How Much? How Fast?

​As a young homeschool mom, I attended a support group meeting in October. One of the other moms (a very confidant, capable woman) happily announced, “We’ve already completed 3/4 of our year’s curriculum!” My heart sank as my mind silently rehearsed the fact that we hadn’t made it out of the first chapter of our books yet. Guilt and failure took up residence in my homeschool that day. It would be years before I learned that this mom had QUIT homeschooling at the end of the school year.

But, in the meantime, I carried a load of internal expectations for doing more and doing it faster than my children or I could possibly accomplish. That, my friends, is a formula for frustration, disappointment, and ever-increasing guilt. And when you believe it is true, words like “diligent” and “industrious” take on a harshness that is far different from their meaning.

Being Diligent in Our Work

In his book, “Recipe for Life,” famous author and chef, Graham Kerr, writes about diligence in a way that explains what I mean. “Le Diligére was used as the trade name of a famous 17th century coach that left on Monday at midday and always arrived at its destination, a journey of hundreds of miles over rutted roads, at noon on Saturday. It achieved this remarkable record because the operators chose never to exceed 6 passengers. They never took more than 50 kilos of freight/baggage. They changed horses at evenly spaced stops, and as a result, they were always on time.” He goes on to explain that this is what “diligence” actually means. This company carried a reasonable load (in passengers and freight), and set a sustainable pace (taking into account the rutted roads). Diligence in homeschooling means a reasonable load at a sustainable pace for each student.

Setting the Load and the Pace

How do we know how much academic learning is reasonable for our 3rd grade son who loves climbing trees, our 7th grade daughter who reads voraciously, or our 11th grade son who wants to spend all his time on Minecraft? And, what is the right pace for each of them?

Here are 3 tips to help you sort this out:

First, it is important to recognize whether YOU feel driven to outperform everyone in your homeschool community! As you can see from the cartoon, racing towards the goal of “first to read,” “first to do algebra,” “first to graduate” will become a powerful motivation—making it difficult to evaluate what is reasonable and sustainable for each of your children with impartial clarity.If that rings a bell, then make the choice to stop the mad dash. Your kids will never outperform the entire world, and making them try will destroy their love of learning.

Second, jot down some quick notes about each of your children—

  • what subjects or activities cause their eyes to light up?
  • what subjects or activities cause them to shut down?
  • when do you see the most creativity or a glad willingness to work hard?
  • what is the normal pace of each child (physically, emotionally, mentally)

—do you see a racing rabbit, a tired turtle, or a grazing giraffe?With this list in hand, consider the current academic load and the expected pace. Does this fit each child? In the manner of Goldilocks, decide whether it is “too hot,” “too cold,” or “just right.” Then add her criteria to your list.

Third, consider whether your children are enjoying their learning experience. If they are, then they will be able to drink in more learning than you can imagine! If not, then much of their energy is spent in finding coping mechanisms to survive the experience. Though things don’t change overnight, it is possible to start adjusting the load and pace little by little. Watch for the joy in their eyes—that is a sure sign that things are headed in the right direction! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Next week, we are going to talk about whether learning is supposed to be FUN!! 

Remember, stay relational!