew a recipe for creating your own compost. Created a list of green materials and brown materials. Asked me almost every day after to explain to her what leachate was again. I did not have gardening and compost in my curriculum but it is now.