Back to (Home) School: Learning at the Speed of Life

It’s about this time every year. These conversations begin to bounce around my home. And I’m never ready.

“When are we going to get the books?”

“What time do we have to get up?”

“How many papers do I have to write this year?”

“Are all the forms filled out?”

Despite our flexible family learning lifestyle, in which we try to encourage a year round environment of learning, we are like many homeschoolers in that we use a standard scholastic calendar, where most of our educational activities occur between August and April / May.

In other words, our preparation for school doesn’t really vary that much from our traditional school counterparts. We have to prepare our family to enter a new season of life and learning, make schedule adjustments, renew previously established routines, and re-focus on academics.  Getting our family out of the more lazy and relaxed summer tempo takes a considerable effort. Just the mention of waking up earlier causes the rolling of eyes to begin anew in our teenagers.

So we can empathize with the millions of parents besieged by the back-to-school craze. But we also have less school-induced stress than the average family. I’m grateful that we’re still in control of our kid’s schedule. Not worrying about clothes, lunches, or bus schedules as our traditional schooling friends might. School supplies determined by our own needs. Not fretting over which classroom / home-room our kids will be assigned to. My kids knowing they will see their friends because, well, we take them to see their friends whenever we want.  Their school year looks less like being thrust into an externally constructed schedule and more like adopting a more academically focused routine in their daily lives, one that still allows them to be flexible and responsible with their time.

One of my friends at church has a daughter entering kindergarten this year. He shared with me his concern about the new school routine they would have to adopt.  As a leader in our ministry, he and his wife are often required to stay late at church, which means the family gets home late.  He is concerned that having to rush his daughter to school every morning will negatively affect her focus and temperament through the rest of the day. This is one of the reasons I value homeschooling – because it allows us to be disciplined when we need to with schedules, but also to know when we have to let our kids be kids and release them from the tyranny of the calendar.

Life demands different tempos and routines from us throughout the year. Although we follow prescribed calendars in our organizations, churches, and workplaces, we as parents have to be sensitive enough to know when to buck the trend and let our families adopt the pace that works for them. Whether it means an impromptu weekend out of town, a dinner date for just the parents while the kids are babysat, or just a couple of minutes in a busy day to unplug and unwind as a family, the tempo of learning is most effective when it is running within the speed limits of life.

As the year approaches, I’ll continue to feel a little anxious. I won’t get every book we need on time. We’ll have attitude adjustments and mammoth misunderstandings. And they will still be moments when we feel like there’s just not enough time for everything. But we’ll jump into this school year with the understanding that we are the drivers of this educational process. As we drive the highway of home-schooling, we’ll keep to the speed limits that our lifestyle suggests. If traffic speeds up, and the wheels start to spin out of control, we won’t hesitate to pull over and take a pit stop, so that our academic progress is never prioritized at the expense of our family’s peace of mind.

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