We started our first day of Kindergarten this morning. Its our second time with MFWK and I can’t help but smile as I think of the sweet year ahead and remember the sweet year long since passed.
I spent months preparing for my first year with MFWK. I was still in traditional school mode and I basically made an exact replica of my old classroom here at home. I had file folders bursting with notes and crafts and handouts. It took many months of hard headed trial and tribulation before I realized that old dog just would not hunt anymore.
I remember feeling two very distinct emotions as I began that first week. The first was the predictable, “how are my babies old enough to be in kindergarten?” The second, “how do I make sure they learn everything they need and also prove to everyone around me that this was a good idea?” I felt like I was under a microscope lens. As if everything my kids did in public and their answers to every question hurled at them by relatives, would be the rubric by which to evaluate our school’s success or failure.
God was gracious in destroying my pride that year. Throw in a midyear move to our current farmhouse (which included a month long indoor renovation) and two younger siblings aged 1 and 3, and you’ll understand why all those misplaced scholastic ideals were quickly (and mercifully) obliterated. I was a woman undone. That was the year that I learned not to see my younger children as distractions but as my reality, worthy of careful and thoughtful treatment as I navigated our days. I cried a lot. It was a great year.
The first big change came with how I viewed our school area and materials. We have a designated classroom now. Its lovely and I am so very thankful for it. But when we started out, we gathered around the dining room table and I kept all our supplies on the bookcase behind it. I loved it. There are times when I miss it!
I had a small quote written out on my planner that year.
“A mother’s heart is the child’s classroom.” Henry Ward Beecher
It reminded me every day to take care of my own heart. This was far more important than the state of our actual physical classroom. Did I spend more time researching curriculum or surfing pinterest for activities that correspond with “Jj-jewels” that day than I did with JESUS?
The classroom that matters to your little one is the classroom in your heart. Fill it with God’s word. Cultivate things that are true and good and beautiful in your own heart so that you can share it with your child. This is far more important than having the “latest, greatest” in your home. There is no piece of curriculum that will hold more influence over your child than the words from your mouth which flow out of your heart.
I am blessed to have very patient children. They put up with a lot that year.
While I quickly learned that traditional school would not fit within the walls of our home, it took a long time to figure out just what kind of school we were. Take heart, you don’t have to have it all figured out before you start. Take time to uncover this treasure and make thoughtful decisions about what you bring into your home to meet your children!
By the end of MFWK I realized a few things:
What we are learning matters far less than who we are becoming. This helped me meet my children right where they were and helped me refrain from dragging them to where I thought they should be.
I fell in love with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education and did everything I could to embrace that style of learning. MFWK was the perfect starting point for us.
I spent a lot of time making sure our home was their home too. I made sure our home was a safe and loving place to learn about truth, goodness and beauty. I gave them more responsibility. I lowered the expectation down from ” perfect child robot” and taught the boys to not hide their sin away from their Mama and Daddy. To tell the devil they wouldn’t be keeping sin a secret, to parade it out in front of us so we could help them confess and move closer towards holiness and healing. We emphasized the redemption and joy to be had from making the most of our mistakes.
Reading brought us together. We read a lot of books. I mean A LOT of books. There were stacks all over the house and some week we went to the library every other day for various story times and to get new books.
The great outdoors are not to be missed! We spent a great deal of time out of doors. Long walks at the park or simply playing in the mud outside for hours. We took advantage of all the free activities and learning opportunities our community had to offer.
Free time matters. We didn’t schedule the kids to death. They had tons and tons and TONS of free time. This gave them the opportunity to build, play, create, savor and discover.
There are zillions of extra materials and crafts and songs and stories out there that can be added to MFWK to “beef up” the experience. The truth is, keeping it straight out of the manual is more than enough for your kids to have a beautiful year. This year I will be following the manual as closely as possible. We may add a few things we have done before that proved to be great fun, but if I add anything it will be activities or experiences. I won’t be adding extra busywork or handouts just for the sake of adding a check mark to a list that only exists to make me feel better. No two homeschool walks are the same and you may eventually come to a place were handouts and tons of busywork make sense for your family, but I do everything I can to encourage those with littles to keep it as simple as they can in those early years when hands on activity and PLAY are so very valuable to little ones.
So here is the plan for MFWK this year:
1. Spend time with God prepping the classroom in my heart so that I will have plenty of truth, goodness and beauty to impart to my children.
2. I have organized our year into 27 manilla folders. This is a very, very high tech system so try to keep up as I explain. You put student sheets inside the folders and you write ideas, supply lists, book basket picks, etc. on the outside of the folder. Stick it all in a basket and then pull it out as you need them. Mind blowing, right? Hasn’t failed me yet!
3. Keep up with our regularly scheduled nature walk.
4. Keep up with our morning basket! One piece of art work or music, a few poems and a book so we can start out day appreciating something lovely. Wonderful suggestion for books can be found over on Ambleside.com.
5. Let my littles be little! There will be plenty of time for writing and advanced math and homework in later years. The clock is ticking and they deserve to enjoy every second of early childhood without all these hideous expectations from a standardized scopes and sequence world or the demands of an anti-homeschool relative.
6. Eat dinner together as a family every night.
7. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We work hard on Saturdays and we rest hard on Sundays. We cuddle up and read books and we spend time together. French toast matters to these little hearts. Our attention as they talk and talk and talk, matters too. Having a day set aside for God and family helps us make these vital life connections, breathe life into our tired souls and help propel us forward into the next week.
8. Set up a special time for K schoolwork while the 2nd/3rd graders do their independent work. Even though its the second time through, #3 deserves a special year too! We’ll be adding a decoration to a shirt each week along with coloring in our badges because little man loves to wear fun shirts!
9. Expect fun, not perfection.
10. Take lots and lots of pictures. I just realized that I only have a handful of pictures from our first time through MFWK. I was too uptight back then! Sad. I am resolved to take more PICTURES!
And that is the plan. Lets see how MFWK goes this year now that I have learned to relax and my philosophy of education has become more focused. I am embracing this year with #3 as a sweet time of fellowship of fun. Blessings to you on your MFWK journey, friend. I hope it draws you and your children closer to God and to each other.