Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That's NOT the Way We do Homeschool

I've been thinking this week about how our family tries to live our purpose:  Freedom and Joy

I recently discovered a network of blogs on the theme of living simply and I began to wonder if maybe I needed to refocus on simplifying our lives--less stuff, less TV, less...???  I soon realized we couldn't  get any less busy (we rarely go anywhere) or less scheduled (we have no schedule) or less strung-out financially (we live pretty comfortably within our means already).  So I patted myself on the back and I thought about our homeschooling and I wondered if we could get more simple.

I headed to a blog called Simple HomeschoolBIG MISTAKE.

The mother writing at Simple Homeschool is living the exact opposite of what I would describe as simple.  In fact, I was so appalled at what she was writing that I had to walk away from the computer--as if her ideas were going to hurt me.

In a nutshell:  She describes her morning with her 4 or 5 children, how she takes her 7-year-old to another room for a spelling lesson and gives her 5-year-old a time-out for interrupting her and lets her 2-year-old cry by herself.  She says she has to 'train' the younger ones.  And she says they have to learn to obey her.

Stop right there, thank you very much.

I have a much simpler philosophy. 

The needs of the youngest or weakest among us always come first.
There is never any guessing in my house about how to look after 4 kids under the age of six.  When the needs of the youngest always come first then everyone always knows their place in the family.  When the baby needs his diaper changed and someone else is asking for juice and toast, the diaper comes first.  When I'm reading a story for the girls and the baby wakes up from a nap, the book is dropped and the baby is picked up.  Immediately.

There are two big advantages to establishing this approach.
  1. I don't ever spend time in my head thinking about what to do next.  I don't feel guilty about whether or not Anna got more attention than Holly or Jasmine.  I don't debate who to run to when 3 kids are needing attention.  My brain stays clear for thinking about other things.  Decisions are made in advance of situations.
  2. If my kids are going to receive any training in this house, then the training is in how to balance their needs against the needs of other people.  They are going to grow up knowing that before they act they think about the needs of other people.
Just imagine if governments and businesses adopted this attitude:  Our decisions will be made in such as way as to take care of the youngest and weakest members of society first;  then we'll worry about profit.  I would vote for anyone who promises to take care of the youngest and weakest first.  Even a Conservative.  (Ha ha ha.)

I just can't imagine a mother who calls her approach to her family 'simple' subjecting her children to arbitrary punishments and unreasonable expectations.  What is a two-year-old learning from having to cry while she waits for her mother to teach Spelling?  How is spelling more important than the needs of the toddler?  I don't get it.  I don't have an agenda that doesn't meet everyone's needs. 

The only time I don't use the 'youngest or weakest' criteria to determine whose needs get met first is when two of the older children have competing needs.  Then my criteria is also predetermined.

Emotional needs trump physical needs.
So if someone is crying over a wrecked Barbie dress while someone else is whining asking for toast and a cup of juice, the crying child is comforted before the hungry child is fed.  Whenever someone cries I drop whatever I am doing to go to that child.  I don't get involved in any drama, I just listen to the story behind the tears, I validate and I wait for the child to move on.  Guess what?  Very little crying at my house.  If you don't like the sound of crying, then go to the crier, and chances are the crying will stop.  Amazing.

I try not to get terribly critical of other mothers.  We are all genuinely trying our best.

But if a mother is going to call her website Simple Homeschool, then she should actually be doing it simply.

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