A Parting of Sweet Sorrow

Anyone who knows anything about how I do home education realizes that I march to the beat of my own drum. I don't subscribe to a particular "method" or rely on any one "style" or resource provider. I use a variety of materials from across the spectrum of options as I see fit, and I use components of each in a way that works for us, not necessarily how an author or publisher might suggest (because they don't know - can't know - my kids and their needs the way I do). In other words, I understand that curriculum is my servant, not my master - and, in fact, I'm getting more "alternative" rather than more "mainstream" as my kids approach adulthood!

We've also implemented our own version of a year-round learning schedule that neither mimics the calendars used by institutional schools nor bears much resemblance to most other homeschoolers' schedules. Basically, I do in all things what works for my particular kids, with the goal of maximizing each one's holistic growth and development as well as their overall, lifelong love of learning.

As a result, we never really "start a new year" - not in the sense that we have a day in September (or any other month) on which we begin all new books in every subject area all at the same time. It's never made sense to me that we must either push or hold ourselves back in order to end everything on some random, artificially-set "last day of the year" so that we can "start new" on the "first day." That works (in a way) if one's goal is to "cover" material in order to check off boxes in a planner and/or to imitate institutional, assembly line-style schools. But if the goal is real learning, it makes much more sense to diligently work at a pace appropriate to each learner and simply start a new book in each area of study whenever the previous one is completed - be that in May, November, or February. In fact, that's what we do as adults - i.e., if we finish reading a book of interest in early April, we don't frantically scour the web for worksheets to fill in time until the end of May and then wait to pick up a new book until September. So why shouldn't kids' learning be continuous and natural as well?

All that said, the girls and I actually are on the cusp of a bit of a change, because on October 1 we will begin a process of gradually transitioning into "high school." Now, in many ways, the shift is really just a slight curve in the road - merely the next logical step and nothing seismic. In fact, they'll actually continue with some of their current material as they are now. But we will be making some changes in scheduling and approach, so it is a real transition.

And we chose October 1 as our "moving day" because I knew a while ago - based on natural progression - that our studies in a couple of key resources (both of which we've used for years) would be wrapping up this month. Thus, making the transition onto the new path in conjunction with saying farewell to these "old friends" makes sense.

Now, though I am "eclectic" in my approach to materials - i.e., I have no allegiance to any one style or publisher, and I use the materials I choose the way I decide they'll work best - I'm not fickle. Thus, when I've found a good fit, I've been happy to stick with it unless or until it ceases to work for us; in fact, I've got long-standing "relationships" with a number of resources we'll continue to use even as we take this curve onto the high school road. But we've recently come to the logical end of our journey with a couple of my all-time favorites, the The Mystery of History and The Amish Pathway Readers.

About four and a half years ago, I chose The Mystery of History (MOH) on the advice of a discerning friend. As I was getting to know my girls' learning styles and needs, I'd been making rather frequent changes with all our materials for a couple of years, so I was leery of making yet another big move. But I knew I had to abandon a resource I'd thought would be my curriculum "for life" because it had become untenable. I just worried that MOH would not fit us well either.

My concerns were unfounded, of course. Our time with the four volumes of MOH - which officially wraps up on September 23 - has been rich and rewarding in so many ways, some of which I described in a review of the program I wrote last year. In fact, I am sure I've personally learned at least as much about world history as the girls, which was the main reason I insisted we continue doing MOH together long after they'd graduated to independent work for everything else; simply put, I wanted to make sure I got the whole MOH story, from beginning to end!

Interestingly, the girls have both chosen - despite having myriad other options - to use MOH as their main spine for world history studies in their high school program. So they'll each be working through the entire series again individually and at a deeper level - and their choice speaks to MOH's strength for all ages. But it's still a parting of sorts, since I won't be along for the ride anymore - not in the same way. And I'll miss it. But I am so very thankful to Linda Hobar - whom I've had the privilege to meet in person two times (so far!) - for following God's lead 12 years ago so that my kids and I - along with so many others - could be so blessed by her knowledge, wisdom, and passion to glorify the Lord in her work.

As poignant as it is to say a farewell-of-sorts to MOH, packing away the last of The Amish Pathway Readers - which the girls finished about a week ago - has been even harder. For one thing, our time with them really is done - until (God willing) we pull them out for the girls' children one day. For another, we've been using these books for even longer than we used MOH. I stumbled upon them at a curriculum fair back in 2007 - intending only to use them as a "temporary filler" - and we've enjoyed them ever since, working our way through all 13 books over the past eight years.

For some reason, I never blogged about the Pathway series; I should have because they have been a tremendous blessing. In fact, it was the simple-but-solid approach employed by the series that God used to heal my older daughter from the damage I'd done by pushing her too early and too hard with a pricey, overly intensive, bells-and-whistles program. As a result, she learned to read very well and found joy in the process. And it was the Pathway readers that also clicked with my younger daughter once she was ready. So, though I've used a Readers' Workshop program of my own design in addition to the Pathway series, I really do owe much of my girls' strong reading abilities and voracious appetite for good literature to these wholesome, pedagogically-sound little books. I'm really going to miss them!

Thankfully, I'm really looking forward to what God has in store for us over the next few years - these "high school" years. So I can look forward with anticipation even as I can't help but look backward with some nostalgia. After all, parting with these resources represents a parting of sorts with my daughters' childhoods. I love my beautiful young ladies, and it is really fun to see how the Lord is unfolding their gifts, talents, and passions as they blossom into adulthood. But, of course, I loved them to pieces when they were little girls as well - when we were in the midst of enjoying these resources together - and as much as I couldn't hold them back from growing up if I wanted to (and part of me does want to!), it's still a parting of sweet sorrow.


Heather said...

Dear Tina,

That was sooooo sweet to read. My heart is touched and all I can think is that I was honored to be part of your journey. Of course, you did the work of teaching!! I just helped with some books. :) I particularly love that you were learning right along with the girls, which is what I think most of parents are doing! If we had any world history at all, it was a long time ago, and we were probably distracted by things of the world. I know I was! My love for the subject didn't come along until after I found Christ, and I was in college. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how the girls pace themselves through high school by their own interests across the volumes. Blessings on your continued, but different journey.

Hugs to all! Linda Hobar

... chasing slow said...

Oh, love this tender worded post. I have moments like this and cannot believe that some of my little ones have grown up and even starting their own families. Thank you for sharing your heart. It's good to find your blog -- I had you on my reader years ago and sadly lost it in a transfer.

Nice to catch up!

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