Jillian has been watching and enjoying Liberty’s Kids* over the past few days. It’s never enough for my interactive little child to just watch a video, though. She’s then got to turn her attention to making what she calls “paper toys” out of what she’s just learned about, so that she can recreate the action in all its glory. That desire sent her to the internet, to find a suitable image of The Mayflower that she could use as a guide to draw one herself.
*this is an Amazon affiliate link to the DVD, “Liberty’s Kids”
It’s confession time here: I have a hard time saying “No”…especially if it involves something fun.
One of the things I love the most about living in the greater-Phoenix, Arizona area is that opportunities for homeschoolers to partake in clubs, activities, classes, and field trips abound. I mean, it’s literally endless. There are sooooo many amazing opportunities out there. And I want to do every single one of them with my kids – because…well, because friends and fun and enrichment!
This year is looking like no exception to the rule. Ladies in my homeschool group have already put a handful of field trips on the calendar. A few invitations to buy tickets and attend some local live theater have already crossed my inbox. And the big discussion on the homeschool group’s Facebook page has involved putting together some opportunities for kids’ aerobics and fitness classes, swimming lessons, and other sorts of extra-curricular classes using the facilities at the local YMCA. Sounds incredible!
The problem is that I have found saying “Yes” to all of the clubs, activities, classes, and field trips that I can afford to do with my kids really ends up completely overwhelming my calendar. And once my calendar winds up completely overwhelmed, nothing is fun anymore. Additionally, my priorities – the goals I have set for myself and the things that are actually important to get done – end up neglected.
I’ve seen it happen year after year, despite pledges to the contrary at the start of every school year. It’s going to be different this year, though. I know it’s going to be different, because I’m not just going to half-heartedly say that I want to spend more time at home focused on my priorities. I’m doing more than giving lip service to those priorities.
I’m actually planning my days in advance. Not rigid schedules, but routines and a flow. When those fun opportunities come up, I’ll be able to weigh them against what I’ve already committed to myself to do. When I can actually see the opportunity cost to my priorities of saying “Yes” to fun, I’m finding that a lot of times the fun isn’t really worth it.
I’ve already determined that this year will be the year of “No” to most outside activities for me, so that I can say “Yes” to the right things. The right things this year center mostly on schooling for my oldest daughter and on developing this blog into something that challenges me, helps me grow personally, provides real value for my readership, builds a sense of community between myself and all of you, and helps out with the family finances. None of those things will happen as long as I keep saying “Yes” to the wrong things for this season of life.
Erica has requested a more structured, “schoolish” experience at home this year. That means being home so that I can help her facilitate that. I have big dreams for this little blog of mine. Those dreams seem so far-fetched right now, but I am chasing them the same way the old adage says you go about eating an elephant: one bite at a time. Chasing those dreams means actively engaging in a lot of self-directed learning of my own, which I must be home to do.
While we’re home because I’ve said “No”, we’ll be making forward progress on the things we have said individually are important to us and on the things we as a family have said are important to us. My kids will learn powerful lessons about making choices, making sacrifices, delaying gratification, self-discipline, and focus. More and more as the years I’ve been homeschooling have passed, I have found that those are the lessons I want my children learning.
Today, I actually hauled my sewing machine out of the closet and got it plugged in. (I didn’t have to blow any dust off it because my son actually uses the darn thing to sew his Sea Cadet flashes and patches and his Boy Scout badges and patches onto their respective uniforms, because I refuse to do it.) But, I digress. Self-directed homeschooling had me willingly threading a bobbin (I had to take a peek into the user’s guide, again – like I do every time I pull out the machine – and I still didn’t get it right on my first go ’round), cutting fabric, pinning it together (and stabbing myself multiple times in the process), sewing it, cutting off the recently sewn seam three times and then redoing it three times when I realized that I hadn’t left the opening big enough, and finally coming up with a finished…fleece mermaid tail blanket.
This face made it all worth it:
Self-directed homeschooling in our house today looked like three moms, with varying skills with a sewing machine and varying levels of enthusiasm for sewing in general, and four little girls, getting together for a fun project that none of us would’ve made the time for on our own. The girls helped pin the fabric, sort of, and then they disappeared, leaving me, Christina, and Paula with a “mom craft day”.
War strategy. When you’ve got a gun-enthusiastic, history buff for a big brother, you get lessons from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to help prepare you for an epic battle between Star Wars figures, green Army men, dragons (from How to Train Your Dragon), a few My Little Pony ponies, and a handful of Polly Pockets in the living room upstairs. When you’re the mother of these two, you see critical thinking skills and spacial skills being developed. You see the older teaching and mentoring the younger. You see some abstract mathematical concepts being conveyed without either ever seeming to be aware of them. That’s just what you see at first glance. And that’s why you love self-directed homeschooling.