How Much Is Too Much?
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By Patricia J. Donahue-Krueger
Wondering how much is ‘too much’ in terms of planned activities for your homeschooled children? Do you look longingly for at least one blank page in your date book? Do you yearn for one small square on your wall calendar that is totally free from times and meeting places and ‘must do's’? Have you found yourself in that zone of madness where activity equals productivity? Then you are not alone.
Over scheduling our children at home is simple. We open the daily mail and are enticed and mesmerized by an array of classes, lessons, field trips, projects, and computer programs. Often homeschoolers feel that enrolling their children in yet another sports activity, art class, community group is somehow filling in the "gaps" left by not being in school. At times, it seems to happen while you are not looking. Suddenly and without warning, you are booked, filled to the top with yet another place to go. Why?
I questioned several homeschoolers, unschoolers, eclectics, and curriculum users. For those who have experienced this over booking problem, several similarities came to light.
Some signed up for one too many classes after having been carried away with too many choices. Many spoke of having to prove to spouses, parents, or in-laws that the time spent homeschooling their children was ‘enough’. They needed to satisfy the homeschooling critics in their lives. Others said "yes" to each new, exciting class or program that their children requested. Not wanting to dampen their spirit of curiosity and love of learning, they signed yet another enrollment form.
The one similarity among these people is that none seemed content with their situation. One mother spoke of buying her daughter an organizer to keep track of her commitments. Another felt that her son wasn't enjoying his scheduled activities. Most felt that they would not renew this hectic schedule again.
Do you say to your child "sorry, last year we were all so booked with classes and running around that no one seemed to have time to breathe.... much less enjoy our homeschooling." Yes. I think that you can. One mother said this to her son recently, and he seemed to visibly relax, to walk a bit slower knowing that his life would take on a new simplicity this coming year.
Simplicity. Perhaps that is what we should strive for in those activities we schedule with our homeschooled children. Stop trying to ‘make up’ for activities you think your children are missing by being at home. Instead, concentrate on the myriad of experiences, activities and wonders of everyday living that your children are exposed to because they ARE at home.
Do I advocate not partaking in outside activities? Not a chance. That would have taken from my children the chance to make ceramics, take dance, art and music lessons. It would have left my two boys without the experience of playing soccer and my two daughters without the joy of park district craft classes. I would not have wanted to lose any of what we did. But I would not have wanted them do all of this in one year or even in one season.
Part of the reason that we homeschool is to embrace what we learn. Gone are the days when my son, then in public school, learned his lessons in order to ace a weekly test and immediately brush aside those facts and figures as no longer being important. Learn - Test - Forget...this was his approach— an approach, I’m sad to say that his classmates shared. I want no part of that for my children. I want no part of that for me.
We still learn from the many classes and programs around us, but we have learned to be selective. We have learned to value and respect our time. Even Tess, at four, knows that we all need lots and lots of down time together. Time to read, time to sit in the park and watch the clouds, and time to sit and think as Thomas Edison did.
Edison would often sit on the end of the dock at his Winter Estate in Fort Myers, Florida with fishing pole in hand. In Edison's time fishing was a revered pursuit. One simply did not disturb an individual while fishing. If you looked closely at the end of his fishing line, you would find the bait hook curiously bare. Edison did not bait that hook. He was not fishing. He was sitting and thinking. Just thinking...marvelous scenario isn't it?
Perhaps that is what we must learn to do. Just sit and think. Do less running around. Have fewer ‘must-do’ items on our lists. We need more time to think, to wonder, and to explore our world on our own.
Classes are wonderful. Our art classes have taught us well and proven to be a source of great joy. My daughter Mollie, now six, has asked to learn to play the harp. She will need a gentle soul to help her learn this. So, the lessons and classes have their place. But not everything needs to happen today. We don't all need to learn everything on our wish list right now. We learn to take things one wish at a time. We are learning to savor learning something new. We are learning to struggle with the unknown.
If we were to try all of these things at once, if we were to cram our lives with one activity after another.... we just might miss much of what is new. So, we step slowly. Adding things to our list and dropping others. The process is ongoing.
So, look at your date books. A bit too crowded? Losing your sense of why you first chose to home-school? Go find yourself a nice quiet dock as Thom-as Edison, a fellow home-schooler, did. You never know what you might find.
Copyright © 2004 Eclectic Homeschool Association