I reflect back on the mom I was and home school start in August of 2018 and I can’t help but laugh out loud! Anyone who has or is homeschooling would laugh with me, as I remember the week before we started, I sat at my computer for hours, making powerpoints for each Math lesson, thinking I would continue this for the next 139 lessons throughout the year. I neatly put each lesson in individual plastic sheet covers to preserve them for when my little guy reached grade three in a few years. I had individual binders labeled and tabbed for, “Lesson”, “Completed work”, “Corrections”, “Quizzes”, “Extra work”, “Enrichment”, “Questions” etc. I had different colored pens ready to go for each color-coded subject. I had a board on the wall that I laminated each subject individually, so I could have an “Order of the Day”.
The reality now is that if all the work for that particular subject is somewhere in that labeled subject binder, it’s a win. I can’t find my pens most of the time, let alone the color coordinated one to that particular subject. I have two colors. Black for teaching and recording and a red pen for marking and commenting. The last powerpoint I made was in August of 2018; hence the folder on my desktop that says “Math powerpoints” consists of one powerpoint – not 140. The order of the day morphed into what I could effectively teach within the time period of picking my youngest up from preschool and running errands. My lesson plans that outlined the learning objectives and outcomes for each subject that day (seriously…I thought I would keep up with this…I invite you to continue laughing…I am), turned into a blank pages that had something like, “Aim to do 4 math lessons this week” or “Work on spelling this week….it’s been a month” or “Latin…you should do some of that this week”.
Now, for those who are thinking of homeschooling and reading this, do NOT panic! My son did not fall behind this year, or not finish his grade level. He has not regressed and does not take off his socks to use his toes to count past 10. Spoiler alert…we have completed nearly two grades of math this year, putting him ahead for the next school year, finished the science we had planned, had an enriching unit study in Social Studies, explored, created, experienced, wrote in the journal, traveled, discussed, read, took notes, tested, and learned Latin. My son reads and spells well above grade level, and had a very enriched and productive academic year, despite my abandoning the crazy “plan” I had hoped and dreamed it would be like in August.
I went back and looked at my calendar. We accomplished all this while taking all of December off for traveling to China and Christmas in the mountains, taking off the entire month of April off to travel to New Brunswick to visit grandparents, visit maple farms and learn about tides (all impromptu units), while taking 85% of all Fridays off, schooling 2-3 hours a day from Monday-Thursdays, and taking a week off here and there as my son or I needed it…AND we were able to finish everything by May 15th.
Here’s the thing…I started off crazy. I was determined to not “fall behind”, to make sure my son didn’t lose the discipline of learning and being in “school”. September and October were nuts. I pretty much ran a boot camp here. It wasn’t until after my first home school evaluation with my facilitator from the home school board we chose, that I realized we were miserable. She saw our progress, looked at Sam’s work, had him read with her, and recommended that we slow down. She said to me, “Wow. So, you are well ahead of normal pace. He’s doing great. I’m not concerned about academics at all at this point. It’s obvious that you are teaching him, he’s learning lots of things…but tell me, are you having fun?”
That questions knocked the wind out of me. I didn’t know that we were suppose to be having fun. In the midst of planning, organizing, color coating, assembling desks and binders, I stupidly didn’t think of the word “fun”. Reflecting back to the two months of tears and stress, I answered her honestly, “No, I’m not. I’m stressed all the time worried that I’m missing something and that he won’t learn as well as he would if I had left him in school. So, I keep powering through, whether I feel like it or not, and whether he wants to or not”
She gave me an empathetic smile and put her hand on my shoulder and asked me, “Is your son having any fun?” to which I replied with tears in my eyes, “No. I doubt it.”
She said to me, with a gentle and compassionate smile, an encouraging hand on my shoulder, “Homeschooling is a gift. It’s a gift that we can give our children…to show them that learning is suppose to be fun. We want to instill in our children a LOVE for learning, a love for reading, a love for exploring, a love for knowledge. This will not happen and cannot happen, if neither of you are having any fun. It’s okay to take a break once in awhile. It’s okay to shelf something if it’s not engaging. It’s obvious that discipline in teaching and learning is not the problem. Work WILL get done here. You’re doing wonderfully. But this ISN’T school. You have the opportunity to do SO MUCH MORE! I promise, you will be surprised at how AHEAD he will be if you just loosen up a bit, and have fun with him. Slow down to explore and ask questions, to answer questions together, to sit together and get excited about the material. Don’t waste this opportunity with this special year you are giving him. You pulled him out of school because there was something more you wanted for him. Now’s your chance to give it to him. Don’t turn it into the reason why you pulled him in the first place”
When she left, I cried. I prayed. I reflected. I was so concerned about making sure I wasn’t going to screw him up, that I didn’t realize that I was screwing this ALL up. So, I took her advice.
For the rest of the year, I slowed down. I took my cues from Samuel, without forfeiting a plan to complete the rest of the curriculum. We still did school every morning (minus Fridays), worked on reading, writing, math, science, Latin, etc. But, if he was having a week where he was “mathed out”, we didn’t do it that day. That’s not to say that I allowed this to happen many days in a row, but I became more aware of where he was at emotionally and mentally and paid more attention to when he needed a break. When he was excited about something, we explored it deeper and took more time doing it that day rather than insisting that we stop after 30 minutes so we could move on the next subject.
Before we knew it, it was May (the month I wanted to complete our year), and we were finished…with smiles on our faces. Samuel loved this year, wanted to keep homeschooling the next year, with Caleb excited to join us next Fall, and truth be told…I did too!
When I shifted my mentality about homeschooling, and made it more about the person I was teaching and not the material that needed completion, we started having FUN! We still did our work, but we both started enjoying it. We got excited about trees, about math conversions, about topography and Latin derivatives. Mornings were more peaceful, happy, with an eager little boy asking, “What are we gonna do today, Mom?” with a SMILE on his face! In between all that, we had play dates, we visited family in the afternoons, we ran errands together, went to gym programs and art classes…and I actually had the opportunity to see, full time, how my child was growing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When he had a question, he didn’t have to wait until the end of the day, where he would have likely forgotten by then anyways, to ask and explore answers together. We had discussions at length about character, attitude, prayer, worship, scripture, career, finances, relationships, trust, and the list goes on and on. We did this without rushing and distractions. We did this face to face, and not in the car on our way to an after school activity or a 10 minute drive home from school, where I couldn’t see his face. But we were able to carve time in our mornings when these things came up.
In my reflection at the end of this year, homeschooling is 15% academic and 85% about growing character, healthy work habits, teaching relationship skills, experiencing and learning about our faith, our family values, and learning who HE is. The coolest thing was, I, me, his mother, got to do this with him FULL time. I didn’t miss out on any of it. I didn’t have to wait for an email from his teacher to tell me something neat happened, or wait for a parent teacher interview to hear how he’s had personal growth over the past four months.
For my son, he became a totally different little boy. He became softer, losing that “schoolyard edge” and attitude. He was happier. I don’t think I ever saw him smile and laugh as much as I have this year. This year, he found out for himself just how much he loved being in our family, in our home, and being at rest in our surroundings here. The angst that we were starting to see before we started homeschooling disappeared. He talks boldly about the cool things that God is doing in his life, he gets excited to dig out his Bible to read along with me during devotions, he loves listening and singing to worship music during is quiet times or doing his work. This was not the little boy I had when we started at the beginning of the year. But this is the son that I have now, after our first year together. For me, these changes meant more to me than getting ahead in math, or having him learn Latin, or completing all his grammar books. It is the confidence that I see in him, watching him truly like himself, his family, and his Jesus, that defined this year for me, and made me a home school believer. It has changed the atmosphere of our family, our home, and us as parents.
Was it a walk in the park? HECK, NO! Peppered into this success were days of breakdowns…of Samuel crying in his room, me crying in my room. There were days where voices were raised, doors were slammed, and work scribbled on. There were days where I was a breath away from putting him back in school IMMEDIATELY. There were many phone calls to my husband at work in the middle of the day questioning why we were doing this and how I wanted to quit. There were moments of anxiety when I didn’t think I would finish everything. There were evenings where I would be waiting at the garage door for my husband to walk in from work so I could walk out and just not be around the children for a few hours. There were mornings where I had to pray hard and WILL myself to teach, when I just wanted to drop them off for 8 hours of school somewhere else so I could just stay in my pajamas, eat carbs and watch Netflix all day…just for ONE DAY. I wrote this in my earlier blogs, but its, true…homeschooling is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.
For those of your who are considering home school, or for those who have decided next year to be the first year…if I could give my top five pieces of advice, it would be this:
1. Breathe. Plan however you want to, but EXPECT that plan to change throughout the year and know that it will be just fine. Understand that discipline is necessary and required. Start strong, so you can build in room for more breaks as the year goes on.
- Have weekly or month goals…not daily goals. You will be overwhelmed and feel discouraged if something happens one day and you don’t accomplish a daily goal. Give yourself a loose guideline just to stay accountable, but allow flexibility.
- Have fun! It’s okay to change something during the year if it’s not working. Make sure you’re allotting time to go on field trips, hikes, zoos, libraries, and crafts (I don’t craft, but I send them to the home school co-op programs throughout the year that do!).
- Make sure you have your spouse on board to acknowledge that you will need a break…however that looks. Maybe it’s once a week, twice a week, an hour every evening…whatever it is. But you need to realize that you will be with your child(ren) ALL day, so you need to have some self care time. At first, for me, it started with me needing to get out and away, even if it was for an evening. But now, it’s morphed into, I want to be in my home, but I just don’t want to be “present”….so my husband will take the kids after supper, play with them, read with them, get them ready for bed, and put them down, while I’m either tucked in my office to do computer work, or I’m in the basement watching a movie by myself…whatever it is…he’s “ON” for the rest of the evening, and he only calls me if the house is on fire and I need to evacuate…but even then, he knows that he’s responsible to grab all our important documents, bag of family treasure and keepsakes, photo albums, some clothes for the kids, the children themselves….and I only need to jump out a window before the flames engulf me.
- PRAY! I could NOT have done this well if not by the grace of God. Seriously. On the days I had no clue, I was tired, exhausted, discouraged, frustrated…I leaned heavily on God’s provision, joy, peace, and wisdom. Give yourself grace…and then give yourself some more. It won’t go according to plan, but it will go well! Give your child grace…and then give them some more. It’s as much of a change and adjustment for them that they need time to grow into, as much as it is for you. The great thing is, you just gotta start. Once you are in motion, you’ll see that it will be JUST FINE! Don’t do it on your own out of your own strength. Lean on God’s promises and provision, knowing that He is for you and not against you.
I have a bonus tip: IGNORE THE DOWNERS! You don’t have to explain your decision to home school to anyone! If you want to do it. DO IT! If you think your kid needs this, you can do it! NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE knows your child better than you do. Do not let their judgments dissuade or discourage you. Lysa TerKeurst, famous author and speaker said something profound, “If the accolades coming from others are the lifeline to our pursuits, we become enslaved by their compliments and crushed by their criticisms. We don’t want to live our lives ruled by what other people think of us.”
This has been one heck of a year. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to do this with my son this year. It has been FANTASTIC! We are looking forward to starting our youngest…which will surely change our dynamics next year, but we are all still excited! With great confidence and assurance, we know we are now hooked. We are a home school family. The fruit out of it is immeasurable. More than knowing I can teach my son math and science, I feel better equipped about raising a child that will learn the ways of the Lord and not depart from them. That’s what matters to us…and if we can do this, while still grow him academically so those socks never have to come off to count past ten, then hey, it’s a win!
Be encouraged. Be blessed. Be empowered.
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“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” – Hebrews 4:16