Sunday, January 15, 2012

Homeschool Pharisee

We've been about two weeks behind in our schooling for some time.  We took an unexpected week off in late October to attend a missionary conference in MN, and then we didn't get much schoolwork done over Thanksgiving while we were visiting my in-laws in MD.  Add to that a couple of sick days, and you can easily see why we're beginning week 15 instead of 17 or 18 (out of 36).

This morning, during my quiet time, I was asking for wisdom about this very thing.  God is so good.  He does give generously without finding fault!  He reminded me that my standard in homeschooling (as well as everything else, of course) is Him!  And one place where His standard for educating my children can be found is in Deuteronomy 6:5-7.

"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently  to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Another area of obeying God's standard for home education is submitting to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1).  For me, that means teaching 875 hours and incorporating six certain subjects.  (Thankfully, Wisconsin keeps things fairly simple.  Your "governing authorities" could be different than mine.)

So why...why have I done this to my children?

This is Jeffrey's binder.  See, I'm a planner, which I think is a good thing.  But instead of using this binder as a guideline, it has become our master.  And to top it off, Emma and Lydia have their own binders.  So, I've had three binder-masters!  Hmmm...come to think of it, the word "binder" has a double meaning here.  It keeps all of the pages in there nicely, but it has also bound us--chained us--to crossing everything off.  Slavery to the binder is not a good thing.  Having a plan?  Yes, that's good.  I'm glad I took the time to fill all of this stuff in.  However, I think I put too much in there.  I've got busywork and completely unnecessary things in there.  And worse yet, we get so busy trying to catch up that we don't enjoy any of it anymore!  Once we get everything checked off for the school day, our mind set is like this, "Whew!  Good!  School is done for today."  And that's not true.  (See Deut. 6:5-7 above.)  Because I think we're done, I don't even look for teachable moments.  I'm too tired and frustrated.  Besides, I've got supper to make, housework to do, kids to bathe....  My day is one big "To Do" list, and I'm sick of it.  But the good news is:

*Drum roll*


I am following the governing authorities perfectly.  My children are learning for at least five hours per day in more than six subjects.  Any feelings of being behind have only come from me--from that binder to which I've enslaved us.  See, I've taken God's standard and added to it the things which would make us look good.  Uh-huh.  Homeschool Pharisee.  That's me.  And just like a Pharisee, I've been frustrated with my kids--and with myself--for not being able to keep up with the impossible.  Along with that, I've sacrificed much relational time with my children for the sake of ritualistic "stuff and fluff".  We're going to make some changes around here.


To be honest, I don't know.  But I'm actually okay with that.  I'm trusting God and asking Him for wisdom.  And really, I'm just so very relieved!  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  *happy sigh*


  1. I totally get what you're saying and agree with you, but I find myself having to stay on top of things (or having to work to get on top of things when I'm not) this year, because Zach has been enrolled in a distance high school. Now it really IS up to the binder, so to speak. I'm paying someone else to be a pharisee for me, as the entire point is accountability and official record keeping.

  2. You're right, Sue. I'd say the distance high school is your governing authority. I'd also add that high school, in general, is a bit different than the younger grades.

    Next year, my governing authority will change somewhat for Emma, since she'll be a freshman in high school. I want for her to earn a high school diploma, so we'll need to abide by the number of credits the state of WI requires--and what do to to earn them.

  3. A former colleague was fond of saying, "Never let school get in the way of your education."

  4. I didn't know you knew Mark Twain!

  5. Yeah, I'm a lot older than I look. And it turns out Conklin was a plagiarist.

  6. Yay, Jenny! This is the spirit of homeschooling. My best homeschooling memories happened out-of-the-binder, so to speak. (Actually, they usually occurred in conjunction with the younger grades. They get all the fun read alouds and field trips. I don't get to go to a pet store to learn about turtles in action....)

    I know how you feel, as a perfectionist, as a preschool teacher and as my own schedule-maker. This was my first year coming up with my own curriculum and schedule, and I really pushed myself. I freaked out just before Christmas because I was certain I'd end up doing school until August at least. I'm actually going to finish sometime in March, if even that late. :P I'm planning on doing something really geeky until graduation -- like visiting pet stores.

  7. Craig, that's funny on more than one level, considering Conklin was Academic Dean!

    Bailey, visiting pet stores sounds lovely! Maybe we'll tag along. = ) Actually, the kids have all been asking about helping out at the Humane Society again. We had gotten away from that because there was "too much to do".

    Oh, and I'm reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Lydia right now, even though it's supposed to be Henry Huggins--according to the binder. She loves it. "Just one more chapter, Mom? Please?" *That's* what I want to hear.

  8. Jenny, I can so relate to what you're saying because I'm a planner and list-maker, too. There is certainly a balance somewhere between using the binder (or schedule or curriculum or whatever) a tool and not a master, but sometimes they can get blurred. May all we homeschool moms have the courage and wisdom to teach our children well, cross out or change things on our "list", enjoy our children, and let life unfold. Oh, and I think you should consider yourself on Week 17 since your children certainly received some great real-life education during those 2 weeks of travel.

  9. Yes, Lisa, balance! Somehow, everything comes back to balance, it seems. "...(L)et life unfold." I really like that. Oftentimes it seems I'm trying to force open the flower of learning. That doesn't work very well.

    Week 17 it is! = ) When counting my hours, I always forget to add in dance lessons, swimming lessons, field trips (we went to the National Zoo fer-cryin'-out-loud), and all the stuff my kids learned about other cultures & countries at the missionary conference.

  10. I read an article in World Magazine today about Christian unschooling. They take a dim view of it The govt. estimates that up to 30% of home schoolers are unschoolers. I thought of my friend Jen and how she could NEVER unschool. Somewhere in between is the line, and you'll find it.

  11. "Unschooling" is a tricky word. Originally, it simply meant doing school in a different way than a classroom situation. The goal was to try to undo a cookie-cutter, assembly line, industrial type of education. That could mean anything from an apprenticeship to unit studies. When people talk about unschooling today, though, it means (most of the time) "delight-directed learning". This is where the child determines what is learned and when. Now, this *can* be done effectively, but it takes a LOT of parental involvement, which seems counter-intuitive to the label "unschooling". When a child expresses interest in a subject, it's the parent's job to help provide resources--and the younger the child, the more work that is. It's also a record-keeping nightmare. We don't "unschool" according to this definition. Frankly, I'm too lazy to do it right! I also appreciate more structure than unschooling provides.

    In which issue of World is the article you read?

  12. The Jan. 14 issue. It's more of a column than an article. Interesting, tho.

  13. Dear Jenny,

    I would like to strongly encourage you to not stress out too much about the 875 hours of instruction.

    Now, to be clear, I’ve had this same struggle myself, a number of times. I’m subject to the governing authority, and I certainly don’t want to ignore their requirements or manipulate numbers to fall in line with their policy. Even more, I don’t want to cheat my children out of their education. But, according to our state, my husband and I run a private school (which doesn’t accept any government funding ). Therefore, we get to decide the priorities in our school.

    Yes, the state does say we need to make sure our children are progressing in 6 specific subjects. But it doesn’t say they need to spend all of their time, or even most of their time, on those subjects. Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to have a strong grasp of basic academic subjects. But, the academic subjects are a tool toward my even greater goal of helping my children discover the gifts God has given them and guiding them to use those gifts in a way that glorifies Him.

    As you alluded to in another comment, all of those extras – swimming, dance, play practice, Awana, family trips, etc. – count. If you are teaching 875 instructional hours, plus all of the additional activities your children are involved in, you are providing way more than the governing authority dictates. (And that’s just during the school year – think of everything they’re learning each summer!)

    I probably should wrap this up and get back to working with my kids , and I’m not sure I really made a point. I guess my point is that it’s okay to relax. Pray about it. Lighten your load, maybe substantially, if that’s where God leads you. It’s okay to drop the things in your school day that aren’t really working out or that are distracting you from your main homeschooling goals. (Well, um, hopefully not the play, though :) ) You’re a student, too, in all of this, and God’s helping you discover the right balance for you and your family.

  14. Oh Char, I'm not really stressing about the 875 hours. Sorry if I was unclear about that. Even though the binder says Week 15, I am confident we're easily on target for fulfilling those hours. So, realizing that I *only* have to do that was a relief!

    I had put too much in the binders--too much academia, that is--that I didn't leave enough room for real life learning. Lisa mentioned balance, and that's what I'm praying towards. The play, I think, fits in with some of that real life learning (i.e. "socialization", fine arts, teamwork, logistics, and basically getting out of the house). ; )

    I'm also rethinking some homeschooling goals. Last week, I'd say those goals were to finish the books! Finishing curriculum does not necessarily equal true learning, however. I don't know.... Like I said, I'm doing a lot of praying...and reading...and talking with Dave...and talking with the kids.