Some time after we were married, my husband remarked on how much he appreciated good home cooking, thoughtfully-packed lunches, and fresh baked goods. He especially liked the chocolate chip cookies, which I made faithfully for him because I knew they were just about his favorite dessert. However, he did wonder whether I had found a new recipe for them, because he didn’t remember chocolate chip cookies tasting quite the way I made them. Was I using the classic Nestle Toll House Cookie recipe, he wondered?
Oh, yes, I assured him. Well, of course I bought the off-brand chips, because those were cheaper, but the recipe on the back was the gold standard. Of course, I made them with whole wheat flour, but otherwise the recipe was the same.
Aha! We had discovered the confusion. In fact, the recipe, as written, did not call for whole wheat flour; hence, I was altering the recipe; and why would I do that? I explained that I naturally used whole wheat flour in all my recipes because that’s what my family did: it was the more healthy option.
My tactful husband pointed out to me that he did not request cookies to be healthy. He wanted to eat them because they tasted good. Considering all the sugar and chocolate in them, they weren’t going to be nutritious anyway, so why bother trying to pretend? It is much better to be honest about it and strive for moderation in indulging in treats.
Of course he had a good point, and indeed that was a good lesson on questioning our assumptions about The Way Things Were. This early period in our married life turned out to be a good time to critically evaluate our expectations and establish traditions for our new family based on our own experiences, personalities, and preferences, rather than habit and inertia.
I believe that questioning expectations is a good exercise for any family, especially those new to homeschooling. It can be easy to assume that a homeschool classroom should replicate, as much as possible, a public or a private school experience (e.g., with regimented class schedules, a year’s worth of coursework planned out in advance, and plenty of homework to keep on track). And that’s a fine approach, if that’s what works for your family. But just because the institutionalized approach may be what you’re familiar with does not mean that you have to duplicate it in your home. Take some time to consider the high and low points of what best aided you in your learning process, and figure out how to implement the good points in your homeschool.
These are some things I’ve pondered in relation to our homeschooling experience. I consider it a (by no means complete) list of what worked well for me…and whether I’m continuing the tradition with my children.
Writing a page a day. For many years, my mom required us to write at least one page of something every day. This could be a journal entry, a letter to someone, or a story. We had complete autonomy over the subject matter, but we did need to fill one full sheet of lined paper. Although we resented the compulsion some days, we usually acquiesced cheerfully enough, and blithely produced content to order. (Some of my stories, admittedly, involved word count dramatics such as, “‘Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!’ she cried,” or creative drawling that would stretch a “Welllll…” along a whole line.) Still, in those years we wrote a lot of letters, we built a good habit of journaling, and we really stimulated the creative juices. As an added bonus, we also got a great chance to consistently practice our handwriting. This was without a doubt an excellent discipline, and one I should really implement in our schedule.
Greek language study. For several years, we followed a curriculum that had an emphasis on Greek, so we learned the Greek alphabet and various Greek words. We never did get very fluent in reading actual Greek, but I appreciated the linguistic foundation since so many of our English words have Greek roots. I won’t be spending as much time learning Greek words or grammar with my children, but I expect that they’ll pick up the linguistic roots from a good reading repertoire. I have taught the older ones the Greek alphabet, and I think that’s enough for our purposes.
Field Trips. This one seemed to be a classic stand-by of all homeschool support groups of the ’80s and ’90s, and it was a definite win. I remember visiting the municipal water treatment plant, the state capitol, local farms and nurseries, the university’s livestock barns, and so many other great venues with other homeschool families. We had a blast, learned a lot about so many great operations, and came to appreciate the many facets of our society. I love the notion of exploring the local community, and I need to be more intentional in touring our area with my kids.
We are not part of an organized support group at this time, although we’re in contact with other local homeschool families and I know that many of them do organize events from time to time. We’ve found it easier and simpler to strike out on our own, and have enjoyed things as simple as visiting an apple orchard or as fun as purchasing a year-long membership to the local aquarium. But I need to start looking into historical and operational destinations for future outings.
There are quite a few other things we did that either didn’t work so well, or were simply not memorable enough for me to think it’s worth the time and effort to go over with my children. But that’s another story, so I’ll save it for another day.
Photo Credit: All photos taken by Rose Focht, Edited by Charity Klicka (c) 2015