We’re back to school this week, and sitting down here to gather my thoughts and to write, to share about our homeschooling journey, especially after such a long blog break this summer, feels incredibly cathartic.
Some of you have asked how it’s been going since I shared about embarking on the homeschooling path a year ago, and you might have noticed that I’ve not posted much about it. Let’s face it- it’s hard to share about struggles, and I won’t lie to you- we struggled. There were tears. There were triumphs too, and sweet hugs and math wizardry and wonderful stinky vinegar egg experiments, but yes, there were definitely tears shed by just about everyone at some point. By the end of the year I was hanging on by a thread and couldn’t quite decide whether it had been a success, or a complete failure, or perhaps just par for the course of a first year rookie. I have no doubt that I made just about every beginner mistake in the book. Not enough planning, and then too much planning…schedule was too loose, then it was too tight…didn’t explore enough curriculum and then I got overloaded with too much curriculum…I expected too much, then too little… In the spirit of Thomas Edison and his tale of failed light bulbs, I pretty much discovered 101 things that don’t work (at least for us).
Is there such a thing as a homeschool intervention? I don’t know, but there is now. A divine intervention is exactly what has unrolled these past few weeks, by way of encouragement from friends, a mild (ok, moderate) dose of venting, heart searching, and a handful of miracles. At the heart of this intervention was my coming to grips with a very important reality for us right now (and maybe forever): LESS IS MORE. By that, I don’t mean less learning, or less teaching, or even less time. What I need this year is less stress, less pressure, less guilt, less confusion, less uncertainty. I need simplification.
I’m starting to learn that keeping it simple is one of the biggest keys to less stress and more success for a family just starting out on a homeschooling journey. It’s tough not to become overwhelmed at the mountains of fabulous curriculum to choose from in today’s market, not to mention the infinite number of ideas and resources just waiting to bury me alive on Pinterest. The 926 unit study lap book ideas I’ve pinned, however adorable, are not doing me one lick of good. What is, though, is honing in on a simplified, streamlined game plan that’s realistic for us. Enter: A Beka Books.
This traditional-style curriculum has been around for ages– tried and true if a curriculum ever there was –and I don’t know why I didn’t explore it from the start of our family’s adventure…maybe I thought I wanted something flashier or more exciting? Trendier, maybe, than the A Beka I remember my mother teaching me from when I was a girl? I don’t know. All I know is that this summer, as I struggled with the decision to even continue homeschooling, and earnestly prayed for guidance, God pointed us toward A Beka with what felt like a dozen flashing neon arrows.
Two Sundays ago I sat in church, unable to concentrate on the message and literally wracked with terror at the reality that back-to-school had arrived and I was literally unprepared, undecided, and unenthused. Late and lost. But isn’t it in that last hour that God does some of His biggest works? This has definitely been a reality in my life. As we walked out of the sanctuary and I turned on my phone, I noticed a blog post in my feed that mentioned A Beka. Hmm. Not a minute later, I chatted with a friend, and veteran homeschool mom, and asked her what curriculum she uses. A Beka. Then bumped into another homeschool mom: A Beka. Not only did this curriculum seem to be on the lips of everyone I encountered that morning, but on the way home I received a text from a friend letting me know about a live A Beka curriculum display event in my area. It was the last one of the summer and it was the very next morning. With no time to prepare, I hauled it over there, all 4 kids in tow, desperate for an answer to prayer and curious about this curriculum that somehow God seemed to be leading me toward. As I picked up the first book and started flipping through it, literally, I think light shone down from the heavens on me. I nearly wept. Simple, sweet, straightforward books that all work together to create a thoroughly comprehensive traditional Christ-centered curriculum that’s incredibly easy to follow for both student and teacher, and with very minimal, if any, required prep. Fool-proof…Amy-proof.
From the thick, perforated pages and bright happy illustrations, to the concise, user-friendly lesson plans- it’s everything I need and nothing I don’t. Our disorganized all-over-the-place tornado (or at least what felt like a tornado to someone who hangs all of her clothing in color order and runs screaming from cupboards filled with matchless Tupperware), had finally started to calm. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel with each sweet, simple page of straightforward, traditional instruction, already mapped out for me, lesson by lesson. Done. I might be a hot mess in dog-hair covered yoga pants, with a crying toddler on my hip and a mug of lukewarm coffee in my hand, but gosh darn it, I can do this.
One thing I’m particularly excited about (the frosting on the cake, really) is the inclusion of cursive handwriting practice literally from kindergarten on. I know we live in an age of computers, and are likely to continue in that direction, but no one could ever dissuade me from my love of a beautifully penned word. To me, it’s like art. We could probably get by without it, but who’d want to live in a world void of that beauty? The cursive writing in A Beka is modeled in all subjects of learning, including this charming writing practice tablet that’s infused with character-building messages. This is the stuff that makes my old fashioned heart go pitter patter, and I love that my kids actually begged me to let them start early (who are you and what have you done with my children?).
It just occurred to me that this might be starting to sound like a sponsored post- believe me, it’s not! I’ve received no compensation from A Beka for this post- I’m just sharing because I’m excited at what feels like a fresh start for us and a clear answer to prayer.
Hallelujah! I’m so happy to be out of my first-year-failures funk and to be starting a fresh new year with a new plan that I think is going to simplify our schedule and keep things organized and achievable. SO happy, in fact, that I decided to celebrate by refreshing the kitchen table area where we do most of our schoolwork. A fresh coat of yellow with a bit more a greenish tint than we had before (fits better in our home), and I’m really loving it, along with that new Amy Butler valance (shhhh, don’t tell anyone that I haven’t actually sewn it yet! It’s just yardage draped over a rod right now…there’s a 72% chance I might just leave it as-is).
I also asked the hubs to devise some cute art holders out of metal clips and scrap wood. This is what he came up with and I adore them!
Here’s our materials area, with the little Raskog Ikea cart I picked up last year (I love it so much!). Like I said, I’m a bit of an organizing junkie, so starting the year off with a place for everything, and everything in it’s place, is a little slice of heaven for me.
Here’s the other side of that grey buffet table…you can see my un-sewn valance a little better (it’s passable, right?), along with a cute vintage globe I found at Goodwill. ALSO- my girls and I did a really fun little makeover on that rack holding our apron collection. I’d been waiting for the perfect project to use those Cotton & Steel picnic baskets in, and I think I definitely found it.
Here it is before… I think someone gifted this to us years ago, and I’ve always loved the functionality of it, but it never matched our decor. After a decade of it hanging in the kitchen and wanting to redo it EVERY single time I looked at it, a makeover was long overdue. Well, Mr. Kitchen Rack, your day has finally come.
We fussy cut our favorite baskets, glued them down, then painted over the whole thing with Mod Podge.
Makes me smile every time I see it.
Well, that’s our little overhaul in a nutshell! It’s going to be a great year, and I’ll definitely keep you posted on how the A Beka is working out. I know we’ll have ups and downs, no doubt, but I’m feeling blessed by the renewed optimism, and by the gift of a chance for a better year. 2015-16 or bust!