They say “time heals all wounds”, but time is also an excellent teacher. My style of home educating has changed quite a bit because of what time and experience has taught me. It has not been an easy path, but it has been rewarding. I can think of five major things, or lessons, that have and continue to shape our homeschooling journey.
Lesson #1 – Homeschooling does not have to break the bank
So many times I would gaze over homeschool catalogs and suddenly my list of “things I need to homeschool” was 2 pages long—for one child—in preschool. Yes those catalogs can be quite tempting. By page 4 you’re certain you’ve been homeschooling all wrong and if you just had this new curriculum it would be so much better. I know first hand this is not true. Now, that being said, another expensive mistake I made was trying to make something affordable work for my child even though I knew it wasn’t the best choice. For example, I don’t particularly like Alpha Omega’s LifePacs, but at the time it seemed cost-effective. Half way through the books I realized I should have went with my original choice and then I wouldn’t have ended up buying two different sets of curriculum.
There are even no-cost methods to providing a home education . Two sites I really enjoy are Easy Peasy Homeschool and Ambleside Online. Ambleside Online is based on Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods. Both would require access to the Internet, but chances are if you are reading this you have that piece in place. These sites can be used as supplements or as your only curriculum.
So if you truly want to homeschool don’t let the “Oh, I couldn’t afford to do that” excuse stop you. It can be done without having to spend a ton of money. If you do decide to purchase curriculum then research your choices thoroughly. Both choices can yield a fantastic homeschool experience.
Lesson #2 – Being a Christian, I should keep Christ the focus
Does this mean we only study the Bible? No. What it means is I want to keep my eyes on Christ. I want to be starting our day in His Word; it can really set the tone for the entire day—fruit of the spirit anyone?
With homeschooling I enjoy the freedom to share my world view with my children and I have to be reminded on the hard days that I need to honor God with my actions and interactions as I do. If I demonstrate how to honor God, my children will see it modeled for them in everyday life. It will teach only hypocrisy if I preach without practice. I don’t want to lead you to think I’m some sort of Mary Poppins. That is definitely not the case. Nope, not even close. There are days where I’m sure I resemble the Wicked Witch of the West or perhaps a fire-breathing dragon? Both? Either way, what I am learning to strive for is honoring God.
Lesson #3 – My kids learn better in a relaxed environment
This point kind of relates back to the fire-breathing dragon. When
mom is frazzled our house is upset, no one is learning anything. As much as I’d like to keep my home resembling a Zen garden it most likely will never happen–well unless we all leave, then it’s only the dog that gets to enjoy it. Though I can’t realistically expect us to function like that, I can make every-day living more relaxed. How? Just by my reactions. Instead of exasperated sighs after the millionth time I’ve told my toddler to stop jumping off the couch I can simply put him in a time-out (Side note – “time outs” have never worked for any of my kids except the last one. It just about drives him batty to sit still).
Controlling my reactions to anything frustrating will help keep things relaxed even if there are spills and crashes all around us. This lesson is always being tested and re-learned.
Lesson #4 – Don’t let homeschooling affect my marriage (in a negative way)
I was recently listening to a CD of Todd Wilson (The Family Man) speaking at a homeschool conference. The title of it was “Homeschooling, but Still Married”. This was a class just for women and he spoke about how homeschooling can become like a black hole that sucks up everything around it. He is right. I could busy myself with homeschool related tasks until the day every kid left the house. We both have to work hard to protect our time together.
Both of us can let life get away from us and we can end up drifting apart. We make a concerted effort to spend time together. Men have undeniable physical needs (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about). If I get so wrapped up in running with the kids that I’m exhausted and just can’t be bothered to fulfill my husbands needs then I am too busy! The same way intimacy works for him to refresh his perspective, unplugging from responsibility refreshes mine. He might tell me to go enjoy a relaxing, hot shower while he handles the kids and house. Or he might tell me to go get myself a fancy-pants coffee and enjoy a book by myself. Whatever the needs are, we find a way to work together. Go team!!
Lesson #5 – Having a reasonable, attainable plan will make the days go smoother
This last lesson kind of ties all of these points together. If there isn’t a plan in place it can be the start of a downward spiral into chaos for me. I’ve learned over the years that for our family a minute-by-minute schedule doesn’t work. I have since morphed my plan into a small list that constitutes as a rhythm for our days. A plan on paper or in my head of course runs smoothly, but experience has taught me there will be sickness, teething babies, impromptu field trips, days to just enjoy the nice weather, etc. You name it and it can get in the way of my neatly scheduled school plan. So I plan those into the schedule by making it loose enough to “catch up” if needed.
Another aspect of having an attainable plan for our family is restriction of outside commitments. With four kids, we can’t all have separate activities going on. I have to be very diligent with where our time goes. When I plan out lessons, breaks, trips, etc I need to be realistic on what can actually be accomplished in a certain amount of time or life can end up looking like a blender running on high with the top off.
So there you have it, the five lessons I’ve learned over the years. These points are frequently revisited and tweaked to keep me on track and headed toward the end goal, which for me is to keep my sanity and family intact, focusing always on God. And who knows, we might actually learn some stuff along the way!