Overview: Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie is a must-read that not only provides powerful insight about successful homeschooling in general but can be adapted to homeschooling high school, too.
Homeschooling high school can be overwhelming. Are you feeling harried, anxious, and worried that you’re not doing enough? That your kid will have a horrible education and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT?
Then keep reading, because I think I can help!
I had the privilege and honor of meeting Sarah Mackenzie, author of Teaching from Rest and The Read-Aloud Family, at the Great Homeschool Convention in Missouri last summer. Someone had told me that she “sparkles” — and you know what? She does.
I had never read her first book, though I had heard it mentioned often. I assumed it was for younger grades — and to be frank, I’m past that stage now. How could her book help me?
Well, after meeting Sarah and seeing how vibrant and real she is, I decided to buy the book and read it. And I learned that Teaching from Rest is a book that EVERY homeschool mom should digest — and probably frequently, whether you’re experienced or not!
The principles in Sarah’s book can pertain to any stage of homeschooling, truly. In this article I’m excited to share how the concepts in Teaching from Rest can apply to the high school years. This is good stuff, y’all!
First, what is “teaching from rest”?
In short — and please get the book and read her full explanation for yourself — teaching from rest is doing homeschool from the perspective of loving and trusting God to handle the results.
It is being faithful to show up and do your best, but not being harried, worried, or anxious about whether you are doing enough.
As Sarah says, “What that means on a practical level is that we have to stop fretting over every little detail. We need to stop comparing. We’ve got to drop the self-inflated view that we are the be-all and end-all of whether the education we are offering our children is going to be as successful as we hope it is” (p. xvii).
But this is not equivalent to being negligent. Rather, it is “work and leisure, properly ordered” (p. 8). She uses the illustration of the boy with his loaves and fishes: we show up with our basket (our best effort), and God takes it and blesses it to abundance for all. When we are in a place of rest, we are trusting that His grace will be sufficient for our weakness.
Which makes homeschooling a happier thing for everyone.
If you are a high school mom, your mental wheels are probably going around by now, am I right? Why do we forget, when the high school years come around, that it’s not all up to us?
We take a big load onto ourselves, because we feel like now it “matters;” now the quality of the rest of my kid’s life is dependent on ME doing the right things as we homeschool high school.
We forget about grace. We start checking boxes rather than enjoying the journey.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and if you don’t know it already, let me make it very clear that my whole aim in blogging is to help you de-stress. And homeschooling high school is one place where I focus on letting you know that you don’t have to do all. the. things. That it doesn’t have to be that hard.
And Teaching From Rest aligns up perfectly with that message. So let’s delve a little further.
Sarah discusses several ways to make teaching from rest a reality in your homeschool. I’m going to adapt them for the high school years.
How does “teaching from rest” apply to high school?
1) Sarah says to “clarify your vision.”
What this means is to know your WHY of education (what should education look like?) and also of homeschooling. If you don’t know WHY you are homeschooling, then you will constantly be working in a state of fear, wondering if you are doing the right things. Once you have thought through your goals, then everything you do can be evaluated with them in mind. Curriculum choices, activities — all decisions become so much easier. Choose what helps your WHY, eschew whatever hinders it.
In high school, it’s important to know your WHY for homeschooling all the way through to graduation. Why do you want to homeschool HIGH SCHOOL rather than sending them off to the local school building? For us, it was to protect a certain innocence from the types of sin that might be more prevalent at a brick-and-mortar school, as well as allowing our teen’s characters to develop without peer pressure for just that much longer.
Also, we wanted to maintain a family-centered home, so that parent-child relationships would remain strong — so that when our teens headed off to college and the workplace, they would be confident in their personalities and also assured that there was still a safe place for them to find help at any time.
While I won’t claim that we had a perfect high school experience, for the most part I would say we’ve met those goals.
What are your goals for homeschooling high school? Putting them into words is a large step towards teaching from rest during these challenging years.
2) Sarah says to simplify the curriculum.
I say YES, YES, and YES to that, ESPECIALLY during high school. We get so worried about all the credits and the college requirements. We hear about what others are doing and we get intimidated and think we have to do all that, too.
How to simplify? Sarah mentions several ways to do so, which I have paraphrased and have provided some high-school-specific suggestions for:
(Truly, though, don’t just take my word for what Sarah says. Reading the book for yourself is an experience not to be missed. You will thank me for telling you so, believe me. Click the image below to buy it from Amazon.)
Do fewer subjects. In high school this translates to fewer credits. You DO NOT have to take all core courses every year. Breathe.
Integrate subjects when you can. You can still do unit studies in high school. You can make writing be about history and kill two birds with one stone. If you’re not chasing after a gazillion credits (see above), then this is definitely an option.
Understand how to use your curriculum. You DO NOT have to finish the entire Algebra 1 book. Or you can take two years to do so if you want. The curriculum serves you, not the other way around. Skip that test, or make it open book. Do every other problem, rather than all of them. Allow do-overs. Help your kid be successful.
Don’t be a slave to what the curriculum says you “must” do. There are no musts in homeschooling, other than abiding by your state’s homeschool law. The rest is all you, baby.
Review your plan regularly. Sarah takes stock every six weeks. In high school, take a day after each semester to make sure things are tracking as you want them to. Evaluate and adapt where necessary.
Choose only those things that foster your vision, your WHY. Sarah says to “put relationships above everything else” (p. 37). This is SO TRUE during the teen years. Don’t make checking boxes more important than relating to that hormonally-challenged bag of angst sitting across the table from you. Their heart is what’s most important here.
Related Reading: How to Make Homeschooling High School FUN!
3) In addition to simplifying curriculum, Sarah recommends to simplify the schedule.
Again, can I just say YES, THIS^^^^??? During the high school years, things can quickly get very complicated. Teaching from rest means we don’t let them. Again, Sarah has suggestions, some of which I have translated into high-school-ese:
Be realistic about what can be accomplished. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe understanding factoring will take a bit longer than that, too. Don’t try to cram too much in.
Plan margin into everyone’s day. We all need a chance to catch our breath. Even the teen. Let them have some time alone in their room; that’s very important at this age. Obviously use wisdom and don’t let it be excessive, and in our family we keep doors open most of the time — but given appropriate limitations, there is no harm in this.
Use creative scheduling. Guess what? That kid does NOT have to do every subject every day. In fact, let them have a lot of say over what gets done when. If they want to spend all day Tuesday on history and bang out the whole week of work in one day, let them. If they want relax a little during the week and then finish over the weekend, who cares? Or, if you’re generally feeling like not enough is getting done, maybe a year-round schedule, with more frequent breaks, is in order. Be flexible!
When necessary, set aside the curriculum to focus on the needs of your teen. If there is a discussion that needs to happen, make that a priority. LISTEN TO THEM when they want to talk to you. SAVOR having them home!
Trust me, the time flies by all too fast, and then they’re hours away and you get a phone call once a week — if you’re lucky. Love on them while you have the chance!
4) Possibly the most important part of the whole book, imho, is the section that talks about doing what works for YOU.
And that means YOU THE HOMESCHOOL MOM. Cuz as we all know, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
I know we say that as a joke, but the reality is that if you are thriving, your kids will, too. So make choices that work with your strengths, and feel free to outsource your weaknesses. This is so easy during high school, when the teen is working more independently. For those subjects that you feel inadequate to help with, they can take online courses, have a tutor, go to the local community college for dual enrollment, etc.
On the other side of the coin, though, don’t feel that just because you have a teen now, you have to sign them up for all the activities and classes they want — and end up driving them there three times a week or adapting your entire family’s day to make it happen. There is give and take, here. Consider how EVERYONE will be affected.
God knows what your teen needs and what they don’t. Missing out on an opportunity or two will not ruin their lives. Mom has to be sane, y’all, and running all over creation most days of the week doesn’t foster that. You know this, even if you don’t want to admit it, am I right? :-)
Be sure you are feeding your heart. The oxygen mask scenario works here — you have to feed your own soul before you can feed anyone else’s. If you don’t nurture YOU, then you won’t have anything left to serve your family.
Be reading books, spending time in the Word, writing in your journal, going on walks — whatever it is that grounds you and helps you feel whole.
And here’s another way to feed your heart — go to a Great Homeschool Convention! I learned SO MUCH at the one I went to, and I came away so inspired and motivated.
Sarah will be at ALL of them. If you go to one, you can meet her IN PERSON! At the very least you can see her being genuine and real and “sparkly” as she shares her heart and answers questions. And you can get her to sign your copy of her book!
Also, I will be at ONE of them! If you live near Cincinnati, look me up at the GHC there in April 2019!
Teaching from rest is a thing for high school, too.
It starts from the perspective of trusting God in ALL things. It proceeds with a diligent effort to do what you can, with the certain knowledge that you will make mistakes — but that they, too, will be part of God’s plan for your children. It involves making deliberate choices to cultivate a peaceful atmosphere in the home and a simplified homeschool routine, even during the high school years.
It results in more joy and less overwhelm, in spite of hormones and acne and difficult discussions.
As Sarah wrote in my copy of Teaching from Rest, “Bring your basket, and He’ll do the rest.”