"He's twelve already. I've only got, what? Six years left? I just keep thinking of all the things I need to teach him before he graduates."
My sister-in-law said this to me just a few days ago as we sat at her house discussing homeschooling.
It's something I've heard many times before. So much to teach, so much to try to fit in, so many subjects, so many different branches of the subjects. So much everything....and so little time...so few years....
It comes from the new homeschooler, starting out with a child only five or six, looking down those many long daunting years, and wondering if she'll ever be able to teach them everything they need to know. It comes from the veteran homeschooler, facing teaching a high schooler for the first time, who suddenly realizes just how little time is left and the immensity of learning still to be done.
I've had those moments myself, middle-of-the-night panics because there's so many periods of history we haven't covered yet, or that one branch of science that we just briefly touched on that they might need to know more about someday.
So much information to cram into their brains before we turn them loose on the world....what's a homechool parent to do?
Well, I've come to a conclusion. A rather freeing one. You will NEVER fit it all in. You can NOT teach your child everything there is to know. You can NOT make sure they learn every single period of history, learn every single branch of science, master every single math skill, read every single tome of great literature. It is NOT POSSIBLE. Eighteen years is not enough time to do all that. No matter how hard you may try.
And you know what? That's OK.
Learning is a lifelong process and there is way more information and knowledge in the world than one person can ever learn.
Your child will not be ruined if they don't learn the history of the entire world or master biology, chemistry, AND physics. Their lives will not be worthless and without meaning if they don't cover every single composer and artist in their studies.
What you can do is teach them the basics. Make sure they can read, write, express themselves well both orally and in written word. Make sure they have the basics of math down, enough to function in the world. Make sure they know how to take care of their bodies and maintain a home and a car (and a relationship). Expose them to a variety of subjects. Let them study in depth those things that interest them most.
If it helps, make a list of all the things you think are important to learn, and then prioritize it. Which branches of science do you think are most important? Which ones do you think your child will be most interested in? Give them a brief introduction to all but only study a few in depth. The same thing with all other subjects. When it comes to history, show them lots of interesting stories and events, make sure they get a good understanding that all events fit together in one giant timeline of history, and then let them really get into the periods and places that fascinate them. Language Arts and Literature? Make a list of all the books you really want them to read. Do some research, find out which books are considered the great classics and choose the ones you want them to read. Then realize they still might not read them all. Have YOU read all the great classics? Probably not!
Model for them the fact that adults are still learning, too! Make sure they see YOU learning new things, seeking knowledge. Encourage them in ANY knowledge pursuits they come up with on their own, even if you don't feel like it's "important", because at least they are pursuing knowledge on their own!
Teach them that learning can be fun and teach them how to learn things on their own. You won't always be around, but just because you're not there teaching doesn't mean they'll stop learning.
Help them find the path that's right for them and go for it - and don't worry about learning every single little thing.
To inspire and encourage you, here's a few quotes. You've likely read most of them before, but really think on them right now....
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
- Eartha Kitt
Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.
- Abbé Dimnet
What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.
- George Bernard Shaw
The question is not, - how much does the youth know when he has finished his education - but how much does he care and about how many orders of things does he care?
- Charlotte Mason
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.
- James Thurber