I have found that one of the biggest struggles since I started taking this whole homestead schtick seriously is finding the time to get homeschooling done. I know I’m not the only one that feels that way either. Many of you have told me time and again that you share with me in this struggle.
I’ve wrestled with it for years in fact and in the end have come to the conclusion that something’s got to give. The question is what?
Years ago, during a crisis mode, I stripped my priorities down to the bare bones by going to the word of God and determining to be content with only taking care of food and clothing if that’s all I could get to. Can I tell you how wonderfully that has worked for me in the more pressing times of life?! It has gone a long way in learning to let some things go!
The problem I’ve encountered is that as my family grows alongside my conviction that the standard American diet, in particularly the rampant consumption and experimentation on our bodies though the use of GMO’s is going to have generational effects and that what we put in our children’s mouths today will impact the future health of our posterity. Say what you’d like about the study du jour, it is impossible that there have been long term, generational studies and observations on what eating these foods will do to people. We have to take responsibility, even if that means rolling up our sleeves, getting our hands dirty and our nails chipped, and growing and raising our own food if we’re too poor to pay the farmer to do it for us.
But I digress. If you’re already homesteading then you’re most likely on the same page with me there.
The point is, we’ve become quite serious about growing food and it takes a lot of time and work. A lot. But educating our children is still incredibly important and if we’ve decided that it’s the right choice for our families, then we must figure out how to manage both things.
Here are some things to think about If you’re struggling to fit homeschooling into the your homestead days…
At some point, you decided that homeschooling was the right choice for your children. Whether that’s because of the often detrimental effects of peer influence, the increasingly lax, liberal, and social education, or in my case that it’s my Christian obligation to provide my children with a Christian education, it is always a good idea to reassess your priorities and resolve to see this undertaking through to the end. The point is, you have a conviction.
For the first several years as a homeschooling mom, there were many, many weak moments where I would threaten to send my kids to school or try to convince myself of why it would solve all my problems to do so. When I considered why I began in the first place (protection/sheltering my baby) and compared it to why I ought to continue (Deuteronomy 6), I realized there was no longer any choice for me in the matter.
Easy or not, I would finish what I started. Little did I know at the time that would include committing to homeschool 5 more children yet to be born! But I’m glad I made the decision then, otherwise I might have thrown in the towel! Instead I haven’t thought of sending them to school as option since!
Now that I’m living in the sticks, providing a Christian education through the means of a private school isn’t an option. Even if it were available, funds wouldn’t be. And so far as I’m concerned bussing to a public school isn’t a choice- everything bad I did as a child I first did on the school bus. Driving them in myself would take me longer in a day than it would to just knock out some lessons anyway.
Now that we’re fully persuaded to persevere, that conviction has set our minds to figure out how to fit home educating our children into the daily equation. And let us call it home education from here on out because that is a whole different ball game than homeschooling.
The very name, “homeschooling” drives slavish guilt and fear that we’re not doing enough “school at home”.
When you think of elementary school at home there are several different mental pictures one can form.
Children sweetly lined up at desks or around the table working over their workbooks and worksheets…
Plastic totes piled neatly with glitter and felt scraps and little pom poms, crayons, safety scissors, washable markers, stickers, construction paper and the like all ready for managed sessions of creativity…
Stacks of record keeping, grade recording, lesson preparing, curriculum catalogues to flip through for the promise of easier or better, purchases to make, field trips to plan…
Field trips! And classes, and clubs, and co-ops, and conferences, library visits…
I feel a knot of stress balling up inside my chest just imagining it! Where’s the manure?! Where are the pigs getting out? Where are the broken eggs in jacket pockets?
If you’re managing a homestead and trying to make your home education look like our city & suburban dwelling sisters, good luck with that. If you can make it happen, you’re a better woman than I am, for sure!
But if you’re like me and haven’t been able to pull it off, you know what? That’s ok! No one said that home education had to look like that and since the beginning of time up until recently, it hasn’t looked like that. (And I think one could make the argument that on the whole, we’re less intelligent than ever!) Think of how much you’ve taught your toddler already without all of that structure!
My Favorite Homeschooling Resources
I’ve talked for years about our Agrarian Calendar. Seriously, can you think of any stupider time for a homesteader to try to add in hours of daily lessons than September??!
I feel like I barely have time to brush my teeth in September let alone do lessons. Between harvesting, canning, weeding, and watering, putting the beds to sleep for the winter and all the sundry other tasks that need wrapped up before the first frost, there is NO time for lessons!
Besides, what kid wants to be cooped up inside all day when winter is breathing down their necks when they could be spending all those crisp, golden, glorious moment outdoors? (And might I quickly add, there is no finer time to study the insect world than in the fall?)
November: (New school year begins) One week after first frost- Begin “Full” schooling for 20 weeks
The harvesting and canning is done, the gardens are covered, and we’re ready for winter to begin. I take a week after the first frost to do some fall cleaning and set make a brief plan for the school year and, if necessary, order some books and make some reserves at the library. This will be daily, morning time, working through lessons with the children in science, math, reading, writing, history, etc… (For more about our Home Education Program see here.)
April: First week- Begin “Lite” schooling for 10 weeks
It’s time to get the garden in! Spring is in the air and we all want to be outdoors breathing deeply instead of inside doing addition! During times of “Lite” schooling we continue with daily reading lessons, quick, DIY math worksheets, and reading literature aloud in the afternoons. Nature studying and handicrafts are also done when they’re not of playing together and using their imaginations.
August: First week- Annual Standardized Testing as required by state law Second week- Begin “Very Lite” schooling for 12 weeks
During times of “Very Lite” schooling I make sure that the children are reading the Bible aloud on rotation in the mornings as part of our family worship, we do only impromptu nature studying, and I continue to read literature aloud after lunch. The children are supposed to write to pen pals hopefully once every week or two.
This is just what it might look like for us this year.
Already I can tell you that after 4 weeks into this “school year”, we took a couple week break to work on butchering projects- chickens and a pig. We plan to get on a solid schedule adding beef into the December calendar each year, so I might need to further adjust this in the future.
I encourage you to make your own Agrarian Calendar. Look back over the last year and fill in a calendar with times that you can or can not get schooling done, what you think you can cover during various seasons, what’s important, and what isn’t. This is your own personalize school year! What freedom!
Knowing now why we’re home educating our children, and when to fit that into our schedule, let’s set some goals!
Having a clear and basic set of accomplishments that we’d like to make during our career as home educators will give us a line to walk and will prove a comfort when guilt starts to trickle in.
I have 4 goals. Yours may be completely different. Only your family can set those goals, but I’ll share mine with you.
When I’m all said and done educating my kids, I hope to have accomplished these 4 things:
1.) They will have had a distinctly Christian education. That our faith won’t be compartmentalized to Sunday’s or meal time prayers or family worship time, that it won’t just be part of our day, but it will be all of our life. If I get nothing else done in a day, I consider it a good one if we’ve gone over our catechism lessons, hymn study, memory verses, and history lesson. (The Bible is our primary history textbook and I build everything else out from there.)
2.) I want my children to grow to be autodidacts, people who love to learn. Though I have a 16 1/2 year old, I don’t even think of his”graduation” next year and don’t want him to either. I don’t ever want them to think they have arrived and can be done learning. Because this has been such a focus, I haven’t really done lessons with him for years now. He was outpacing me anyway. He learned to love reading and learning young and I was actually holding him back! This year, on his own, he has studied algebra, biology, herbalism, wood carving, has read more literature and history than I can even record, started to learn French, started driving and I’ve had nothing to do with any of it besides making sure he had access to materials!
3.) Whether they ultimately use the skills and tools that we give them while having grown up on the homestead, I want my children to have some sort of -for the lack of a better word- “self-sufficiency.” There may be a point in their lives when knowing how to provide food and necessities for themselves may be the difference between whether they sink or swim. I want them to have a decreased dependence on an exorbitant income to provide for themselves & their family by soapmaking, canning & food preservation, gardening, sewing, raising & butchering meat, herbal medicine preparation, basic carpentry, auto maintenance, etc… Maybe they won’t want or need this type of “education,” but there might come a day when they’re real thankful for it!
4.) Functioning, serving adults. I want children who can function as adults in the real world (whatever that is). When I was in elementary school, all I heard was how I was being prepared for middle school. In middle school, for high school. And in high school it was college prep. I don’t know. Maybe if I’d have made it to college they would have covered real life living, but somehow I doubt it. Functioning as adults starts by being mature, functioning children. And that starts by doing things that the adults around them are doing.
Considering your goals, you must think of what you’d like the children’s education to look like. Especially if you know that the norm is not for you.
Nature Study in the woods during wood cutting. Zoology, plant life, biology studied during gardening. Anatomy studied during butchering. Practical math while managing the homestead- tallying egg totals; calculating heat cycles and gestation lengths; cooking, baking, and canning all involve math and fractions. Life skills are definitely covered! Reading & writing must be done, spelling/grammar etc…
We read literature aloud to about 12 when their appetite for reading is so much larger than I can provide during the 30 minutes in the afternoon. We listen to the music of the great composers for music appreciation. Art is necessary for expression. I teach them to do black and white sketches, nature journaling and sundry handicrafts, so many of which are also life and homestead skills (think cooking, baking, canning, sewing, soap making, etc…) talents which might lead to future entrepreneurial endeavors. If you’re deliberate and put your mind to it, you’d be surprised at how far conversational unplanned education can go!
Though we’re not unschoolers (we might feel or look like ones at times however) this article on unschooling really resonated with me…
The moment we quit trying to teach our son anything was the moment he started really learning.
But not infrequently I field questions from parents who seem skeptical that my sons will be exposed to particular fields of study or potential career paths. The assumption seems to be that by educating our children at home and letting them pursue their own interests, we are limiting their choices and perhaps even depriving them. The only honest answer is, Of course we are. But then, that’s true of every choice a parent makes: no matter what we choose for our children, we are by default not choosing something else.
I have fallen in love with the Charlotte Mason approach towards children and their education. It’s beautiful, relaxed, and treats each one as the unique person created in the image of God that they are. You can step back and evaluate what works for each child individually instead of putting them into a mold of averages. Quick lessons don’t tax them, they are happy, and are taught to love to learn.
Well I’m afraid I’ve been far too long winded for one post so I shall open this up for discussion. Hopefully, through sharing this, I’ve given you some food for thought, hope, and an idea of how you can find the time to manage your homestead and still give your children an education! I’d love to hear what you think and glean from you, learning how you’ve managed to fit homesteading and home education into your days!