Monday, May 16, 2011

Lessons learned from life on the Crew

My journey on the TOS Homeschool Crew is coming to an end, for awhile at least.  I have four reviews left to post and I am done.  This is the final Blog Cruise for the year, so it's my last chance to participate.


The question for this Blog Cruise was:  "What was your favorite homeschool experience in relation to your participation in the Crew this year?"


I thought about it, and I could not settle on a particular review item or piece of curriculum that was my favorite homeschool experience this year.  The favorite homeschool experience I had this year (in relation to the Crew) was a renewed understanding ... of homeschooling and my family.


There are SO many curricula available for homeschoolers at the moment, and even more supplemental materials.  There are websites, software, books, DVDs, textbooks, unit studies, study helps ... the list is endless!  I used to bemoan the fact that we couldn't afford many of those items.  But this year, after three years on the Crew, I actually found myself growing tired of the clutter of curriculum and supplemental items.


I was reminded that STUFF isn't necessary to homeschool success.  We can learn a lot of things with our library card, our personal bookshelf, and family discussion.  We don't need a set curriculum to study the Bible or a supplement that helps us learn about fractions.  We can do that just fine with discussion and the old-fashioned method of MOM taking time to teach, which sometimes means MOM has to take the time to LEARN with the children.


As our school year was winding down, and I was beginning to make plans for next year, I took a hint from another Crew member, Kristen.   I asked my children some questions about THEIR THOUGHTS on our homeschool and our time on the Crew.  I found that they were content with the curriculum we'd been using (all but one of them); they liked the variety of books they are required to read for school.  They didn't like changing directions repeatedly with Crew materials.  Though they enjoyed the new materials that came in, they realized they didn't need it either.  They did need more of ME, though.


My children (and I) are ready to settle down again, to proceed with our regular curriculum.  At the beginning of this Crew year, I couldn't imagine life without the Crew.  I couldn't imagine NOT receiving new items each month.  I didn't want to miss out on any new thing I might discover through the Crew.  But now, I realize that I don't want to keep discovering new curriculum.  I want to be able to really USE the curriculum we already have, that God has already directed us to use in our home.


I was reminded that I don't need the "latest and greatest" ... I just need to pray over how best to use what we already have.  Sometimes that does mean buying supplemental materials, especially those that are reusable with future children.  Sometimes, though, it means continuing to use the curriculum that is no longer cool, rather than rushing after the popular, shiny, new materials.


Mainly, I was reminded that *I* am the key to our homeschool success, as long as I am seeking God and His plan.  My availability to my students is more important than any curriculum or supplement.  My interaction helps them learn.  And if I am seeking His plan, then we do not "labor in vain" as parents or homeschoolers.  (Psalm 127:1)


I feel as if we are back where we started.  But we aren't.  We may have come full-circle so we are mostly using the same materials we started with at the beginning of our 3 year Crew cruise, but we are here with a new understanding and a lot of experience under our belt.  We have broadened our curriculum-horizons and made some changes ... realizing that we do benefit from more structure and textbooks than we I initially wanted to admit.


If I were to add new lessons to my "Lessons Learned from Homeschooling" page, I'd add these:

  1. Trust God, your husband, and your own instincts re: your homeschool direction and curriculum.

  2. Listen to your children, respect their opinions, and hear their needs.

  3. Be willing to change directions, if needed.

  4. Being able to homeschool on a shoestring is a good skill to have, but having a homeschool budget is also a good thing.  It's important to have the freedom to buy supplements and even new curriculum if your family needs it.

  5. Be available!  Mom, the teacher, is the key to her student's success no matter how independent the curriculum is designed to be.

  6. Seek God for the creativity to make what you have work, or to know which things to change if it can't be made to work.

  7. Sometimes you don't need to completely change curriculum, you just need a brief jaunt out of the rut you're in to enjoy something different.  Try a unit study or two for a textbook-vacation, or spend a year (or less) using textbooks while Mom recharges her creativity batteries.

  8. Trust God to give you all you need to homeschool your family:  both the physical resources and the emotional and spiritual resources.

  9. There isn't one homeschool style that has more inherent value or spiritual worth than the other ... just different methods that are better fits for different families.

  10. You can learn from homeschool families who use different methods than you, or have different beliefs than you.  DON'T push them away or seclude yourself with only those who are like-minded.

It seems like I could go on and on.  I guess God has really been speaking to me a lot this year as He helped me work through the decision to step down from the Crew and not re-apply.  I can't point to one ITEM that made the biggest difference in our life this year, but I can say that being on the Homeschool Crew for three years has changed our lives dramatically, because it has changed ME.


Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew to read what others Crew members had to say about this Blog Cruise topic.

Praising Him,
April E.


  1. [...] April E. @ ElCould Homeschool:  Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet details Lessons Learned from Life on the Crew. [...]

  2. You will surely be missed April! I love how you said you've come "full-circl"e in your homeschool because of your time on the Crew. Many blessings to you and your family and the continuation of your homeschool journey! Thanks for participating in the BC!

  3. April,

    In so many ways I could have written your post! I have learned so much about teaching and learning for both my children and myself through the Crew and the many products we tried in just 2 years. I'm more confident that my children will learn even when things are not always steady and 'normal'. It's okay to make changes, but it is also okay to go with what speaks to our hearts, learning the way we love best.

    I've been so blessed to get to know you on the Crew. You'll never know how encouraging I've found it to watch you walk this large family journey with homeschooling. You don't pretend it is all roses and easy days, you just share what it's really like. Thank you!

  4. April,

    I enjoyed reading this and hearing how the Crew impacted you in such a positive way. What awesome lessons learned!

    You will me missed next year!

  5. April,

    Thanks for sharing those lessons you've learned. I agree with them, and several have been driven home to me too this year. I also will miss you so much next year on the Crew. I will keep stopping by your blog, but I know you will be doing what God is calling you to do with your family.

  6. Terry in AlbertaMay 17, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    LOVE this - thanks for sharing!

  7. I've enjoyed getting a bit acquainted with you this first year on the Crew. May the Lord continue to richly bless you in your homeschool journey!

  8. I'll miss you on the crew, but I'll still be following your blog. :) Thanks for this post. I love your list at the end. I have been especially blessed that so many people were so willing to open up and share about their homeschooling - as a newbie, it helped me so much.


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