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It's not a sprint, it's a marathon*

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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's not a sprint, it's a marathon*

*this is not a post about running, although those close to me know it's all I want to talk about lately. . .

It's May which means school is about to end and I will start fielding questions from people who are thinking about homeschooling next year.

Maybe their child got assigned to the "crappy" teacher for next year (isn't there one in every grade?). Maybe they are sick of the growing burden of homework and know it's only going to get worse? Maybe their child is being bullied or ignored or has needs that aren't being met in the school system?

Or, maybe they've gotten to know my awesome kids and want to be more like us. (heh)

For all the things I say to people about homeschooling, I usually talk about the mechanics of it: what resources I like, the curriculum we've tried, local classes/groups/activities to check out.

But I often forget the best piece of advice I've been given from other veteran homeschoolers. It's the the title of this post: It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

Unless you are planning to homeschool for just one year (and if you want a good reason why I don't suggest it, read this book), you have a long, long time to make sure your kids are prepared for college.

That doesn't mean I advocate doing nothing until 9th grade and then trying to cram everything into a few years. Anyone whose done a marathon will probably tell you that they are working hard from the very start. But, like in a marathon, if you start out going too fast or push too hard, you'll burn out.

I did this. I bought loads and loads of books and workbooks and manipulatives and daily planners and CD-ROM's. And I started with an enthusiastic daughter who loved doing work for me.

But then one day she started to resist my efforts to keep on a schedule. Maybe she could smell my fear that "Ohmygodwe'regoingtofailatthis!!!!" (I swear I smell french fries when things go bad, as if my brain is telling me I'm going to produce a McDonald's fry cook unless I finish this lesson, dammit.)

When she resists though, maybe it is because she just didn't understand the lesson and is trying to tell me this in her own way, by refusing to move on. Or, maybe the lesson is so deadly dull, any kid in their right mind would tune out, something a teacher in front of 30 kids can ignore but a mother with her one beloved offspring sees loud and clear.

So, I'm trying to learn.

I tell that voice in my head to shut up and slow down if we need to. Take a break. Play outside. Talk. Read. Put down the pencils. Change our tact. If we don't finish third grade grammar until late this summer, or even halfway through fourth grade, the Earth will not spin off its axis. My daughter will not be stuck making fast-food french fries as an adult.

The fear that I need to push, to do more, to move forward at lightening speed never really goes away. Yesterday, I heard of a mom who homeschools her children from 7am to 2pm. I have friends whose kids are doing work far ahead of their grade level. I have friends who seem so confident, while I feel like I need to pick myself up off the ground daily and say you're doing ok.

We're doing ok. And we're not even halfway there. So I'm going to keep us chugging along, stopping when we need to catch our breaths, and hope that we've got enough in us to make it to the end, wherever that may be.

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Blogger Mrs. Q. said...

Your approach is what learning should be, and it is what teachers would strive for if their classrooms weren't packed full of 22-32-39 kids each year: let the student dictate the pace, try different approaches to see what excites them and focus on the long-term.

That's what nurtures a life-time love of learning. It's what I hope my children find, and it's also what wakes me up at night.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

I don't know what you are talking about. My kids NEVER argue with me for THREE FREAKING HOURS about the proper way to make a nine, they NEVER say they'd rather play or watch tv, and I NEVER give in and slack off on school for TWO ENTIRE WEEKS because I don't feel like doing it either....

10:30 AM  
Blogger Issas Crazy World said...

Since I've never home schooled and honestly, I know I couldn't, I shouldn't even comment.

But I luff you, so I had to say hi. Hi! *waves*

10:43 AM  
Blogger Melani said...

I think your a wonderful, strong, dedicated woman who only wants the best for her kids, what mom doesn't? That being said, I have an award for you over at my place! :)

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I go back and forth between wanting to home school and being terrified at the mere thought of it. I was home schooled myself through middle and high school, but I did not have dedicated parents, so it didn't work well. I bet if my mom was more like you I'd have been better off.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Patois said...

You smell french fries? I smell Lay's potato chips. Same concept. Same stench.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Great post...I think this is something we all go through and am glad we are all here to remind each other to breathe deeply and know that it will be ok!

And I was kind of hoping for a running post!

7:21 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

Thanks guys. . .Deb, I laughed at your comment b/c, um, yeah, I NEVER do any of that. (cough)

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love that idea of pacing yourself so you dont burn out like a marathon (not that I run). Also, its very helpful to have a lot of radical unschooler freinds, that way you can always feel smug about how much school you actually DO get done :-)

11:02 AM  
Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

Double double ditto, babe. We are chugging along, doing pretty good. We're not the most dedicated but I always remind myself that plenty of kids graduate high school without knowing half of what my eldest knows in 5th grade. So I think we're on the right course. For now. :)

4:16 PM  
Blogger Krystan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Krystan said...

I used to worry about having hermit children who will never have friends. Then I was worried they would hate learning because I forced them to do too many stupid workbooks. Now I worry they'll never be able to write a coherent paragraph and will never be hired by anyone. I'm pretty sure there will always be something to worry about (for example, drivers ed in 7 short years?).

It's hard to find that balance between structure and freedom. *I* think you're doing an awesome job, and your children are some of the sweetest, most creative, most *real* people I know.

10:55 PM  

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