This is not a post about how to expertly homeschool your children nor a diatribe on the evils of public schooling. Just some bits and pieces of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past few years of teaching my kids at home. If you’re looking for expertise…look somewhere else, because I’m still learning and figuring things out as we go!
We never set out to homeschool. In fact, when our oldest two were 3 months and 21 months old respectively, and was I pacing the floors of our house with a very colicky baby, I would actually fantasize about putting the girls on a school bus and skipping all the way home. I think we just assumed that we would send our kids to public school. We both come from a long line of public schooling and public school educators. But, here we are…four kids later and choosing to educate our children at home.
Being the type A personality I am, I spent months researching methods, philosophies, and theories behind education. I was sure that if we chose the *right* curriculum, our kids would learn all that they needed. I figured there must be a formula or plan that would lead to success. We settled on a philosophy and ordered a complete curriculum for our oldest daughter when she started kindergarten. I felt confident that we were on the path to greatness.
I should have had “naive” tattooed across my forehead. Three weeks into our first year, I was overwhelmed. Our oldest daughter was bright…which was awesome. But she was bored with the pre-planned lessons I was trying to teach her and she already knew well over half the material in her books. Because she was bored, she was inattentive and surly. I didn’t have anything else planned and didn’t know what to do. To top it all off, our “educational philosophy” didn’t tell me what to do with an advanced, eager learner.
So, we ditched the expensive curriculum in favor of some cheap workbooks for first and second graders that I purchased at Staples. She was happy and learning. I felt like I was betraying Charlotte Mason and Susan Wise-Bauer…but the workbooks worked.
The next year, I had two little learners and was even more determined to teach them *correctly.* I was sure it was my lack of skill and understanding that had caused me to fail in meeting my goals the previous year. So, I spent even more time, energy and money preparing for the school year. Again, a few weeks into the year, I found myself purchasing Tinkerbell workbooks and printing free curriculum off the Internet.
Clearly, I am a slow learner. And that is valuable information, friends.
Fast-forward a couple of years and we are beginning our fifth year of homeschooling, with 4 little learners, shelves full of mix and match curriculum and a bin of the ever-trusty, el cheapo workbooks:) I think every mama who sets out to educate her own children has an idea of what homeschooling will look like. My “ideal” was a table filled with bright-eyed, clean-faced children, all learning Latin, playing violin, doing long-division…okay, maybe not that extreme. But I did think that it would be a lot like, well, my own experiences at school.
Truth? It’s nothing like my own experiences. Truth? It’s better.
After a lengthy learning curve, I have discovered that all the hyper-planning in the world won’t make my kids learn; nor will expensive curricula, critically acclaimed testing, or lofty ideals and philosophies. My kids learn when someone who loves them invests in them, prays for them, encourages them, and introduces them to a love for learning.
Like I said…I learn at a snail’s pace.
I do think it’s valuable to have some handle on different teaching styles, philosophies and approaches. This will help you discern how to approach learning with your child. It will also help you choose curriculum. My rule of thumb is to never use something I don’t feel comfortable working with. A book or course of study may be expertly written and be popular with every other homeschooler in your area, but if you don’t feel comfortable teaching from it, you won’t teach well from it.
Far and away the most important part of educating our children (for me) has been a posture of prayer. Leaning into the Lord for guidance, protection, wisdom. At least once a day I wonder if we have made the right choice. At least once a day I wonder if they are learning *everything* they are supposed to learn. Maintaining a prayerful posture keeps me in communication with God and able to hear His gentle reassurance that He is with me, guiding me and helping me in my ministry to my kids.
Thinking back to my *ideal* for homeschooling, the only part of that picture that exists in reality is the table we use. Some days we do school in pajamas. There is usually peanut butter smeared on someone’s face or shirt. The house gets messy, with projects and books and papers spread out over every available table. We aren’t learning Latin. There is no violin playing going on. We check out 50 or more library books at a time. We count folding laundry, cutting coupons and making cookies as “home ec.” We stop and pray when someone doesn’t understand a concept or is having a rough day. We let other people interrupt our day and use it as an opportunity to let God teach us how to love others. I actively invite God to mold me and shape me into a better wife, mother and teacher for my family.
We are slowly learning. Learning to let God fashion us into the family He desires us to be. Learning to live in reconciliation and peace. Learning to see our children (and ourselves) as God sees us…beautiful, broken treasures.
So, what’s it really like to homeschool? I don’t know…I’m still figuring that out! And it’s different for every family. But if you are called to it, you will be equipped for it. If God leads you to it, He will provide wisdom. And if you consecrate your efforts as unto the Lord, you will bless the Lord.
God, thank You for the privilege and opportunity to educate these kids for Your glory. Help me to do it! Give me wisdom, give me strength, give me JOY! Help me to see them as you do…always. Help me to see myself as you do…ALWAYS! May this year bless You and glorify You and may it help us walk closer and more intimately with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.