How Homeschooling is Like Birth

We recently had our fourth child.  After three other kids, you’d think we’d have this birth thing down-pat, but that’s a big fat “Nope.”

In four kids we’ve had every birth experience possible.  Our first was an oh-crap-we-just-got-married-and-pregnant-and-don’t-know-anything-about-birth-type of experience.  We took the classes offered by the hospital,  hoped for a natural childbirth, and ended up with the “cascade of interventions,” complete with narcotics, pitocin, epidural, and the threat of forceps.

To avoid all that with our second baby, we became temporary hippies and planned every detail of a birth center water birth.  No OB was going to tell me what to do this time.  Yet after pushing for umpteen thousand hours, we transferred to the hospital and had a c-section, for which I was completely unprepared.  I’d prepared only for a birth that was going to go according to my plan.

Kids, like newborns, are pros at giving their parents opportunities to learn flexibility.

In keeping with my newly-discovered theory that children come out however the heck they want to, our third baby was born 16 weeks too early. I spontaneously went into labor one evening, and by the time we got to the hospital it was too late to stop that train.

So, for our fourth baby, I resigned myself to the thought that “whatever happens, happens.”  Yet this one magically decided to be birthed exactly according to plan.  Assisted by two very talented midwives and a doula whom I adore, she was born sans drugs in the comfort of our bedroom–though every time I share that fact, I think about this:

For each kiddo, we wrote a birth plan.

You know, that document that details exactly how the birth of your child will go.  Cue uncontrollable laughter

It’s funny how idealistic and naive we were for the first birth plans. We wanted to control everything and failed to realize we were dealing with an semi-independent person, albeit a small one.  By the time we got to #4, our birth plan was more like a list of preferences, with a clear understanding that babies don’t follow directions and we’d likely have to be flexible.

Homeschooling is like planning and executing a birth plan–both on the macro and micro scale.

You can plan your year:

  • We’ll get through such-and-such a level of math by such-and-such a date.
  • We’ll use every Friday for errands, co-op, and extracurricular activities.
  • We’ll do a (really cool, really involved) science experiment every week.

You can plan your week:

  • We’ll do 5 grammar lessons this week.
  • We’ll read all the way through this book this week.
  • The child who hates spelling will complete X number of spelling worksheets this week.

But then your plan encounters real humans.

Kids, like newborns, are pros at giving their parents opportunities to learn flexibility.

The kids all get sick during the weeks they’re supposed to be accomplishing the most–putting summer vacation off track and causing you to purchase calming tea in bulk. You or your kid (or both) end up hating the curriculum you bought. More calming tea.

Your kids all join activities or sports that meet on different nights of the week. Your minivan might currently smell like last night’s fast food, a fact which shames you when you chat with the super amazing hippie organic farmers in your co-op.

The really cool, really involved science experiments happen maybe three times per school year because they explode your kitchen and you just don’t handle that like you’d hoped you would.

5 leisurely, consistent grammar lessons for the week turn into two massive lessons on Thursday and Friday because you didn’t get to them till then.  But, hey, they’re done right?

The child who hates spelling still hates spelling and can somehow make it take forEVER. And that book you wanted to finish this week? It’s not done yet, but who cares? The conversation it sparked was the real point anyway.

Almost nothing in homeschooling goes exactly according to plan.

Just like birth, the best  you can do is make a plan that’s really more like a list of preferences or priorities.  The kids will change the plan, circumstances will change the plan, even you will change the plan.[pullquote] Almost nothing in homeschooling goes exactly according to plan…The kids will change the plan, circumstances will change the plan, even you will change the plan.[/pullquote]

Don’t mistake me, it’s wonderful and necessary to have a plan.  It’s a must to surround yourself with good resources.  Read books, make friends with other homeschooling moms, join a co-op, get involved in extracurricular activities.  All these resources help, but the happiest homeschoolers I know are those whose main tool is flexibility.  They’re willing to adjust the plan to fit the kid, the season in life, the temporary circumstance.

Once we let go of the idea that we control everything we can realize the beautiful flexibility we have to make adjustments along the way.  Cheers to adjusting your way through the end of this school year, even if you’re off the plan you wrote in September (or this morning).

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