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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why I'm No Longer Behind in Homeschool

Why I'm No Longer Behind in Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

A Little behind


My sweet mother-in-love used to have this little ceramic doll that sat on a shelf in her living room. I remember seeing it long before I ever made the decision to homeschool. If memory serves, it was a gift given to her back in her homeschooling days...back when The Hubs sat at her dining room table pouring over books about World War II and sloughing through algebra worksheets. 

The doll stood bent over with its fanny pointed to the sky and on its bloomer bottoms were etched the words, "A little behind in school."

It sat there on her neatly-organized shelf as a reminder of that ever-vexing feeling that all homeschool mommas fall prey to...that nagging notion that we are behind...that we are racing against the school year calendar in a desperate attempt to get caught up...to fit it all in.


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Why I'm No Longer Behind in Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

The Early Days


In my first year of homeschooling, I remember seeing that doll sitting on its shelf taunting me with its blatant truth plastered on its bloomered cheeks. She mockingly reminded me of how little time I had left in the school year and how much my daughter still had left to learn. 

I thought if I just pushed hard enough...
If I just stuck rigidly to my well-ordered plan, I could end the year at the proper finish line.


Why I'm No Longer Behind in Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

The dawning 

But one day, as I was pondering this dangerous idea of "behind", I asked myself a bold question. (I think I may have even said it OUT LOUD.)

Behind what?

What was I behind?
What benchmark was holding my school year hostage?

Was it the school calendar of the "normal" school down the street?
Was it the curriculum guide of my perfectly prepared boxed set of books? 
Was it my pretty school day planner that had quickly become my second brain? 

I think in the end, it was a combination of all of these. I felt behind because I was letting someone or rather something other than my child's education...her natural passions and abilities, or lack thereof...to steer my year. I was allowing some nameless "expert" behind the city-wide school year calendar or curriculum guide to dictate the speed at which I pushed or drug my daughter along.

But didn't this irrational thinking go against one of the primary reasons I decided to homeschool in the first place? Didn't I want an individual path? A tailored education?

I most certainly did. 

Sadly, I had allowed someone else's cadence determine how we marched...how she marched. 


No Longer Behind

It was then that I realized that education is not a sprint, it's a marathon.
It is a lifetime of forward motion. 

As long as my daughter was learning every single day and continued to do so throughout her homeschooling, how could she or I be behind? How can anyone be behind their own individualized journey? 

I determined that first year never to feel behind again. I embraced our own natural homeschooling rhythms and cast off the chains of someone else's calendar. I allowed my daughter's naturals delights and abilities to determine how fast or how slow we proceeded.

I chartered our own course and have never looked back!

After seven more years of homeschooling, I still make my well-ordered plan. But, now I see that plan as FREEDOM. It is the freedom of knowing that my children and I can fearlessly wander down thought-provoking rabbit trails and quickly find our way back with one glance at the plan. It is the freedom of having order NOT chaos. It is the freedom of always moving forward and never falling behind. 

I am no longer shackled by the bold proclamation of that little ceramic doll's backside.
But then again, I've come to realize that I really wasn't ever BEHIND in the first place. 


For more thoughts on the ever-evolving homeschooling journeys of others, please visit iHomeschool Network as we tackle How My Homeschool Has Changed Over the Years.

38 comments:

  1. Jamie, I struggled with being behind all year. You see when we took our son out of public school we realized he was behind and had him repeat his current grade in our homeschool. I have spent all year stressed that he is "1 grade level behind". I even had homeschool moms telling me it was a mistake to a repeat grade! All I kept thinking was "he should be in 2nd grade":( one day not to long ago, in desperation, I got on my knees and cried out. I felt so much pressure to catch him up. I realized in that moment that we were exactley where the Lord had lead us to be:) I decided to switch up history and science, bring a fresh approach to our daily schooling....We are right where we should be:)

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    1. Praise the Lord for a momma who knows her child and seeks His will. Kudos to you for having the courage to do what is best for YOUR homeschool and family!

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  2. I am going to need to refer to this post regularly next year!!!

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  3. What about when your almost 7 year old cant read or write yet because you decided to not push him since it took along time for him to be potty trained and you learned you have to do it when hes ready. Does that mean you failed or that im behind because everyone else his age reads and writes.

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    1. Stephanie, I'm not Jamie, but I want to encourage you & let you know that you have most certainly NOT failed. Many, many 7 year olds can't read or write yet for various reasons. Keep up the gentle leading, with encouraging words and praise for your dear child, and it will come in time. :) Too many times our little ones see our frustration or worry, often because we compare ourselves to x, y, z...exactly like what Jamie wrote about here. Blessings to you!

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    2. Stephanie, Please be encouraged that he will learn to read. It just might be at the same rate of others. And that's OK. The end result will still be the same. He'll be a reader.

      Please read this post that addresses this very thing and be encouraged that you haven't failed.
      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2014/09/dear-homeschool-momma-with-struggling.html

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    3. I'm going to chime in on this because, I too, have an 8 year old that has just recently started to read this year. I struggled with the thought for a while but I knew that if I just keep the offering books he was interested in that "some day" he would read. That "some day" is finally here. Einstein was 4 before he could speak & 7 before he could read! Now that's encouragement! Be patient, we all learn at different levels and that's ok.

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    4. My 7 year old reads beautifully. I pulled him out between kindergarten and first grade because he was reading at a 3rd grade level and they had no idea that he could even read!!! We live in a mandatory testing state, and he tested at a solid 4th grade level at just-turned 7. (2nd grade age).

      What mine doesn't do is use the potty. Yes. He's almost 8 and wears a pull-up. We've been to every conceivable type of doctor. The best we've gotten is "inconclusive." He has no other symptoms of... anything.

      So.. they ALL have their problems and struggles. I think we might even see this more in the homeschooling community. Just be patient with him. He'll learn. Mine will, too... I hope.

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    5. He will read when he is ready. One day it will just click and he will be off. In the mean time expose him to lots reading aloud and audiobooks. He will be picking up vocabulary and learning through the spoken word.

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    6. I am coming in with a different perspective here--shoot me not. ;)
      I believed the "they'll learn when they're ready" belief as well. But my daughter...didn't. She was 8, 9, 10, and still having trouble. I finally took her in to have her visual processing checked out and she was a hot mess, visually speaking. Therapy, please. Stat.
      That said, 7, especially for a boy, is pretty young. In many European and Scandinavian countries, reading isn't even taught until age 8, when the eyeballs are more "solid". Or something like that.
      Unless your boy shows some sign of trouble (blinking, favoring one eye, headaches, holding books funny, etc. Check online for symptoms of visual processing issues), he is probably just taking his time.
      And there's nothing wrong with that. Align yourself with like-minded mamas at this time, to encourage you and help you keep your sanity. :)

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    7. Good perspective, Lisa. I think it is definitely a balance. I think as moms, we have to know our kids well enough to admit when we think there might be something bigger going on and then be willing to get them some help if need be.

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    8. Stephanie I just want you to know that you have NOT failed and you, and your 7 year old, are not behind! I pushed my first child to read and while she could do it, she hated it. Eventually I quit pushing and tried waiting. When it finally "clicked" (she was 8) it was like someone turned on a light switch in her brain and all of a sudden she was able to enjoy reading. I like to think I learned something from that and with my younger son I have tried not to push him. This doesn't mean we don't do any learning. We played games with letters and their sounds. We read lots of books together. Every once in awhile I would try getting my son to put letters together, and when I saw how frustrating it was for him, I quit and we waited again. In the last few months he has finally shown me that he is "ready" and now he is able to put simple words together and his ability to memorize sight words truly amazes me! There were so many days that I worried about how far "behind" he was getting, but my oldest had no problem catching up once she was "ready", and at the rate my son is going, I bet he will also catch up quickly. If he doesn't, that's ok too. Each of our children are different, and one of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that we have the ability to work with them where they are! Having said that, my 6 year old is the opposite of the other two. She reads just as well as the 8 year old already. After having to teach myself to "wait until they are ready" with the older two, now I find myself desperately trying to keep far enough ahead of her to keep her from getting bored! Homeschooling is great at keeping us on our toes, isn't it? :)

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  4. THANK YOU!!!! Thanks for the reminder! Many times my well planned calendar took the joy out homeschooling. We are having more joy and are children are learning!!!!

    To answer the above, many days we moments were work must be done...I find ways to make it fun for the child in the moment.


    One often overlooked part of learning is that fact that physical changes which include getting adult teeth, pubery (which startes way before the teen years) greatly affect learning. Homeschomshcooling has allow me to weather these challenges.

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    1. Very good point. There are seasons of physical change, emotional change, social change, etc. and all play a part of the whole child. Thank you for that great reminder!

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  5. **Sigh**... As per usual, you are a breath of fresh air, Jamie! :D I absolutely love this post. Is it weird that my heart goes pitter patter every time I look at my inbox and see an email from your blog?!

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    1. How very kind. I'm so glad my blog is an encouragement to you. Your words have certainly been an encouragement to me.

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  6. I LOVE this. It perfectly describes the mentality I am trying to have for our homeschool. After our FIRST week of our official 1st year of homeschooling, we got a phone call and found ourselves adopting our son 2.5 hours away from home and then spending the next 4 weeks with him in the NICU! Needless to say......we are VERY "behind" in our homeschool this year. However, God has been teaching me everything you wrote about in this post.

    Being a former public school teacher and Type-A personality, it is HARD to let go of being on schedule with the public school system & the curriculum guides!

    My oldest, a Kindergartener, has had what I describe a very "choppy" homeschool year since we started school in July, got the phone call about our son in August one week into our full load, were in the NICU September and then he required around the clock care until Nov/Dec which meant school was put on the back burner basically until the New Year.

    This post is confirmation to me that it is okay & has confirmed my thoughts about year round schooling instead of taking 2-3 months off in the summer like public school. Homeschool is our way of life. My daughter has made progress every day this year, even if we are only halfway through her math curriculum! Thank you for this post. We will continue on not being concerned about being "behind", but making progress every day in her learning!

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    1. Elaine,
      As a former classroom teacher, myself, I can TOTALLY relate. Although many would see a teaching background as a benefit to homeschooling, sometimes it is actually a detriment. Sometimes it's hard for old dogs to learn new tricks...or in this case, retrain ourselves to have a different mindset about education.

      Be encouraged, you don't have to teach her everything this first year. And really, YOU don't have to teach her everything EVER. If you are instilling a lifelong love of learning, she will have the tools to learn anything and everything ALL IN GOOD TIME.

      It sounds as if she is getting a good dose of life schooling and that is something she won't ever learn from a book and probably would not have ever experienced fully if she had been up the road at the "normal" school for 6-8 hours a day. So, kudos to you for sharing life...REAL LIFE...with her. You have given her more learning than many people get in a lifetime by allowing her to experience the ups and downs of the journey right alongside you and your new little one.

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  7. Love this! Thank you so much Jamie. I recently came to this conclusion as well, (although you put it so nicely into words!) but it's been so freeing and comforting to know that this is a lifelong education and process. We have almost no one around us that homeschool, so it's often times isolating to not know where my kids "add up." But reminding myself, sometimes daily, that they are exactly where they need to be has been a huge burden lifted off my shoulders.


    (Also, I'm friends with your sister Sarah, so glad she recommended your blog!)

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    1. Welcome, Amanda! Glad you're here. My sister is a gem, so if you're her friend, you must be too!

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  8. I just had to say that this article is wonderful. There is so much hype (for lack of a better word) about home schooled kids being ahead of all other schooled kids. It's nice to read about the "real" life of many home schoolers. We all learn at so many different levels and I wish there really weren't any *levels*, per se, at all. Let's just have fun learning! I once read this quote "Einstein was 4 before he could speak & 7 before he could read!" Our 8 year old son just started reading this year. It has been a bit of a rough road but we are navigating it. I just keep offering him books that interest him. I totally agree with this article. I don't believe he is behind, only right on track.
    Thank you for the encouragement!

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    1. I love that quote! I'm actually going to pass it along to a friend who could use that very encouragement. Thanks!

      Every child is different. I have some that are a year or two ahead in a few subjects and would be considered "behind" in another. But, that's the beauty of homeschooling. A child can be who they were created to be...not a number that's measured against all the rest.

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  9. You are so smart! School is supposed to be about learning, and as long as that is going on, we are on track.

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  10. I'm a new homeschooler with young children and love this idea, but am unsure how to implement it. Do you have any posts or advice on how to create or implement a schedule that fits this philosophy? Do you plan the books, but not pages per day or a timeframe to finish?

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    1. As I mentioned in the post, Melissa, I plan the entire school year. You can follow the link for more info on that. But, I use the plan as a guide and take forward motion with it. If we wander away from it for a bit to explore different topics, that's OK. we just pick up where we left off.

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  11. Oh how I needed this today! This is our first official year of homeschooling and in January we were shocked with a surprise pregnancy! I was 5 weeks exactly. When week 6 started, so did the morning sickness and I found myself plastered to the sofa all day long. Homeschooling took a back seat and I felt horrible about that. A good friend reminded me that at ages 4 and 5 my kids weren't even legally required by the state to be in school so I relaxed a bit. Besides, my 5yr old was reading quite well. It bugged me though to let days go by without "having school". Now that I'm in my 2nd trimester and feeling up to getting back in the groove, I was thinking about how much time I'd "lost" and how I could "catch up". Until, I read this post... Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this! I will let the schedule I planned be my servant and not my master. I am not behind!

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  12. Needed this post! We've just moved and are still unpacking and finishing up at the old house. Needless to say, there just aren't enough hours in the day to keep our homeschooling running like normal. I know it will all be okay, but it's tough to walk by my planner and know that only half, at best, will get done each day.

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    1. Don't underestimate all the life skills your kids are learning through a move, Emily. Those are things they won't ever learn in a book.

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  13. It's SO easy to get sucked into feeling like you've gotta keep up with the rest of society or even other homeschool moms. Sometimes we just need this reminder that its okay to go by our own speed and our own schedule - forget what society says is "right". That's exactly why we are homeschooling right? Thanks for sharing this post!

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    1. That's right. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there is a reason we don't school their way.

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  14. I still feel badly when my 8th grader is 'behind' in some subjects more than others. I know we do not have to have a 'set schedule' right now, but when he hits 12th grade, we plan on doing accredited through A Beka, which does have certain deadlines to meet if he wants to participate in graduation services. Our daughter did participate in services in 2012 and they were wonderful, so I want him to experience the same. Also, so many non-homeschoolers leave the impression that they don't think he is legitimately educated, so I feel like they would think better of his education if he's in an actual graduation service. Anyway, I try not to let things like this get me down, because I know I'm doing this for my child. I just want to make sure he can get things done in a timely manner by the time he reaches 12th grade. :)

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  15. What an awesome and very true article!!

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  16. Very true & not something I learned right away. I started homeschooling my son when he was in 2nd grade. He was very smart & learned quickly so I always felt good about homeschooling. Then came high school where the curriculum & pressure sucks all the joy out of learning. He was behind in math & creative writing. I tried all kinds of curriculum to figure out what would work best...nothing did. He just hated these subjects. Our math for high school has been remedial math, pre-algebra, algebra 1...and then back to pre-algebra his senior year. I decided if he didn't get it there was no point pushing him forward...I eased up on my expectations of him writing a novel one day as well...LOL His career path has always been military so I have prepared him the best for that career. This past September he took the ASVAB exam (the military's form of SAT) to enter the early soldier's program. I was so nervous as he took the exam...not sure what to expect. Everyone was amazed at his score because he scored 75% better than anyone EVER in the history of the exam. I was like...REALLY?!!! So let them go at their own pace, feed their interests, & watch them thrive.

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  17. I have been homeschooling for 12 years and I still struggle with feeling like we are falling behind. But I always come back to the same place you are at...we are exactly where each of my children need to be and right where the Lord wants us. Thank you for the encouraging article!

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  18. I saw this on facebook today and felt as thought it was written exactly for me & my daughter! I've been worried the last week or so about whether we're at the right benchmarks, which has shaken my daughter's confidence in her own learning. I reminded her this morning that our homeschool is going to be different from public school. We don't teach towards a generic test - we read, we learn, we explore our interests & engage in lively discussions in ways public schools can't simulate. It's always a nice reminder that I am not alone in my homeschool journey, though!! Thanks for taking the time to write this!!!

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  19. This really, really makes sense to me. I've been working so hard trying to figure out how I can teach my daughter EVERYTHING I feel she failed to learn in public school. Her former principal, while a sweet woman, brow-beat me when I made the choice because I felt like her teachers were failing to enforce responsibilities. They were treating her like she was incapable, and then took sole credit for the things we really worked on at home with her. The quality of her projects she brought home were just astoundingly terrible, and clearly just phoned-in on the teachers' part. They wouldn't send any assignments home with her, except terrible homework pages that were inconsistent (Common Core) varying from working with counting blocks to number lines to word problems that didn't align with any sort of lesson. While I'm all for the notion of letting the children guide their education a bit, and all for the notion of not having to teach everything all at once, I still feel the need for structure and routine to be loosely placed around the freedoms that you can give a child who is interested in learning. I've been frantic with the realization that she hasn't learned ANYTHING when it comes to history, geography, math (except the bare basics), etc. She doesn't know the planets (something we learned in the second grade), or anything about art (one of her favorite subjects), it's all been finger-painting and half-assed information.

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