A Wonderful Kind of Scary

It’s that time again, and they can sense it.  I’ve got books scattered about, I’m constantly jotting things down on lists, and our web browser is open to fifteen tabs as I price out different books.

School’s a’coming.

But they don’t know what’s gonna hit them this year, friends.  Because I had a major epiphany yesterday.  It was such a big deal, that I have to record it here on my blog so I don’t forget.

I’ve been homeschooling for seven years.  This year I will have an 8th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st grader.  I used A Beka exclusively until about two years ago, then I began to branch out a little bit.  This year, I have been looking at a major curriculum overhaul, especially for the older kids.  Homeschoolers are sorta known for this- we like to tweak our program.  It’s half the fun, really.  Every year, we try new school room arrangements, new lesson plan techniques, and when we’re feeling brave, new curriculum.  Takes a while to build up to that step, at least it did with me.  I was too scared to stray off from the marked path for the first five years.  A Beka is tried and true, and will get the job done.  But along the way, I’ve discovered that I want more than simply getting the job done.

Now, this post is not about me knocking A Beka.  It’s a great program and we are still using major components of it.  But I let the curriculum run me for a long time without realizing it.  I needed that at first, since I had no clue what I was doing.  But something really cool has happened, and that’s where I’m going with this.

So, back to the topic.  I started looking at Apologia’s Zoology system, and one aspect really piqued my interest:  the student notebook journal.  It’s designed to help them take notes on what they read, and it has a lot of blank spaces for details, drawings, etc.  I’ll give you a moment to go check it out.  When I saw it, I knew my kids would love it.  So, I started looking around to see if there were notebook journals to accompany the other subjects I’m teaching, and I stumbled upon the world of notebooking.

See, Apologia is basically trying to reproduce something that is already happening independently in the homeschooling community.  What is notebooking exactly?  Well, it’s not lapbooks, if that’s your first thought.  I had heard of these and already decided I didn’t have the time or energy or interest in these.  This is different.   One resource site defines it this way:  “Notebooking is a simple but flexible instructional method which many homeschool families use to reinforce and record what their children learn.”   There’s no wrong way to do it.  Basically, your child creates a page that demonstrates what they’ve learned, using their own creative interests and methods.

Here’s just one example:

There are literally kajillions of ways to do this, depending on what your child enjoys and their learning level.  Google it, and you’ll see.  It’s limitless.  (Here’s a great page, if you want a shortcut to some examples!)

I saw this, and a few things became really clear.  The first was that the moments my children have really enjoyed school have been tied in with the crafts/activities like this.  They respond to this type of work, and I didn’t really see it till now.  They retain the things they learned when it was accompanied by something like this.

And then my big moment.  My big realization.  I can teach them to read, and write, and do their numbers.  I got that.  I can educate them.  They can do the quizzes and worksheets and speed drills.  We can get to the end of the workbook.

But, that’s not teaching them to love it.

That’s not reaching into their hearts and minds and sparking their curiosity.  It’s not stoking the fires of their intellect, or giving them a lifelong thirst for knowledge.  I see this especially with the older kids.  They KNOW their reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.  But they’re restless.  Unsatisfied.  I could see the problem, but not why it was there.  Now I do.

The basics are important, fundamental.  Can’t get very far if you can’t read.

But that’s not the end goal.  I want more, and so do they.  And to get there, it’s time to go off the marked path.  It’s time to blaze our own trail.  It’s time to trust them, to trust myself.  Their innate curiosity about life, and my instincts as their mother– we’ve been laying the groundwork for this and we’re ready.

I’m not throwing out the books, by the way.  I’m not teaching out of a sweat lodge in the backyard (a joke from the husband) or letting let them learn math organically.  (that would be the end of math in this house, I promise.)  I’m just approaching education from a different direction.  I’m not getting caught up in the busywork or the formula.  I’m going to let them use their hands more.  I’m going to let things get messier.  I’m going to talk to them more, and lecture less.  I’m going to be more of a “home base” for them to venture out into their own education.  I’ll be there, guiding things, but I’m gonna let them walk ahead a little.  This year is about inspiring, not just educating.  I believe that notebooking our way through the things we study will do that.  And if doesn’t… we’ll figure out what does.  No more letting the curriculum run us.  We have crossed the threshold of something big here, and there’s no going back now.

I can’t tell you how exciting and liberating this feels.  I answered the call to homeschool seven years ago, and after all this time, I thought I knew the whys and the hows and all that.  But I figured out yesterday, that just like everything else in life, it’s a journey.  I’m still learning and growing in this call.    It’s a wonderful kind of scary.

It’s gonna be a great year.

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