My husband and I decided to home educate long before we even had our boys. In the meantime, I was an active Florida Licensed Educator in the public school system. When our boys arrived I immediately began “schooling” them with flashcards, math concepts, music, art, educational DVDs, Spanish, bike rides, and stories….lots and lots of read-alouds! I know it sounds like a lot, however, our days were fun, relaxed, slow-to-go-at-our-own-pace sort of days but filled with those great early education concepts and always lead by our boys‘ interests in any given moment.
All of a sudden, when the time came for us to legally register our older son in our county as a home education student, things seemed to shift in my mind. I felt as if we needed a more structured plan of action. I prepared lengthy lessons in a Lesson Planner that enveloped our entire days ensuring to change activities every 20 minutes and I could not, for the life of me, understand why life was all of a sudden so tense and why we all felt so extremely exhausted!
What I discovered was that I needed to slow down and relax, but further, I needed to UNschool MYSELF! I’d taken my own experiences from being a Licensed Educator in a public school environment geared toward deadlines, goals, tests, and stress, and applied it to the education of our five and two year olds. I had to remind myself that the reason we had chosen to home educate was for flexibility and the ability to educate in a calm child-lead fashion, which I certainly was not allowing. But I had so much to teach them, right!? I am so glad that now I can look back and laugh at myself!
Of course I didn’t want to fail our boys. But our little boys undoubtedly could wait on school day itineraries filled with literally minute-to-minute activities. I’ve learned that while structure has its role in our home education, flexibility must remain at the ready as well.
I have to admit that more than six years later I still sometimes need to resist the temptation to completely fill our days or to push ahead. It’s good to take that snuggle break, or go for another bike ride, or lie in bed reading yet another chapter while Math or English wait. I may sometimes wrestle with the sense of urgency I feel to teach them everything in one day, one month, or one school year but at least I’m better at penciling in our activities so they can be easily erased, changed, or added.
Something that always helps me keep perspective and remain encouraged is the support of those who’ve walked before us. Those with older children in our home school group we can look up to and seek guidance from, as well as through those who share their stories via FPEA. I see therefore, I am encouraged. I am strengthened. We are not alone.
By Michelle L. Ellis, FPEA Ambassador