Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency

Shifting Gears.....

from Susan Richman

[This article first appeared in Issue 86 (Spring 2004) of the PENNSYLVANIA HOMESCHOOLERS® newsletter.]

I’ve found myself literally shifting gears lately— we just traded in my beloved 1996 minivan for a little Saturn Ion.... and this new car has a manual stick shift. So my earlier days of our 30-year marriage are coming back to me, when I learned to shift the gears in my little VW bug that I bought 2nd hand for $450, with money borrowed from my parents. It’s now quite natural once again, and now I love smoothly shifting gears, enjoying the control a manual transmission gives... and the lower cost of the gasoline for our many weekly trips to Pittsburgh.

And I realize I’ve been shifting gears in other areas of my life too, just as many of you are. We could move from a minivan to a compact because we only have one child still at home— we just don’t usually find ourselves driving seven people around very often anymore. Our needs have shifted— commuting to Pittsburgh with Hannah for various classes and activities fills our days rather than driving all four kids to the Kittanning library or to a local homeschool fieldtrip or to a meeting of our old Math Olympiad group at a homeschool friend’s church. I no longer need a vehicle built for moms in carpools. And when I buy groceries, it doesn’t take up as much room as when I was feeding six people, three times a day.

Shifting gears isn’t easy— just listen to Hannah’s moans as she started relearning how to drive our new car! Didn’t help that she had hoped to take her driver’s test just a couple weeks after we bought this surprise new purchase— that plan will be put off a couple of months or so till she feels as comfortable and automatic with our non-automatic new car as she did with the minivan. The payoff is worth it, of course— after all, she feels the new car is much cooler than a minvan, and she realizes it will be much easier to park in the city (and on her driver’s test!) once she gets the feel for backing up without zooming or stalling. But right now it’s all still in the rough stage, and she misses the competence she’d gotten used to feeling with our other car.

And I think how this happens continually with our homeschooling... we shift gears in so many ways throughout the years, sometimes in planned ways, sometimes in surprise twists that we hadn’t expected or seen in advance. See if any of these shifts resonate with you:

Shifting gears isn’t always smooth— we all have some stalls, or some times when we all do like I did the other day of trying to shift from 5th to 2nd.... without going through 4th and 3rd as intermediary steps! Or we try to start at that uphill stop sign while still in 2nd gear instead of first. We need to give ourselves some time to get used to the new shifts in our lives and in our homeschooling, as we and our kids grow. We also need to be not too afraid of tackling that challenge when it comes— given some practice time, some shifting of our attitudes, and learning some new techniques and skills, and we’ll soon be on our way... in a good new direction!

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