Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Evaluation

I have been formally homeschooling my oldest son since he was three using Sonlight's curriculum packages. I chose it because it is literature based and my son absolutely loves to read. I also chose it because I was scared out of my mind of messing up.

Sonlight gave me a checklist every day with extra optional activities. I added more activities, just in case. I checked my list three times a day to ensure that I had gotten everything done. For awhile, I forgot to enjoy it because I was so consumed with "getting it done". I noticed my son withdrawing and saying he "didn't want to do school." I knew this was because of my intense approach so I eased up. We did more field trips, more science experiments designed by him, more art, more mornings in the pool. Still, I worried. Was I doing enough? Was I teaching him enough?

Our state requires an annual evaluation by a certified teacher starting at age six. Last week was our first evalutation. My son was nervous even though I told him it was an evaluation of me. "You are able to learn anything I teach you - She just wants to make sure I am helping you to reach your potential," I said over and over again. He didn't buy it. "Will she be upset that I drew trains in my math book?" he asked as he flipped through the pages. "Of course not, bud - She will be impressed with your artistic ability and your math skills." 

I found myself expressing my own fears to my husband. "Will she say he passed even though we didn't completely finish the curriculum?" 
"She will say you've done more than enough. She will be amazed at all you have done," he said kindly.

My son and I worked together on a slideshow of all the fun things we have done together this year. We compiled pictures of family trips, experiments at the kitchen table in their pajamas, visits to the art museum and the aquarium. We grabbed a hundred pictures and could have chosen a hundred more. We were both astounded by all the fun we had had together. "I never want to go to real school, Mommy," he said as he watched the slideshow play to the song, "Happy."

Our evaluator listened patiently as my son showed her his math book and explained how to do a sampling of the problems. She asked him to read a few signs in the Whole Foods cafe where we met. She looked at our book list and lit up when my son told her about the stop animation Lego movies he has been working on. We pulled out the slideshow and I smiled inwardly as I watched all the incredible memories we had made together. "That's what homeschooling is really about," she said gently. "You are doing a great job. More than enough."

I felt my heart lighten and my need to control our days loosen. I felt as if someone had pulled my view way out and showed me the whole picture. We may not always get through our checklist but it doesn't really matter. My children are learning. They are growing. And we are doing it together. We are doing more than enough.

Whether you homeschool or not, I am sure you have a list of "shoulds" each day. What are they? If you watched your year in pictures, which days would matter the most? Make that your focus.

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