Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leaving your comfort zone can be good for you (and those around you)

Those who know me -- I mean truly know me -- know that I will do things out of the ordinary.  That is why I am the one who taught a class in our homeschool group that spent all kinds of time talking about vomit, diarrhea and urine.  Sometimes finding wacky ways to do things helps students remember things better.  Talking about vomit and diarrhea would not normally be on the top of this germaphobe's list of things to do, however, the students really did seem to learn the digestive system after I taught this way.  But, while those are not necessarily the most fun topics to spend your time talking about, for me that was only mildly outside my comfort zone.  (Making me clean up those substances would have been drastically different!)

Last year we started the school year the same as we did the years before.  I was excited, I love new books -- I love to smell them, I love to look at them and I love to read them.  But there was this underlying "mood" in the house and no one was happy.  I loved the curriculum I was using, it all made sense to me, but the tears were too frequent.  The phone calls to the "principal" were too frequent.  The constant justifying to my kids what we were doing was too frequent.  (On an aside, I must note that I did not use parts of the curriculum that might have been more interesting for the kids but I felt like there was no time for it and that stressed ME!)

Enter December 2013 -- I had had ENOUGH!  I just felt like I could not do one more day of school like this.  I know that homeschooling is not perfect.  There are hard days and there are VERY hard days but I felt inside that there were not enough good days.  Not enough looking forward to learning something...ANYTHING.  I felt like the love of learning was being sucked out of my children.  They wanted to be done ASAP (some of this is just how children are but in this case they looked forward to NOTHING about school).  So, I made a decision... a decision that is enough out of the comfort zone that I almost did not want to tell any of the women around me.  I threw out the curriculum I was using and switched at the beginning of December. That's right I switched curriculum mid-year!!  Now you have to understand, I am a planner.  I don't like having all my plans thrown out and having to start over and here I was doing it to myself!

I purchased a used teacher manual on eBay and started to find the books.  The price was mounting and I was terrified that this was a bad choice -- I had not sold the old curriculum yet since I felt I needed a "safety net".  But, God in his mercy, provided me with a dear friend who allowed me to borrow all the books I needed because she was not using that set this year.  Armed and ready to go we started again in January.  The first day went great.  I was afraid to be excited because, well it was the first day!   But as the days went on I noticed less tears.  The principal noticed less phone calls.  The kids started asking me to continue on with some of the lessons -- REALLY they did not want me to stop!  Some subjects were a little hard but this is SCHOOL after all! :D

The hardest part of switching mid-year was that at the end of the school year we were not "done" with all curriculum.  In addition to me being a planner, I am also a box checker.  If there is a box in the teacher manual to be checked off, I want to check it!  God had a conversation with me.  He reminded me of how many history books in school had pristine pages at the backs of them.  I learned about Christopher Columbus MANY times but we never made it to JFK at the back of the book.  I had to let it go.  So the last day of school came and I eBay'd the teacher's manual off.  I was free from having to look at those unchecked boxes.

So now we are 5 weeks into 2014-2015 school year and we are still enjoying this new-to-us curriculum.  I am actually kind of sad.  I wanted to use this curriculum when my oldest was in 1st grade but I talked myself out of it... now that she is in 6th grade I feel like I let her down.  She could have enjoyed some of those school years so much more!  Yes, there are still tears -- there always will be those hard days.  But they are SO much less often and usually they do not have to do with the new curriculum but instead the fact that they have to do school in general or their least favorite subject -- MATH, which was not changed.

There are a multitude of other reasons I like this curriculum better -- everything from keeping me off facebook as much as I had been to the one-on-one reading time that I now enjoy with my middle child who I often felt was left out.

So all this rambling is to say that sometimes, you need to leave that comfortable place.  Sometimes we need to take that leap of faith and do things that some people think are crazy.  You never know what you might learn!