Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clear Vision

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..." (Ephesians 1:18a)

Greetings from Great Plains Elementary! I'll bet you thought we had dropped off the North Pole?! Not so ... not so. In spite of my multiple considerations of admitting myself into the Funny Farm, I'm here to report that we're still here and pressing onward. But it's been "a month", if you knowhatimean! A few weeks ago, the ever-so wise Donna D told me that my last few blogs have only told the good side of homeschooling, and she wanted to know how it was really going. Yep. She knows me well. 

So I won't hide it. The last 10 weeks of homeschooling have indeed had their fair share of incredible blessing and sweet memories that will last me for years and years. If a child's love language is indeed quality-time, then our time together is truly filling their cups ... or at least I pray so. What we're learning (and yes, I'm including myself on this too!), questions the girls are asking, the relationships and history the kids are building together, opportunities for me to coach my kids through the trials and inquiries of life, provide for each of them the "just right" learning environment and process they each need ... I'm not sure I could ever trade this for the world! It's truly amazing. 

And yet ... 

There have been a few weeks here last month where I was starting to feel myself unravel. And watching my kids do the same. Out of a failed, overly-rigid schedule at the beginning of the year I swung to the opposite side of the pendulum to "let's just get our assignments done no matter what mentality. I was trying to follow only the book rather than allow for explorations to occur naturally. And thus, no fun was had by anyone, emotional barometers were bursting, and I dare admit that I had lost my vision and purpose.  Add to this a lack of structure and toddler-fun activities for Ben, trying to do too much with the girls, fearing what others would think if we were done with school by 12 noon (I seriously don't go to the store with school-age children until after 3:30pm!) - all of these thoughts and struggles led to images appearing in my mind and heart such as a white flag of surrender or the yellow school bus in front of our house each morning. 

So I had to step back and "get a grip", as my brother would say. Why was this so hard? And believe me ... with 14 years of teaching experience under my belt with some fairly challenging dynamics, homeschooling is by far the hardest "teaching assignment" I've ever had. 

Needless to say, we took 2 days off (unpaid absence, of course) followed by a weekend, and I had to think. And pray. And call a couple respected and experienced homeschool moms in similar situations. And pray some more. And maybe cry. But then I started to see more clearly ... the pieces that were missing, and the pieces that had to go. 

Vision makes all the difference. 

So what changed? LOTS. Here's just a glimpse of the "external" changes that needed revamping (and don't you dare laugh if something below here seems so obvious!): 

  • I had to be out of bed by 6am without fail. I MUST have time to shower, drink coffee, and have some quiet time with God before I can enter each day with a happy heart! 
  • The resurrection of a schedule ... not the rigid, colorful beauty I started with, but a schedule nonetheless. It functions mostly as a guideline; a map. I'm not attached to the clock, but I also don't ignore it.
  • Unclear rules, a loose schedule and no set consequences was a BAD idea - especially for kids who had already attended public school and had an idea of what it "should" look like. We now have a grand set of "house/school rules" that we implemented this week. They've helped bring alignment to the universe. 
  • I seriously gave my girls each an assigned seat during some parts of our school time. Flopping around all over the house like wet noodles wasn't getting (or keeping!) their engagement with learning. Body posture and position matter. 
  • I got rid of some curriculum because quite frankly, we had too much. Be faithful with a little ... focus on a few things and do them well ... allow them to explore their world.  Sound words of wisdom, yes?  I think so. 
  • I'm trying to implement more movement, art, literature, and music into our days. I see more smiling and engagement as a result. (This seems obvious, right?! Remember, no laughing!) 
  • More games. Who doesn't enjoy games?! Especially for learning. 
  • I combined History and Science for Abbie and Ellie. Consolidation, if you will, into one curriculum. So we now use the same content and activities, but with different responses and outcomes based on their abilities. They love it. Ellie actually bounded out of bed the first day "she got to do history with Abbie". 
  • We committed to weekly Library Hour! This was seriously the stupidest thing I omitted from the start. We looove our library and what an important part of any child's education.  
This is a huge learning curve, and I for one am (still) a willing student. It's not uncommon at all for a teacher to adjust, revise, step back to assess and approach with a new plan. That's what teaching and learning is all about. And we're all in this process, whether you're a "teacher" or not.  Each of us is constantly evaluating and revising. Reframing. Questioning. Seeking vision. And I pray that process only continues for all of us ... but good grief, let's not make the same mistakes again! ; )

Coming soon will be some fun snapshots of what we've actually accomplished in the past month; some sweet moments together, cool projects, a field trip or two, and just an honest glimpse at our days together. 

Keep me sane, people ... stay in touch! 

Much love, 



  1. I love everything about this post! You are so funny!! I'm not laughing AT you, just at the funny way you put things...such as: flopping all around the house like wet noodles...hahahaha! I'm dying, only because I can totally picture the same thing happening here. I will also admit, when I saw your color coded schedule at the beginning of the year, I didn't think you were crazy, I thought maybe it was ME that was doing something wrong! Why am I not that organized!!??? That thing was magnificent, but very intimidating. I don't think I would have been able to get out of bed if that thing was staring at me first thing every day :)

    We have a loose schedule, and we mostly stick to it otherwise we don't get anything done and I start to go crazy. SOME days we just throw it out and have a friend over, or bake all day, or go on an all-day outing. The flexibility is the best thing ever!

    Thanks for sharing, have a great day!!

  2. I love you Jenn, and miss you!! You inspire me although I don't homeschool am still a teacher to our kids. You are wonderful and I love hearing about your experiences. Did I mention I miss you terribly too? Keep up God's work!
    Tammy :)

  3. Woooooooo-Hooooooooo! You ROCK!!!!! (How's that for advanced vocabulary???!?!?) I think I'll share this with every homeschool mama I know!!! "And believe me ... with 14 years of teaching experience under my belt with some fairly challenging dynamics, homeschooling is by far the hardest 'teaching assignment' I've ever had." That could, potentially, be the most encouraging quote I'll read all year. Thank you for sharing both the "pits and peaks" of your journey. May our GREAT GOD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST give you all you need for abundant life & godliness DAY by DAY!!! Love, love, love ~ Chantal