About a month ago, our lives took a new turn. I was hired as an adjunct instructor to teach a few English classes at the local community college. This is only in the mornings, and so, with the help of my Mom watching the girls 2-3 hours per morning, I’m still able to homeschool them.
It’s at times like this that I am grateful we made the changes we did with curriculum. Life is very busy now, and it’s helpful to have both the girls studying the History and Science texts.
So today, I just want to give an update today about how the curriculum changes are going.
First, our history/geography curriculum… We’re still doing The Story of the World, and we all really like it. Frankly, it’s more interesting than some other history texts I’ve encountered, and I think it does what history texts are supposed to do – tell a story. History textbooks can be really dry and disconnected at times, not building a proper world context for events.
Providing this context is precisely what SOTW does well. The girls have started, quite literally, at the beginning. The book traces the world’s civilizations from the nomads and villages of the Fertile Crescent, expanding outward. Every week we read a chapter of the book, read additional texts about the topic, and look at maps and atlases. The girls write notes on the chapter, and then prepare an essay on one aspect of the chapter that interests them. Then there’s a simple test every Friday.
Right now, the essay writing is the most challenging aspect. First, (and I feel like I’ve written about this before on this blog) my kids do not like to revise or re-write. So, this means that there was a lot crying the first couple of weeks when they wrote their essays, and then I corrected them, and they found out they had to rewrite them.
Understandable. The physical act of writing does not come as easy to a child as it does to an adult. So, my wife had another idea, which she remembered doing when she was in fifth grade. Now, they write each sentence on its own notecard. We correct the sentences there, and the girls put the sentences in logical order, and then they write the final draft out on paper.
Currently, we are having Katie write two or three paragraphs and Annabelle one paragraph. So, obviously, they are not real essays yet, but the goal is to actually progress to real essays by the end of the year.
One thing that is actually helping me with this slow-and-steady concept is teaching the Composition class at the local college. I’ve had to really work with these students on sentence and paragraph construction, and it’s made me see how important these basics are. So, I’m not rushing the girls until the fundamentals are down for them.
I'm not a quitter. Sort of. I can finish things, and I don't usually procrastinate.
But sometimes I kind of forget about things. Maybe it's on purpose, maybe not.
The funny thing is, even writing this post, I had such a hard time finishing it. Is that irony?
We have this new goal to have the girls read a certain number of books every month or they lose their screen time. We're not starting it until February, though. So...
I'm not really sure where I was going with that.
My wife was the one to bring this up. When I mentioned this new Reading idea to her, she thought it was a good idea, but then said that she doubted we would follow through with it.
I asked her what she meant by that, but really, I already knew.
See, we sometimes have "good ideas" like this that sort of just fizzle out. You want some examples?
Once we had this idea to all wake up early every morning and have a large, hot breakfast. At the time we were having a problem with the girls balking about their schoolwork. If we all got up early (before my wife went to work), we could eat breakfast together and start the day on a good note (that was the thought, anyway).
I think that plan lasted about a month, maybe 5 weeks. I'm not even sure why or when it stopped.
My wife had an idea for a chore chart, probably with stickers. I'm not sure how long that one lasted, but I don't think it was more than a week. (Frankly, I don't think she ever made the chart.)
I used to come up with a detailed daily schedule for school subjects, complete with lunch and snack times. It wasn't too long before those plans were derailed. I didn't even bother to do it this year.
As I'm typing this, I'm starting to see a trend. I think the reason we feel the need to start something new is because we're in a bad habit, and we see the need to get out of it, but to do that we need structure. And maybe a hard turn to get us out of the rut we're in.
In all of the scenarios that I've described, we just needed to redirect ourselves on a better path. Once we did that, we didn't have the need for the stringent system. We're not really Type A people, so we don't thrive with regular rigidity, but everyone needs a wake up call at some points in their lives.
We can follow through with things, I told my wife. After all, I worked for years to get published, we've directed many plays, we finish projects we start.
Having things fall through is not exactly the same as not following through.
We have this new goal because we see the kids aren't reading as much as we want them too. Hopefully this system is all we need to get back on the track we want them to be. And if it fizzles out, but we keep the good habit, all will be well.
And, look, I finished this blog post. I guess I'm not so much of a quitter after all.
What’s my priority in life? What’s the most important thing? When I die, what am I going to regret that I did or didn’t do?
I find my thoughts leaning this way lately, probably because of the New Year beginning, maybe because I’m in a pensive mood, or maybe because I’m in the midst of a midlife crisis, who knows.
There may be a misconception that I’m only a stay-at-home Dad because I can’t find a job. That’s somewhat true, but the reality is that if I weren’t the stay at home parent, my wife would be. She just happened to find the job outside of the home first, and I haven’t been able to find one as good. If I do, the roles will reverse.
Sometimes people might say, “Oh, that’s so nice that you can homeschool. That’s so lucky that you can have one parent stay at home with the kids.”
While that may be true in the sense that we are blessed that my wife has a job that makes (mostly) enough to cover all the bills, the reality is that we have to sacrifice a lot to make this happen (and it doesn’t always happen). I won’t go into it, but I’m sure you can imagine the many things we are not able to do because of our choice to have four children and have a parent stay at home with them. I guess it’s obvious that we don’t really see these peripheral things as being that important to us. Otherwise, perhaps we would make different life choices.
It all comes down to priorities.
This is the way it is for most people, I know. For the people who take family trips every year or invest in a large house or put in an in-ground pool or send their kids to private school, that’s their priority, that’s where they feel their family will benefit. I would not say to them, “Wow, you are really lucky” to do that. Those people have worked hard to make those things happen. And I’m sure they had to sacrifice things in life to do that.
I’m not a resolution type of person, but if I were, I would say that this year I want to make sure that I’m making the choices and choosing the priorities that are the best for my family. My wife and I have to ask ourselves, what will benefit our children the most? What do they need? For, if they were given to us, the expectation is that we must find out what they need, what will help them grow, what will make them thoughtful, caring, God-honoring adults.
What’s most important for a kid?
Is it putting them to bed at 7:00 or spending more time with them? Is it sending them to an institutional school or homeschooling? Is it being in gymnastics or playing on a soccer team? Are academics more important than learning empathy and compassion?
The battle for The Most Important Thing is constantly at play. My goal is to honestly and continually challenge myself to make the best decisions that I can at the moment that will hopefully set a foundation for our children that will carry them into the future.
When I was a kid, all I heard growing up was
“You should go to college and get your degree.”
“It doesn’t matter what your major is, just get your degree.”
“If you have a degree, you’ll definitely get a Great Job.”
“Don’t worry about student loans – you’ll have no problem paying them off when you get your Great Job.”
Yes, I actually was told this by well-meaning, helpful people many times throughout my adolescence. And maybe this was true at some point. I’m sure it had to be true for someone, at least. I’m assuming that all these people weren’t just pulling something over on me. Surely it wasn’t just some sick joke, right? Right?
Well, anyway, it’s beside the point now, but I will tell you that my experience has most certainly NOT been what those well-meaning, helpful people promised me back in the day, and has definitely played a role in my feelings that I am about to expound upon in this blog post.
If one of my children wants to be an artist or a writer, I will more than likely discourage her from going to college unless she gets a full, all expenses paid, scholarship. To me, the best way to learn these crafts is to apprentice with different people, study on her own, and simply… just keep working at it. I think there is a benefit to a 4 year, liberal arts education, but for an artist, getting in debt for this kind of education is the quickest way to not be able to pursue your craft after you graduate because let’s be honest… it’s very, very difficult to find a job in an arts field that pays enough money for you to live on AND pay back student loans. Artists may have to work for years in solitude and obscurity before they are at a place where they can live a decent life on an artist’s income.
Ultimately, our goal as parents would be to make it so that we could easily pay out of our pockets to help our children go to college, but we may not be in that position. So, the next best thing we can do is to help them make wise decisions that will put them in a good place financially when they start out in life. Part of that starts now by providing them a well-rounded education at home, and helping them to determine what their talents and passions are.
I just think that our economy and society have changed. No longer is the “I’ve graduated from high school, so I’m definitely going to college” mindset a viable one, in my opinion. It’s just too expensive. When you have to get a loan for a car and for a house, who can manage another ball and chain around the neck?
I will give a caveat to this: There are many professions that require a college degree, and that actually pay off in the long run enough to justify the loans (should the girls have to use them). Those kinds of professions include teacher, lawyer, anyone in the medical field, etc...
However, if one of our children declared that she really, really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, then we would discourage her from taking out loans to go to school for anything. Because if you have the loans, the reality is that you have to pay them back, and that might be a roadblock to her dream of being a stay-at-home mom. Despite what people may think, one cannot have it all in this life.
And mostly, it’s sort of like this… those of us who are creative sometimes need freedom and the ability to work odd hours to do what it is that inspires and drives us. A college degree is an asset, yes, but often the amount of money you pay for it doesn’t really pay off in the end. And to make ends meet, many creative people find themselves forced to find steady, 9-5 jobs that squelch any imaginative impulse and leave that artistic person feeling discouraged and empty.
What are some things that a person pursuing a creative profession could do instead of going to college?
To do all of this, though, you have to have support. So, here’s where I’m going to challenge the parents of the creative child. I’ve heard people say before, “I’m only going to support my kid if he/she is in college.” I sort of understand this, but what it says to the child is “I don’t believe in you. I don’t think you can make it going your own way.” And that is a sad thing.
Now, as a parent, you may think that a creative profession is a pipe dream that is something that is only able to be accomplished by someone else. And maybe that’s true. But that’s where you might be glad that you didn’t shell out thousands of dollars for your child to train at a college (where the professors are not necessarily going to be honest with you or your child about his/her talent. After all, they need your money). I think that you will really find if your child has the true talent and drive to make it when they go out into the Real World and try to experience it that way. Handling rejection and failure is the true gauge as to whether or not someone can handle something.
Parents need to see the non-college way as a legitimate path. They need to support their child in this process in the same way that they would support their college-attending child. As long as the creative child is working hard and doing her best, this should be as good as getting an A on a paper. I think if the parents of the creative child embraced this alternative path, they might become a little more interested in what their child is doing, and perhaps might seek out contacts for their child, and help the child get a good start in life.
I guess this post may make it seem like I’m not a fan of higher education, but that’s not exactly true. I see the benefit in it. I just don’t see this is as a need for everyone. I see how a college degree can help someone become a more well-rounded person who can think critically and communicate effectively. However, I think that people do not need a college degree to develop these traits. Frankly, in my opinion, high school graduates should have developed them before they ever stepped onto a college campus, but that’s a different blog post, for perhaps a different blog.
Homeschooling my daughters makes it clear to me that education is not a cookie cutter-type venture. One mode of teaching may work for one child, but not necessarily the other. Each child has different talents, abilities, gifts, passions, and desires. And these aspects will take each of them on a unique path in life. To say, across the board, that they all should attend college is an insult to their individuality.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.