Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

We all recognize keeping balance in life is just a good way to try to be healthy. Things taken to the extreme are apt to become unhealthy over time. Just because you love chocolate, that doesn’t mean you can eat it throughout the entire day. Or, just because you love that show on Netflix, that doesn’t mean you can watch it most the day. Or, just because you love to drink coffee – ooh, this one is tough for me – that doesn’t mean you can drink it all day. (Noon. That has to be my cutoff, or I won’t sleep a wink!) Well, homeschooling is the same way. When something is out of balance and taken to the extreme, it can become unhealthy – even if it was initially a good thing!  Keeping balance in homeschooling keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’ Let’s see how!

Balance in Subjects

I once received a phone call from a mom who was using Saxon math with her four children. She said she needed help picking a new math program. When I asked what she didn’t like about Saxon, she told me she loved it! Really loved it! In fact, she was having a hard time giving it up. However, she said she was teaching 4 different Saxon math levels. Each lesson was taking her over an hour, and that was with skipping some things and only doing the odds and evens. She said she’d told her husband that if she didn’t make a change, her children were only going to remember her as the math teacher. All she did was teach math! There was no time for anything else. Maintaining balance in subjects, for both mom and children, is important. Keeping balance in subjects keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’

Balance in Time

I once talked with a mom whose daughter loved drawing. Any history project, science lab form, poetry assignment, timeline entry, geography map, or independent history activity that involved drawing was d-r-a-w-n out. In fact, her daughter drew out these assignments so much that she didn’t have time for grammar, math, and dictation. Furthermore, her homeschool day was incredibly d-r-a-w-n out too. She often schooled from morning to evening, yet still was unable to complete all her school subjects. Though both daughter and mother loved the beautiful drawings, both were weary and irritable at the end of most days. At the end of our conversation, they’d made a plan they were both excited to try! They simply scheduled an extra 45 minutes of ‘creative drawing time’ in the school day. During this time, daughter could d-r-a-w out any part of her HOD day’s work that inspired her. Balance in time was restored, and everyone was happier!

Balance in the Day

A few years ago I spoke with a homeschool mom in tears who told me she’d made a mess of things. When I asked what had happened, she said she’d let her daughter just pick whatever she felt like doing in the guide. At first it was great! Her daughter loved history, so she forged ahead in the Reading About History and Storytime. She also loved the Nature Journal. Even though this was planned 2 days a week, she’d done it every day. She loved the Hymn Study part of the Bible Quiet Time and had memorized almost half of them already. The President Study was another favorite. History projects were fun at the start, but harder to finish. Science experiments were hit and miss. Math and dictation were not favorites. The mom had sticky note bookmarks all over her Heart of Dakota guide. It was a mess!

Fixing the Mess 

Well, blessedly her daughter was only about 8 weeks into her homeschool year. Together we made a plan for her daughter each day to do two days’ worth of lessons of her most behind subjects, one day’s worth of her lesser behind subjects, and none of her far ahead subjects. She would do school for the same amount of hours they’d planned until all the sticky notes caught up to the farthest ahead one (which was Reading About History and Storytime). I told her to call me when all her sticky notes ‘met!’ She called me in about a month. Both daughter and mother were ecstatic! They were thrilled to be doing a day of plans within a day. Balance turned out to be more fun than they thought it would be!

I recently talked with this same mom. She asked me if I remembered helping her out of her ‘sticky note mess.’ I did, and I asked her how things were going. She laughed and said, “Well, we only need ONE sticky note for our daily plans now. And trust me, we will never go back to that mess again!”

So, every once and awhile, do a mental check! Is there balance in your homeschooling? In your subjects, your time, your day? If not, try restoring balance, and see if your homeschooling feels ‘healthier!’ Finding balance is worth it.

In Christ,

Julie

Alternating Inspirational and Disciplinary Subjects, Like Charlotte Mason Did

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason structured her students’ school days by alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects.

There are many ways we can structure our homeschool days!  Blessedly, with Heart of Dakota, we can choose the structure we most prefer. We can disperse our boxes of plans throughout the day in varying ways. So, we might choose a structure that is different from another family’s structure.  But, both can be right!  As we begin pondering this, we should ask what Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the matter were.

As we can see, Charlotte Mason  put much thought into the structure of the day.  She especially paid close attention to the order of subjects. Plus, she did so by considering something we might not often consider!  What’s that, we may ask?  Well, it’s alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects. But, what does that really mean?  To answer that question, we can first look at the difference between inspirational and disciplinary subjects.

So, what is the difference between inspirational and disciplinary subjects?

In general, Charlotte Mason categorized disciplinary subjects as skill-based. In contrast, she thought of inspirational subjects as being more content-based. She considered inspirational subjects as those that take thought. In contrast, she labeled disciplinary subjects as those that can be painstaking, requiring repeated practice to acquire skills. However, she found she could not place subjects exclusively in one category.  Based on the assignment, she could place subjects in both categories. So, how we categorize a subject depends on how we teach the subject. However, we can typically place a subject more in one category than the other.

We can often place disciplinary subjects in mathematics, phonics, reading instruction, geography, handwriting, dictation, English/grammar, composition, copywork, research, timeline, drawing, and foreign language. In contrast,we can place inspirational subjects in history, poetry, Bible, read alouds, literature, science, picture study, composer study, and art appreciation.

So, how did Charlotte Mason categorize inspirational and disciplinary subjects?  Well, let’s look at her list…

Inspirational Subjects:
Bible
Music
Literature
Nature Study
Picture Study
Poetry
Read-Aloud
Science
History

Disciplinary Subjects:
Art
Composition
Dictation
Foreign Language
Geography
Grammar
Handwriting
Mathematics
P.E.
Handicrafts

Notice Charlotte Mason maintained a balance of inspirational and disciplinary subjects!

Charlotte Mason listed 9 inspirational subjects and 10 disciplinary subjects.  She discovered keeping a balance of each to be ideal!  She found students need both kinds of subjects in their day.  If a student omits disciplinary subjects because he finds they are not as inspiring, there will be major gaps in skills.  Likewise, a student should not omit inspirational subjects.  Just because he prefers the predictability of disciplinary subjects, he will miss the deep thought and true connections inspirational subjects provide.

It’s best to let disciplinary subjects be disciplinary, and inspirational subjects be inspirational!

It is sometimes tempting to try to make disciplinary subjects be inspirational.  However, a student cannot live in a constant state of inspiration!  Nor, should we expect him to.  Can you imagine trying to be constantly inspired with every part of your day?  I find the thought to be somewhat exhausting, don’t you?  Imagine waking up and doing your Bible devotional and praying.  You are inspired!  What a special start to your day that was full of deep thought!

However, next it is time to unload the dishwasher, as the dishes are clean, and the children need to eat.  Can you imagine trying to make unloading the dishwasher inspirational each day?  You could try to change the plates to have more varied colors to unload. Or, you could try unloading the dishwasher in a new way each day. Maybe back to front, top to bottom, and then from left to right.  Or, you could try to ponder the mechanics of how your dishwasher got your dishes clean.  Hmmmm.  Or…  you could just unload it!  Personally, I feel a real sense of accomplishment in just getting this done quickly and efficiently, don’t you?

Disciplinary subjects need not be dressed up!

Disciplinary subjects are like that dishwasher.  They need not be ‘dressed up’ to be disguised as inspirational.  If they are, the day just gets longer. We cannot live in a constant state of inspiration, nor can our children – and that’s okay!  Not every moment of the school day is meant to be inspiring!  Students just need to know their times tables eventually.  They just need learn to spell words correctly.  Or, they need to learn how to correct them.  Likewise, continents just need to be recognized. Moreover, in grammar, they need to recognize a noun as a noun, and a verb as a verb.  When students say they are not excited about disciplinary subjects, we need to remember… it is not possible (nor even desirable) for them to be always inspired.  We can’t maintain that, and neither can they.  We can find beauty in the balance!  Likewise, they can too!

Inspirational subjects need not be stripped down!

We might also be tempted to try to make inspirational subjects be disciplinary.  However, a student cannot live in a constant state of discipline! Nor, should we expect him to.  Can you imagine trying to be constantly disciplined with every part of your day?  The thought is somewhat exhausting, isn’t it? I can’t imagine taking the Bible and making it solely disciplinary.

Memorizing Bible verses, for example, is excellent to do! However, I find the the Word of God to be incredibly inspiring!  I find the Bible a worthy subject to think deeply upon, rather than just Words to be memorized – albeit beautiful Words.  There is merit in both!  But, I find it sad when people can quote the Bible eloquently but profoundly miss out on the relationship with the Lord.  That is what can happen when an inspirational subject is made into a solely disciplinary subject.

We can structure our students’ school days and our own personal days with inspiration and discipline in mind!

I am not only structuring my school days this way! Likewise, I am structuring my own days this way.  I think this is going to be good for me!  Sometimes, I tend to focus only on disciplinary subjects in my day.  I set aside my inspirational subjects, thinking I don’t really need them in my day.  Am I alone in this?!?  Maybe!  However, in truth, I find it is the inspirational ones  I need the most sometimes! They balance out the more disciplinary parts of my day.

Let’s try alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects!

So, join me, if you will!  As we ponder how to structure our homeschool days, why don’t we try alternating disciplinary and inspirational subjects?  We can find both in our HOD guides. We can find both in our lives too. So, we might as well try it in both!  Let’s see if we notice a difference in our child’s focus and concentration, by alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects. Likewise, let’s try it in our own lives! I think we may find both to be a healthy balance! So, let’s give it a try!

In Christ,

Julie