Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

Here's a few paragraphs that I recently posted on our home school group's web site regarding something that has been on my mind recently -

It’s that time of year when most of us are placing a lot of time, focus, and thought on our home school. If you’re like me, I generally let my brain rest from such activity during the summer break. I was fortunate this year to know early on the curriculum I intended to use when we started back, so I was able to make the purchase and even get our school room prepared and organized at the beginning of the summer. This left me with several weeks to just relax and enjoy my family and home. That time of relaxation officially ended a few weeks ago, but I’m pretty sure we were all ready for some structure and schedules to return to our household.

As we have returned to a daily routine, I’ve noticed that others have also. The email lists I subscribe to are already being flooded with field trip opportunities, extra-curricular activities, co-op classes, etc. It’s enough to make your head spin if you’re not careful. And that is an important key, we all must be careful to “be careful” in this area. In the July-August GHEA Newsletter, this very topic was discussed. In a nutshell, it brought up the idea that we as parents can be victims of peer pressure in the homeschooling world. I especially enjoyed a story within the newsletter titled “Somebody Else’s Priorities,” written by Raquelle Sheem. The main character was Mrs. Robin – “a new homeschooler, anxious to give her little chicks a good education.” Mrs. Robin was confronted by several well-meaning friends whose children were excelling in different areas – singing, music, foreign language, and medical training. The other parents were so thrilled with the success their children were having in those particular areas, they did their best to convince Mrs. Robin that those things would also be best for her children. Once again, eager for her children to have a good, well-rounded education, she was quick to hop on board with all of these activities.

What was the end result? She and her children found themselves absolutely exhausted. She came to the conclusion that she must drop something, but all those things were good things. How would she choose?

Surprisingly, one of her typical enemies, Thomas the Cat, gave her some wonderful advice after hearing her predicament. “Everybody always thinks what they’re doing is important or they wouldn’t be doing it. But just because it’s a priority for them doesn’t mean it has to be for you, does it?” I thought that was very well said, even if it was a cat.

Most of us have been around families that are excelling in areas that we are not, mainly because we’re not participating in those areas. Sometimes this can lead to a sort of peer pressure where we think we are shortchanging our children if we don’t allow them the opportunity to do the same. In the midst of this pressure, we need to stop and think about what is best for our children. There are so many good things available for homeschoolers right now, but choosing to do all of these “good things” is definitely not best.

Ruth Martin also had a wonderful article in this same GHEA issue titled “Peer Pressure Isn’t Just for Kids.” Here’s a few quotes I enjoyed reading: “Because our traditional school friends and family tell us all the things their kids are doing, we feel pressured to provide all those activities for our children. But, because our activities aren’t housed under one roof [like within a public school setting], we run ourselves ragged trying to get our children to all these enriching activities. Then, we wonder when they tell us they’re bored when they aren’t occupied! Children who are programmed to a quiet life expect a quiet life; those who are programmed to a busy life expect busy-ness!…“make it your ambition to lead a quiet life….” (1 Thess. 4:11) Don’t be so worried that they’re going to miss something that YOU miss the blessing of being with them and teaching them…..If you find yourself with more books in the car than in your schoolroom, rethink all those activities.” There are many more wonderful words of advice in this article, and I’d be happy to pass along the newsletter to anyone who would like to read it.

The past couple of years, we’ve been able to pare down our activities and do what is best for our family and what is most enjoyable to us. Madison immensely enjoys sports and so is currently playing on a local softball travel team. Cari enjoys art, and since I have no talent in that area, I intend to make sure that need is met for her via outside classes. I want the girls to learn to play the piano, but thankfully, right now I’m able to teach them at home, alleviating the need to seek outside lessons at this time. That’s about the sum of our current extra-curricular activities, and that’s the way we like it. We enjoy throwing in a field trip to break the monotony from time to time and doing other activities within our support group, but when something becomes a burden to my family – or yours – it’s time to reevaluate our priorities. Maybe your family needs more activity then ours – or less. Most importantly, as you’re beginning your school year, I just wanted to encourage you to not fall into the trap of trying to replicate what others are doing or trying to participate in every activity that comes along at the sake of your family’s sanity. All in all, don’t be afraid to say “no” to the many good things. Save your “yes-es” for the best things!

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