by Lynna Sutherland
Have you ever watched someone demonstrate time management and homeschool schedule priorities with rocks, gravel, and sand? They demonstrate that beginning with the sand or gravel will leave no room for the big rocks. But if you begin with the big rocks, you can fit in a lot of gravel around them and a lot of sand between the gravel. Homeschool planning is a lot like that.
So, What Are the Big Rocks?
I bet when you think about the “big rocks” in the homeschool schedule, you think about math, language arts, science, and history, right? Or maybe what comes to mind is Bible time and character training. Or a focus on relationships. To be sure, all of these are important. But I bet there’s something that you’d relegate to the gravel or sand level that perhaps should be one of your big rocks.
As a homeschool mom, I know you feel the pressure to check all the boxes, to cover all the things, to fight that fear of “leaving gaps” by cramming learning into every moment. Are you worried that you won’t teach your kids all they’ll need to know before they leave your home or graduate?
Spoiler Alert: You Won’t
Even if we only consider the body of knowledge commonly accepted as “stuff kids should learn in school”—perhaps as measured by the Common Core?—you won’t get to all of it. And they won’t remember everything you do teach them.
But the list of “things my kids will need to know” is even bigger than that. These days, it’s typical to need a minimum of two to six weeks of training in a specific role when entering a new job. Some studies are even estimating that 65% of children entering grade school today have a future in careers that do not even exist yet.
So, if there’s no hope of covering everything, do we give up? What do we cover? How do we choose and where do we focus?
A Different Type of Rock
If it’s not possible to teach “all the things” (and you know deep down that it isn’t), then what’s the point? The point is to teach our kids how to be lifelong learners. The point is to teach them how to discover and access information for themselves. The point is for them to learn how they, personally, learn best.
Yes, this can happen in core subject studies. It can happen when a student hears about something interesting and wants to dig deeper. It can happen when they’re striving to master information or skills. And it can also happen as they engage in a hobby of their own choosing because it’s something that drives or motivates them naturally!
Is It the Product . . . or the Process?
Sometimes our kids engage in getting to know themselves as learners through something that sounds noble and praiseworthy to us as moms. We’d be delighted to tell our friends that our kid is teaching himself to play the clarinet or to grow prize-winning tomatoes. But what if his passion is anime drawing or the history of the comic book industry? Would you be willing to give those kinds of pursuits a slot in your homeschool schedule?
If our end goal is to raise kids who know how to self-teach, then the topic they choose doesn’t necessarily have to be the gold standard. If it’s an area where their natural curiosity draws them into further investigation and research, then that, in and of itself, is the long-term value they are gaining—even if they don’t grow up to make a career out of whatever subject it is they were studying.
Maybe you can’t bring yourself to put “video game soundtracks” in a slot in your homeschool planner. But what about “Independent Research”? Because that’s the real lesson that’s happening during those interest-led tangents! And does it count as school? You bet it does!
Lynna Sutherland blogs at Homeschooling Without Training Wheels, where she loves to remind moms (and herself!) of the freedom and flexibility that come with homeschooling! Lynna and her husband have seven children. The motto of their homeschool is “Wisdom Is the Principal Thing” from Proverbs 4:7. You can also find Lynna on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Lynna hosts a private Facebook group called Family Schooling without Training Wheels specifically for encouraging parents in multi-age homeschooling and outside-the-box approaches to meet the needs of their unique family.
Read more homeschool articles here.