( Summer is winding down, and although I've been digging in my heels and kicking and screaming about it, I have to face reality. School is just around the corner for us. We are squeezing every last drop out of summer. The vacations are over, the garden is pouring forth goodness, and the locusts starting their singing. The school room is starting to look like a school room again, instead of a craft area/dumping station. And yes, this begins my 9th year of home schooling my kids!!! And I can't help but reflect...)
Nine years ago we started the adventure of teaching our children at home. I was due with Baby #4, we felt like this was probably our least stressful option, and we were planning to try it for a year.
This began a season of our lives that would turn our world upside down. And I am forever grateful.
It was hard. Man, it was really hard! It felt like I willingly embraced loneliness, hard, and crazy, all in that one decision.
But looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I had known then. And so this is for you, new home schooling mom, who is terrified of what lies before you.
Obviously, home school is not the only education option out there. Assuming you already feel pretty certain that God has called you to this, I am here to encourage you. You'll want to remember that calling frequently, when you are in the trenches, so to speak.
You don't have to be super-mom.
Yes, you are the housekeeper, boo-boo kisser, laundry lady, cook, and now the teacher too. You don't have to get it all right every time. Give yourself grace, lots of grace. This is a season of your life, one of the toughest, so cut yourself lots of slack.
You will be very lonely at times.
This one really stinks, because why in the world would I willingly embrace loneliness? It's okay to feel lonely. Sometimes you will feel lonely because you simply cannot add one more thing to your life. Other times you will feel lonely because your friends get together for play dates and coffee, in the morning, and you are at home, doing school. So you're going to feel out of the loop at times. I hope you find at least one friend who gets you, who you can connect with occasionally and be encouraged. But remember, you are making sacrifices now to build and maintain relationships with your children. Someday these sacrifices will feel small. I promise.
What if I'm not capable of teaching my child?
I have to smile over this question now, but it was reality at one time in my life. It's not as hard as you might think to teach your child. Make a plan, and stick to it, but be flexible. Does that make sense? Our plan is school every morning, 5 days a week, from the middle of August to the end of April. Have we ever strayed from the schedule? Yes, of course. We take 2 weeks off every Christmas. We take off if something comes up....but it has to be pretty important.
Your children will all learn differently. Your main job is to teach them to love learning and show them how to pursue it.
What if my kids aren't as smart as other kids their age?
Again, the beautiful thing about home school is that your child can learn at their pace and their level. They don't have to be compared to 15 other first graders and be given a label. We make a big deal here at our house about having different gifts and abilities. We have all kinds here in our family of 4. I think God had a real sense of humor when he was handing out personalities to my kids. I remember on the very same day, one of my children weeping and wailing because they got a 98 on a test, while that child's sibling was so happy that they received an 80 and wouldn't have to do it over.
How will I ever get my housework done?
First, you will lower your standards.
Second, the phrase 'spring and fall cleaning' shall be removed from your vocabulary and even your mind.
Third, you will teach your children to help you.
I read somewhere years ago, that if you are feeling overwhelmed with your housework, you need to teach your children to do more to help out. I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed with my dirty house, looking around and saying, "What could my children be doing to help?"
My boys at ages 6 and 7, would clean the bathroom every Wednesday. It wasn't perfect, but cut some of the dirt until I could do it "right" on Saturday. We would all help each other clean upstairs on Thursday afternoons after the little ones napped. The main floor got cleaned Friday or Saturday. My children gathered and sorted laundry, dusted and swept their rooms, made their beds, and hung up their pj's.
How can I make our home an atmosphere conducive for learning?
Books, books, books. We invested in Uncle Arthur's Bible story books and a set of the World Book Encyclopedias. I have a secret addiction to buying books off of Amazon or at garage sales or thrift stores. We have books bursting out the seams of our house. My husband has moved more bookshelves in this house than any other piece of furniture. (Bless his heart!) Sometimes Leon gets the atlas out, and shows the children where he dreams of taking us on our next family vacation. Put up maps and talk about foreign lands. Read, read, read to your children, even after they can read themselves.
And here I am, nine years later, and I am so very grateful to God for leading us to home school our kids. Every sacrifice was so worth it. We have pursued relationships with our children and watched it pay off. There were times of intense struggle that I won't go into, times of wanting to quit and send them to the very closest school that would take them, times of being misunderstood by family or friends.
Remember, God gives strength for each day. He's got your back. And He loves your children even more than you do. You got this, girl. Put your chin up and carry on.
I'm here, cheering you on.