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Serving Your Students

Serving Your Students

Today I want to draw a comparison between business and homeschooling, with a focus on service.

Let’s pretend a company, “A-Z Widgetmaker,” is going to fire a lowly, underperforming salesperson. Sales girl, Jan, just isn’t the right fit for the company. She recites the script during her presentations, but hasn’t had a good day of sales in months. The leadership is going to give her a week off to think about whether she is going to try to refocus and come back, trying harder than ever to succeed. But everyone knows this week is really for her to go get interviews elsewhere because she doesn’t have what it takes to sell A-Z’s widgets.

A new Jan happens every month or two. Jan is not an anomaly, in fact, the company is built for new people to either work their way up or eventually just leave. The pay for Jan is so low, no one can stay there for long. Management understands and accepts this process. They fire Jans all the time for not hitting sales numbers because Jans don’t make them the real money. Jans barely help the company’s bottom-line and management just doesn’t have time to waste on unsuccessful salespeople. Jans are just a means to an end; the company uses them to produce sales for a short time until they peter-out and leave.

Most homeschooling parents aren’t like A-Z’s leadership, treating Jan like a cog in a machine instead of a person. But in some ways, it’s tempting to fall into the same pattern with our curricula. It’s awfully tempting during a hard day of wrangling multiple kids and multiple assignments and projects, to just bark at our kids, “Just finish that worksheet!” “Write your narration!”  “Check those boxes!”

And then parents get frustrated with their kid who is suddenly crying on her math papers.

Both the manager and the homeschooling parent face the same temptation: to treat others as their servants, when the best solution is for the manager and parent to become the servant.

Here’s the question both the leadership in our fake company and homeschooling parents should ask: “How can I serve this person best?”

The boss at A-Z Widgetmaker should certainly be concerned with his bottom line, just as homeschooling parents should be concerned with quantifiable academic progress, but both of those things will happen much more easily and with much more peace and joy if the boss and the parent take the role of servant instead of the role of dictator.

Service in the workplace means that if someone isn’t right for a sales job, it’s the boss’ duty to either help them get better, or let them know they’re not right for the job soon enough for them to find something else–not use poor saleslady Jan for as long as Jan will stick it out, before she gives up because she’s not making enough money to live on.

Service in the homeschool means that when a student struggles or there is major strife in the homeschool, the parent has the duty to stop being a slave to the curriculum. Who cares if you have to do shorter, more frequent lessons, stretching your school week out to include Saturdays? Who cares if you only finish 3/4 of your history text this year? If these changes mean your daughter doesn’t cry over 90-minute math lessons anymore, she’s definitely learning more math. If you spend more time going more in-depth on history, doing more projects than you’d like, but your kid loves it, isn’t she learning more? Isn’t that what it’s all about?

This kind of flexibility is what makes homeschooling so remarkable. We have the opportunity to treat our kids like people, not cogs in a machine who complete exactly one level of math per 180-day school year. (Whatever “complete” really means.  How much math did he really learn?)

Part of moving off the conveyor belt of public education is changing the questions we ask and the way we think.

Look your student in the eyes. What does he need most? How can you serve her best?

Instead of asking, “What will it take to finish this lesson in the allotted amount of time?” ask “Where is he getting stuck?  How can I help him figure out this concept?  Is the curriculum helping or hurting here?  Is there a better way to reach my student?”

Our children will learn more and grow better if we treat them like people, not malfunctioning machinery. I think if we do this well, they’re more likely to be servant-leaders, better equipped to deal humanely with their own Jans in their own widget companies someday.

Rhiannon Kutzer

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Nice to meet you!

I’m Rhiannon.

You can call me Rhi for short (as in “rejoice”). I’m a fiercely independent homeschooling mom of five, a Navy wife of 13 years, and a creator of various things: articles, a semi-regular newsletter, quilts, furniture, and the occasional knitted scarf. This is the site where I write about our homeschool journey and news and happenings in the homeschool world. more about me.

Rhiannon

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Need a shot in the arm for your homeschool? Get Thrive Together, a monthly email that brings you:

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--and great quotes that will refresh your homeschool mama mind.

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  • PSA: Don’t let curriculum publishers and internet ads scare you into thinking you NEED to buy their products to get your kids a solid education. #askamom #momsmentoringmoms
  • #Homeschooling when you didn’t choose it:
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I would feel totally overwhelmed and underprepared if I were in your shoes. Homeschooling is hard even when you did choose it. We’ve changed a little, too. Every meal is a reading meal these days if the kids want that. (They do🤓.)
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So, please ask me all your questions. I and other HSing mamas in your community have YEARS of experience with this atypical version of education. How can we help you and your specific kids in your specific situation? We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are happy to help make this time smoother for you.
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What I desperately hope: those of you stuck in a situation you didn’t want AT ALL, might come to see education a little differently. It can be flexible. It can happen over the course of a whole day, with snacks, outside time, screen time, and play interspersed between lessons.
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This type of education is more about LIFE and HOME than you might think. While your students may be doing the same work assigned by the school, the setting change from school to home will change almost everything else about their educational experience this semester.
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Here are my two favorite tips to get you started:
1. Use short lessons. 
2. Alternate between types of work.
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The younger the kids, the shorter the lessons. Ballpark: elementary should be 15-30min/subject max. Middle school 30-45min/subject max.
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How does this look? Have your student read for 15 min, then do something physical for 15, then do handwriting for 15. That kind of a thing. “A change is as good as a rest."
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Don’t expect elementary kids to complete the whole assignment in such a short lesson. Just expect focused attention for that time, no matter how far he gets in the work. That builds the habit of, “when we sit to do school, we focus on school.” If you have to do 5 or 10 minute lessons because that’s all he had the attention for, that’s totally normal. Build up to longer periods, but it’s not really reasonable developmentally to expect hour-long math sessions for very young students. Those lead to tears. Ask me how I know.
  • Some days are just “pull your big girl panties on and handle your business like a grownup” days. Cheers to all of you who handled your business today. #navywifelife #adulting
  • This is the best kind of helpful. 🥰💛☕️
  • Everybody loves bacon! Also, breakfast for dinner + wine + good tunes = a good, chill cure for a Monday. 🎶Man cannot live by bread alone🎶 @michaelbuble @thirdday @theweepies @ginnyowensofficial @norahjones #family #familydinner
  • Just in case you need this message today.  #suicideprevention #dontgiveupsigns https://www.dontgiveupsigns.com

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