If I’d Only Known Then: Some Thoughts on Flexibility

You’ve heard this before right?
“If only I’d known then what I know now. I would do so many things differently.”
And if you are anything like me you may have smiled politely while thinking to yourself, “I know, I know. But that doesn’t really apply to me.”
I’ve been homeschooling for three short years, but there is one thing I know for sure. If I could go back in time three years? I would relax. A lot.  I couldn’t imagine how swiftly time would move with my children.  How quickly my then five year old would be done with counting bears and phonics and moving on to borrowing(I will continue to call it borrowing even if Saxon insists it’s called trading) and reading chapter books.  I couldn’t imagine my fifth grader would ever reach  Challenge A. For some reason I did not anticipate him learning to draw and label the world from memory, or work out petrifying algebraic equations that force me to break out in a cold sweat. All while physically beginning to tower over me and speak to me in the voice of a grown man. It’s quite astonishing. I could go on if only my agenda today included a nervous breakdown.
So this is my plea to all you beautiful and tired moms of little ones. And by little, I’m talking birth to sixth grade. I adore this definition of “little” because it allows me to remain in this category.
Be flexible. 

I can hear some of you now screaming at the screen. “What does that mean?!”


Allow me to make a feeble attempt at adding some concreteness.
If you arise one morning with the desire to visit a museum, ride bikes at the park, or work on watercolor art until the sun sets? Do it.

Create memories and experiences for and with your children. I find it strangely amusing this piece of advice is the most difficult for homeschooling moms to wrap our minds around. I’m still wrapping MY mind around it. I have yet to be in conversation with a mom and felt the urge to remind her of the importance of math, reading, or language arts. We’ve got that down. It’s never perfect, but it is getting done. It may often be stressful, but it is always scheduled, and placed as the pinnacle of our homeschool days. I’m beginning to think no one would bat an eyelash if I said, “You really should do more math every day.” or “Only one hour of reading a day? That’s not nearly enough.”  I say this in jest but what I’m getting at, truly, is that any responsible mom knows these skills are important. We are all working on these subjects are we not? I think what we forget is we will never teach them everything, nor is it our job to do so. What gets lost is the ability to enjoy each other, enjoy the world our Creator gave us, and the time to fill our children’s hearts with beautiful moments.  I’m convinced when my time with them is up there will be laughter and fond memories over our camping trips and baking days, not math lessons and sentence diagramming.
I have been forced to face the urgency of this because I have now entered the world of Jr. High. And while I am convinced the program my son does is 100% fantastic, it definitely hinders our ability to be as flexible as we can be with our children in grammar school.  I’m determined however, that his every waking moment will not be filled with a school checklist.
For those who do have older students, here are a couple of ways I’m trying to keep the beauty of homeschool flexibility.

A trip taking us away from home for a substantial amount of time would require some re-working. While my younger kids can simply bring whatever book they are currently reading and their Classical Conversations memory work(honestly, I’d be ok with them bringing nothing but why waste hours in the car?), my oldest son will require a bit more.  We decided on any memory work he needs to keep up on during our absence. So he will be working on latin, geography, catechisms, and current literature. I won’t require him to write the science research and literature papers usually expected. He can do all of this during down time while we travel. 
If we know we have a day of hiking or a movie making date with friends coming? We plan ahead. What work does he feel comfortable doubling up on in order to allow an off day? As his mom, is there an an assignment I can postpone or eliminate so he can fully enjoy a day with friends and family? The truth of homeschooling older kids is that they CAN fall behind. They don’t have the luxury of skipping too many days or putting one subject on hold for too long. There is a pace to things. A pace my son doesn’t feel comfortable falling too far out of. 
So I am determined in this stage to give him days. To give him days and moments he can tuck into his heart and draw upon when he is weary. I pray when the drudgery comes, as it does at times, he will have these small treasures from the past and some future treasures to anticipate.

It is all a gift. These days with our children. I implore you. Take full advantage of the years when the pace is yours to set.

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