Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sustainable Homeschool


capable of being supported or upheld, as by having its weight borne from below.
pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reusesustainable agriculture. Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to overfishing.
able to be maintained or kept going, as an action or process: a sustainable negotiation between the two countries.
able to be confirmed or upheld: a sustainable decision.
able to be supported as with the basic necessities or sufficient funds: a sustainable life.

In the local and organic food realm, the term "sustainable" is used quite often. It means that we want to treat the land in such a way that benefits, builds, strengthens and nourishes the soil as it then gives back the gift of beautiful, healthy, nutrient-rich food to us.  A way of farming that is not is a system that works and benefits all for the long-term. 

When we demand too much of the land by planting the same crop with the same method on the same spot year after year, the plants become no longer healthy. The ground has been stripped of its nutrients, and now these unhealthy plants draw in pests who now destroy them from the outside. So more chemicals are added to kill pests and synthetic fertilizers are used to "help" the plants, but what we really have is a broken response system of adding unhealthy to the already unhealthy. We need to build the soil again. Add in heaps of compost with its reputation of being "black gold". Plant cover crops in the winter to give some nutrients back into the dirt. The crops need to be rotated to other places and locations. Certain areas need to lie fallow and rest.

Homeschooling is a gift.  It is a beautiful way of life where we can learn and grow right alongside our children in the dailiness of waking and eating and going. Every day can be one of beauty and curiosity and creation and exploration.  We can talk about Jesus. We can figure out the weather.  We can read great books.  We can dig in the dirt.  We can ask good questions and quickly go investigate the answers. We can offer a unique and personalized education.

But it can also become an unhealthy lifestyle.  We can demand too much from ourselves and from our children. We can "stay planting on the same land" with certain educational philosophies (whether highly structured or relaxed) that no longer fit and support us. We can try the "fertilizer" of boxed, conveyor-belts methods over and over again on our children hoping for different results yet continuing to receive the fruit of unhealthy relationships with each other and with learning. We try harder, we buy more, and we stay frustrated and confused and tired. We stay with methods that may have worked in the past but aren't working anymore....they aren't producing healthy growth.

We must find a way for each of our unique families to build sustainable homeschooling. Even though we may choose to put them in a public or private school in the future, I hope it would not be from mama-burnout or fear or stress or poor familial relationships or from a place of dried-up, uninspired learning. The way for each of us will be different. For some sustainability will look more structured with the right textbooks and online classes or hybrid schools offering the answers. For others it will be to toss the formality and read great books from great minds, follow their interests, and explore creative outlets. There is no right solution for every family.

But we must ask, "What is sustainable homeschooling for our family?" Right here, right now, this semester.

  • How can I build the soil of learning? How can I make our environment of growth healthy again? Decluttering the bedrooms and learning spaces? Redecorate? Make the relationships more important than the demanding to-do list?  Say that I am sorry for creating an emotional environment of fussing and negativity and control? The soil with be both physical, emotional and spiritual. How can you add some "black gold" to it?
  • What "crops" or areas of study need to be rotated and moved? Does a child need outside classes? A different math curriculum? Some fresh books from Amazon?
  • What areas need to lie fallow and rest? Do we just need to shelve a topic for a while? Do I need to say no to some outside commitments that are stretching me too thin? Is this not the right timing for a great idea but maybe in a few months?
  • Does the farmer need a vacation!?  Farming is tough work that demands an incredible amount of time, energy, dedication, wisdom, and vigilance.  But even farmers have winters that cause pauses for rest and planning and re-working. Mamas, are you giving yourself spaces of rest and margin and self-care? You cannot homeschool with joy and inspiration for very long unless you are getting refueled, fed, inspired, and rested. You must give yourself some mental space to rework plans, gather new information, and let go.
May the Lord grant each of us the grace and wisdom to take a winter pause and figure out how to build the soil of our lives and grow fruit in our relationships and in our learning that is healthy and beautiful and sweet.


Susan said...

This is really great Aimee, and it made me smile (yes, sometimes the farmer *really* does need a vacation!). Lots of wisdom and goodness. You recent posts have been thoughtful, encouraging, and inspiring (well, they always are, actually. . .). I appreciate you, Aimee!

Rain said...

This is soooo good. Thank you for sharing your insights. It's wonderful to read your words again.

LLMom said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I linked it on my post about Homeschooling burnout

Angela L. said...

This is so perfectly written. So thoughtful. So heartfelt.

Sarah Marie said...

I'm expecting my first baby in just a few weeks, so I'm a ways out from structured home schooling... but reading your thoughts and wisdom on this subject is such a blessing. I'm filing your ideas away for safekeeping.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how timely this is - coming across your post (from another blog) at THIS time when I am contemplating change in our homeschooling. I've been feeling like we're becoming stuck in a rut and need some new direction. Afraid to upset what has become "comfortable", but feeling like it's not working anymore. Thank you for this...


Unknown said...

Do you have any bit of wisdom about how to homeschool 3 kids ages 5-11 with a 2 year old and a newborn in the house? We love our school routine but struggle with the ages. Any thoughts?
Thanks so much for writing,

Sandi said...

Such encouragement here. Freshly looking at learning with my two older children and found this helpful. Thanks!

Andrea said...

such wisdom.i love the way you thoughtfully approach everything in your life.

Shannon said...

so beautiful, encouraging, and inspiring for someone like me, who is just about to begin this homeschool journey. I will surely tuck this post away to come back to time and time again!

Theresa said...

So beautiful:-) I just put my 5 year old in public school Kindergarten this past week. For this season I am spent and he is bored at home. Some moms find grace from God to homeschool at the same time they have a pre-schooler, a toddler, a baby and a pregnancy. I can't seem to do it cheerfully. I'm choosing to keep our family joy-filled for this season and let myself get some help in the education department. But I do love homeschooling and the time I spent doing that was wonderful:-)

gretchen said...

Aimee, I am a friend of Laurel's in Statesboro, so I haven't met you. I wandered onto this blog. Thank you so much! I have 2 boys, 8 and 5, and have been homeschooling for 4 years. I also work full time nights as an RN, so yes! I need to figure out how to keep our homeschooling sustainable. This really came at a great time and a time of exhaustion for us. It's time for a break of certain things and time to bring the joy and enthusiasm back, which was the reason we decided to homeschool! Thank you again! Gretchen Newton

renee @ FIMBY said...

Beautiful Aimee. What a lovely metaphor and so right on.

Stephanie Lynn Stevens said...

Wow, this is SO good. I was guilty of this for a long time. We agreed on the classical method because we felt it was "best" (i.e. most rigorous and "schooly"), and attempted it badly for years even though it clearly didn't fit our children well. I love the agricultural analogy. Great post.

Beth Covalt said...

This right here is just the word I need for this season.

Nadene said...

What a lovely analogy. As farmers and homeschoolers, I can really relate! In a recent post Hear and Here I also wrote about taking time to hear what the Lord wants me to focus on now. Too often we do too much due to guilt. Our children change, ages and stages, and we need to stay fresh, focused and flexible. Always growing ... and learning.