Relaxed Education at Home

Laura writes:
 Elizabeth, in your daybook entry you said, "I'm also sensing that we're in for a relaxed homeschooling season--Ihave a few children who have their own projects they want to pursue." What does that mean? Have you abandoned the plans on Serendipity altogether?

DSC_0402  No. Actually, I haven't abandoned Serendipity at all, except for the fact that I can't quite get pretty lesson plans up for you all just yet. We're still using it. Remember, we didn't have a baby one day and get on with life as usual the next. We had a baby on Halloween. Then, we spent eight days in the NICU. I had just had a c-section and I pushed myself to the point of exhaustion during those days in an effort to spend as much time as possible with Sarah Anne and to bring her home more quickly. During that time, my children stayed with my sister-in-law and their cousins. Mike's sister did her very best to "make it a party." She offered to go back to our house and get their schoolwork but four of those days were weekend days and two were school vacations. The rest were just plain fun with their aunt. I didn't even try to resume school. Our family was focused on Sarah Anne and on our transition from a very stressful end of pregnancy to life with a premature infant. Real life dictated the lessons, The hours that my children spent learning about their sister or just sitting with me in the NICU were priceless lessons in God's mercy and goodness. Priceless.DSC_0275

Then, we went home. For the first week, we were on our own. I caught up on sleep as best I could and eased back into normal life with my family. I became reacquainted with the parts of my house I hadn't seen in two months (read: I found all sorts of "treasures" left by oblivious children.). I kangarooed.  My mother and stepfather came for Sarah Anne's second week home. I did a little reading aloud and everyone did some math every day and then we just hung out with Grandma. And then it was Thanksgiving, followed quickly by Advent.

 Advent is planned in our house. We have numerous variations on familiar themes and my children ensured that all those happy traditions were greeted with joy. I deliberately chose not to pursue "school as usual" during this time. To educate in the heart of a home, a family, is to have the opportunity to tightly weave the fabric of our family during times of transition. Having a baby is one such time. No matter whether it's the first baby or the ninth, a baby changes a family. And I wanted to be sure that we embraced and cherished that change. We journaled Sarah Anne's arrival and her meaning to us in words and pictures. We spent hours holding and watching her, just letting her become one of us. And, serendipitously, we did all those things while preparing for the birth of the Holy Infant. It was a beautiful, treasured time.

Then, it was January. I have little time to sit and convey my plans to paper (or your screen) just now. I can't make it all look neat and tidy and pretty, but Serendipity is serving me right now and I hope it's serving you, too. During bedrest, we experienced some -- ahem --issues with kids drifting off and getting super distracted during the day. I wasn't up and about to corral them. So, Mike and I devised a plan. I endeavored to write out the week's goals and intentions and then emailed them to each child and to Mike. At the end of the week, they would present their notebooks for his approval and for discussion. For self-motivated children, the process of writing the plans is a conference. We chat about what they want to do and where they want to take their studies. Within the framework of Serendipity plans, they can pick and choose and alter the plans. And they do so very well. For the children who would prefer to do nothing but play Rock Band all day, we settled upon a format: a math lesson and a subject area discussion and narration every day. So, I covered five subjects a week and I planned reading or videos (or both). I either read aloud or discussed with the student something we'd both read. And then, they narrated. Those narrations (which included drawings, maps, charts, whatever they thought convey ideas) were filed behind subject tabs for Mike to peruse at the end of the week. We continue that format now.

 DSC_0392 So, how is that relaxed? Good question! I guess what makes it feels relaxed to me is the general atmosphere of our home. Our whole family has gained a priceless treasure. She is at the forefront of our attention.She has changed us and is changing us. Personally, she is the reminder to me that every child here is not mine. They are His. What is important to me is the charge He's given me. I am to educate them in the faith. I am to lead them to Him. And He makes no promises about how long I have to do that. He makes no guarantees that I will have the time to finish a whole week's or a whole semester's or a whole year's plans. (I have often thought about the fact that Sarah Anne has twenty fewer years with me than Michael does.)  What He guarantees me is that He will grant me sufficient grace for the day. As long as I am in His will, I can pull our ample resources, make educated suggestions and corrections, work together with my husband, call upon the Lord frequently, and relax in the knowledge that He will ensure the important things get finished.

I've learned not to take pride in saying that we got right back to work the day (or the week or six weeks) after the baby was born. We didn't. We stopped. We exulted in the joy of her. We celebrated and savored the miracle of her.  And then, we never went back to the way we were. Instead, we began anew, better for having experienced the joy of new life.