After five years of homeschooling, I had several friends look at me with stars in their eyes as they considered their first year of home education. I knew if I did not shatter the illusion quickly, I would do them a greater disservice by allowing them to believe I was a mom who truly “had it all together.” I had come to my moment of truth. I had faced the giants in my land! Underneath my five years of experience, I was still very frustrated with the outcome and expectations I held for my school at home. I remember the dreams and visions I had as a new home educator. I had such lofty goals and plans – but they never materialized. I knew I had to devise something truthful and encouraging to tell my friends who were looking to me for support and guidance.
The previous school year in our home was the nightmare of all nightmares. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong. I had carefully budgeted for my school expenses and bought the well-thought-out purchases at a book fair. My curriculum purchases were complete for the year, which was a good thing, because I had spent my entire budget! It was not long into the semester that I realized the curriculum I bought and my son’s learning style were on a cataclysmic collision course with disaster! I felt I only had one option – to make the best of a bad situation and continue with what we had purchased. That is some advice I would never offer to another living soul again! Some lessons you just learn the hard way!
We paid a huge price for that decision. It brought much conflict and pain into my relationship with my son. The light that used to shine so brightly in his eyes about learning was now quickly fading. I was beginning to think I had destroyed his love of learning – and that was heavy on my heart. We finished the school year feeling battered, broken, and weary. I even daydreamed of “the little, yellow school bus.” I was heartbroken over the whole experience, as was my son.
I agonized about what we could do to change our whole approach to doing school. I knew I needed a miracle to reclaim the ground we had lost the year before. I was lamenting to a friend over my discouragement at unfulfilled expectations for the year – my experience was not what I had expected when I signed up to homeschool. I was asking her, “Where are all the activities I dreamed of doing with the kids?” and “Where are all the projects and science fairs and family togetherness I longed for??” This had not been my experience for that year. To be honest, I had yet to reach those goals in all my five years. With much wisdom, my friend just challenged me, “Dawn, why don’t you do the unit studies you have always dreamed about?” I knew what she was talking about! I had always longed to dive into the unit study approach, but the thought simply terrified me. Would I be able to accomplish that task well? I took one good look over the unit-study-based curriculum I had sitting on my shelf, and the flood of dreams came back like a wave. My husband and I discussed the option of switching to the unit study approach for the next year, and it was a unanimous decision!
We did a test run of a two-week unit on loyalty to see how the kids would respond to the curriculum. I cannot tell you how dramatic the change was. I saw the light in my son’s eyes return! His eagerness and inquisitiveness have come alive again!
I guess the old adage is true: “With age comes wisdom.” It took me five years to make that leap of faith, cross the “great divide,” and jump with reckless abandon into the very teaching approach I have wanted to do from the beginning yet was afraid to tackle! From the beginning I was convinced that my kids needed a textbook/workbook approach, because that is all I ever knew – but my heart longed for something more.
I now know that there is freedom that comes with following the leading of the Lord for your family and diving in wholeheartedly! Therein lies the fulfillment of dreams – that for which I had longed and wanted to experience with my children and our family as a whole. Having experienced this with my family, I do not know how we would ever go back to the old way of doing things.