In Jan Karon's novel These High, Green Hills, Father Tim and his wife Cynthia get lost in a cave. While waiting to get rescued, they hash out some of the issues Father Tim is having about his pending retirement from ministry. He insists, "The way things are, they're running smoothly, most of the bases are covered. I'm trying to get it right, Cynthia. I can't stop now." Cynthia responds, "Getting it absolutely right is God's job." She reminds him that the future belongs to God, not to him; that Father Tim needs to trust for what he can't make sense of. We are called to be faithful, but we should not lean on self-righteousness. A lot of systems involving "just do this" are self-righteous, self-focused.
After nineteen school years, you might think that I had homeschooling down to a system, that we could make everything work; that if we had any more children coming along behind, we could kind of crank them through school now like sausages. But it doesn't work like that. My best-laid plans, many years, have fallen under reality's wheels. One student likes to listen to stories, but balks at keeping notebooks. Yes, she should do that. But no, she's not doing that. Do we enforce what's not happening, or look at the bigger picture?
This is not a nice metaphor, but...when our oldest was small, a particular parenting source told me that it was necessary to be very firm about making children eat what they're given. Unfortunately, the dinner at which I decided to invoke that edict was also the evening she was coming down with a stomach bug, which was probably the reason she wasn't eating her dinner in the first place. It was awhile before any of us wanted to eat lasagna again.
I heard (my memory is failing right now on the source) that when one of the veteran Charlotte Mason teachers was asked about C.M. methods of teaching reading, she said that any good teacher would have her own methods that worked for her, so there was no reason to copy just what was written in Mason's books. That was about as close to the horse's mouth as we are going to get on that. There are principles of good teaching, but the details that work for one family, some of the time, may not work for another.
Is homeschool success found through our own systems and self-righteousness? In that case, I would be stewing now about all the Ambleside books we never did read, and the science experiments we didn't do this year, and the folk songs we never got around to, not to mention the field trips we didn't take. But it's not, and I'm not. I don't apologize for our failure, over two decades, to establish nature notebooking as a lifelong habit. I don't apologize for the fact that penmanship has never been a strength around here, and that therefore copywork has also suffered. Our children are human beings. We have gone through stressful times. In some seasons, the "bases were covered." In others, maybe, one or two bases.
Did we have a winning team?
Lydia (our eighth grader) recently needed a writing sample to go with an application. She was going to write a play, but decided to write a dark-toned spy-genre story, with a teenage protagonist who's being followed by unknown nasties. There's chasing, shooting, and blood. She was quite pleased with her work.
Ponytails is in her last days of high school. While she's not as likely as we once thought to jump a motorcycle over garbage cans, she's still a person of passions and originality.
The Apprentice is discovering life in the big city, and still likes to barbecue the way Mr. Fixit taught her.
All three of our girls have turned out to be good writers, good readers. At least one of them likes math and science. Another prefers history and philosophy. I can't take credit for their full schooling (the older two went to public high school), but at least we got them off to a good start. And school is just the beginning...life is ahead.
Linked from the Carnival of Homeschooling: Retirement Edition, and from the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: June 2015.