The world is said to be the homeschooler’s classroom, and our homes often bear witness to our homeschooling lifestyle. We enjoy examining the dirt, bugs, and leaves we find outside, and usually bring the evidence of discoveries made out-of-doors back indoors. We love to see our kids reading books and drawing pictures, but then we have to move piles of books from chairs and art supplies from the table so we can sit down for dinner. Walls and refrigerator are covered with maps and charts, schedules and reminders.
Sometimes, though, the educational debris gets in the way of learning.
How do we manage our 'classrooms' inside our homes? Whether you dedicate one room for school, or spread out from kitchen to bedroom to dining room, we have to find a balance between creating an orderly yet inspiring learning environment. Our homes have many more functions now as home educators, and for those who love interior design and delicate tchotchkes, giving up your vision of Martha Stewart meets Architectural Digest is difficult.
Our obsession with appearances can detract from creating a learning environment in our home if we constantly worry about laundry, dishes, papers and books. We may even have fallen into the trap of measuring our successes by what others might think of us instead of what is most needful for our families.
Let's deal for a moment with our attitude toward our home and homeschooling.
Is there something wrong with living in one's house, and for others to see the evidence of the lifestyle we've chosen? I'm not talking about supporting the local cockroach population or trying to get into Guinness for the largest pile of laundry, but about balancing organization and cleanliness with our children's need to relax and enjoy their home and schooling.
The decorating scheme in our home is Rustic Library. The books we are reading for pleasure or studying for school are on end tables and footrests. This creates opportunities for us to talk about what we are reading, and it's easy to grab a book and read a passage out loud. A dismantled cell phone and a few tools may occupy the kitchen counter, a ball of yarn and crochet needle rest on the floor beside a chair, LEGO creations decorate the bookshelf.
These are not signs of sloth, but signs of life.
The unhealthy comparisons don't stop with housework. Questions about what grade the kids are in or seeing another child excel in music or science can cause us to wonder if we are doing right by our own children. Are we using the best curriculum? Are we pushing them hard enough? Why can't they spell as proficiently as J____ or say their multiplication tables as fast as B_____?
We need to remove these harmful and unrealistic expectations from our homeschools.
“What if things get out of hand?”
“I’ll look bad if the kids aren’t succeeding.”
“I have to maintain my reputation.”
“I want people to respect me.”
“My in-laws will pressure us to put the kids in school.”
On and on the list of doubts and worries, both real and imagined. They tend to pile up until we are reacting and overreacting, often venting our frustrations in the wrong direction. Our kids can feel these fears and become anxious. They anticipate being scolded or humiliated. They feel pressure to perform , and will do whatever they believe necessary to avoid experiencing parental impatience and frustration.
This is not a healthy dynamic for learning or relationships. Who are we trying to please and impress?
Learning is an act of free will. It cannot be forced. However, children are naturally curious, and never truly wish to remain ignorant.
It is our responsibility as homeschooling parents to remove stumblingblocks and give our children the environment and the tools they need in order to process information, explore their world, and be inspired and creative. We can remove much of the stress of homeschooling by ceasing to compare ourselves among ourselves.
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
To put a finer point on it, when our child’s progress and abilities are sources of pride or embarrassment, we have erred greatly. Placing the responsibility on a child for our own sense of well-being is detrimental to the parent and the child. Our Biblical directive to to bring our children up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord”, (Ephesians 6:4) to honor and glorify God, and desire to be a blessing to others.
If we objectify our children, we can expect them to objectify others, to look at the world around them as a means to an end.
The bottom line- how we manage our homeschool 'classrooms' is rooted in our underlying motivations and priorities. If we keep the appropriate goals and objectives in view, many other things will fall into place.