It seems over the last three years I have been challenged and continue to be challenged in everything I thought homeschooling would be like. To be honest the first couple of years we homeschooled it looked like a reproduction of public school. I had created a circle time and a sit down time. Those in and of themselves where not awful, I still do some of those same things with the twins. I struggle the most with how I ran those first few years. I wish I knew then what I know now. The demands I put upon Maddie, dragging her along emotionally and academically were unfair to her. I demanded she learn what I wanted her to learn, in the time frame I gave her.
We homeschool because we wanted to give our kids the gift of one on one teaching and being able to learn at their own pace. I discovered I was fine with them learning at their own pace if it lived up to my pace. If their learning did not match my pace I pressed in harder. Demanding in a loving, sweet manner “sit on mommy’s lap and learn phonics” time. The problem is even with my good intentions I created the opposite of what I had dreamed for our kids.
In short work I had created a little girl who woke up every morning anxious about learning. Learning was a chore not a passion she wanted to chase. It was demanded and she defied it. Oh, my sweet Maddie tried to obey. She honestly did. She would try and obey, but her heart got to a point she could no longer obey and she got angry instead. She does not explode like Naomi, Maddie internalizes. Three years of internalizing and trying to be good eventually lead to an angry explosion I had no idea what to do with. Math, reading, science, and every subject in between was met with tears. School had no longer become fun. Maddie dreaded it and so did I. To make matters worse Maddie and I have completely different personalities. I became desperate! I missed my sweet girl and I was desperate to find a way to repair our relationship.
First, I had to change! I dropped to my knees and admitted before the Lord and Mark we needed our family interaction to be different. I needed our school time to look different! God in his faithfulness answered. It took time, painful, humbling time,but to God be the glory, the change came! He worked first in Mark and I individually, then Mark and I as husband and wife, and then as it always does it trickled down to our kids.
I had to choose to acknowledge the way I was homeschooling wasn’t working. I had to choose to acknowledge that it was no longer about my comfort. It was about learning to walk away from what was comfortable for me and teach to the learning style of Maddie and the rest of our kids. I apologized to Maddie for not being patient with her, for demanding she learn on my time frame not hers, and for not helping her to chase her passions. I also apologized for taking the fun out of learning. To win back the heart of my daughter I had to leap not jump or walk out of my comfort zone.
I also had to acknowledge what I was seeing in my kids. I began to pay attention to the moments I had my kids attention and when it began to die off. I learned that I could hold my kids attention for about five to maybe ten minutes. I began to shorten my lessons. I noticed that when I asked for a row of handwritten a’s I would get three to four quality neatly written a’s. I stopped asking for a row and simply asked for three or four quality a’s. The theme became quality not quantity. A little quality everyday was much better than quantity! When I demanded less their brains began to relax and I could see confidence come back in their faces.
This year I am requiring the least from Maddie and getting more learning from her than I have all the years before. This year I am requiring daily math work and a three sentence paragraph. She is allowed to write anything she wants to and I ask that she put an illustration along with it. I do need to add that science and history are Maddie’s passion. I have worked hard to stock our bookshelves with all the history and science books she could want. She craves science experiments. This year I snug in a poetry book about nature in her bookshelf, she picked it up, and skimmed it to see if it was worth investigating. She read one poem and then another, it now sits on her bed as one of her read every night books before she goes to bed! Her love of nature and science has transferred into a love of poetry which has lead into reading and handwriting! It is my job as her teacher and her mom to watch for readiness. To supply the tools she needs in that readiness and to be willing to go with her where ever her learning journey takes her and I!
It is amazing how much she is learning about language arts, spelling, and punctuation from only three sentences. She has begun to ask questions on her own regarding spelling and wondering why one word is this way and another is that way. We are able to talk about comma’s, semicolons, adjectives, and how a sentence changes if we forget an apostrophe. Some days she likes a little more meat to her language lessons. I bought a book called Language Lessons for Today. They are short five minute lessons on poetry, writing letters, and summarizing stories. Depending on the day she will write out her answers or if she has written quite a bit that day I ask for an oral presentation. There is life lessons in both!
Math! Oh, boy! If I even asked her to get our her math book there were instant tears, tantrums, and the lesson would take hours instead of the half hour it was suppose to. I have to admit this stems back to the dragging her along before she was academically ready. This year I have asked for only two pages of math a day, front and back. I have allowed her to go as slow or as fast as she wants to. We are using a curriculum called Math-U-See and she loves it! Maddie has connected to the manipulative blocks, the short five minute DVD lessons, and well laid out workbook pages. Requiring only math and the three sentence paragraph a day has revolutionized Maddie’s mind. She no longer feels overwhelmed by all the work in front of her. She feels peaceful about the time that is now allowed for her to learn what she wants to learn after her math and paragraph are finished.
Honestly, what my kids have taught me is busy work is just busy work. If they are not interested in what I am teaching then I may either need to wait a few weeks or months or I may need to simply move on all together. Last year we made an American History time line. We spent a majority of our time in the colonial and the revolutionary war. We almost made it to the invention/industrial revolution, but some how in each time frame we ended back at the revolutionary war because my kids loved that time period. I could either fight it and drag them along the time line or I could embrace the revolutionary war time period and allow them to soak in all the learning they wanted to.
I prayed really hard about what the school year would look like for the twins. They are five almost six and technically speaking they would already be behind in public school if they were not reading or close to reading at this point. However, I know from last year the more I push Naomi the further behind she is going to be. She cannot emotionally handle being pushed academically. She clams up and her brain refuses to learn anything at all.
I tried table work at the beginning of the year and while it went ok there were still tears. I backed off, gave them blank paper, and added hands on manipulatives to their kindergarten closet. Last week I pulled out their worksheets again to check for their readiness for them. Oh my goodness! Not only did they sit down and start working on their worksheets, I am now ready to make them a folder for each day of the week, and let them independently start their worksheets! I was amazed at their emotional readiness, Naomi’s motor skills had improved, and Titus’ letters had amazingly increased in neatness.
I need to remember that learning looks different for each of my kids. It makes sense, they are after all individually unique masterpieces! I can fight and drag my kids to learn or I can relax, take a breath, and be willing to teach differently even if it means it’s outside my comfort zone. It is not my kids job to change, it’s mine.
When learning no longer becomes fun, when we are all crying before we even begin, it is time for me to stop and evaluate what is going on in our lives, what we can take out or what we need to put in, and I can tailor our schedule for us not us for our schedule!
This year has been the hardest for me to grasp. Adding the twins to the school loop through me for a loop and I felt loopy! When I stopped and looked around me I realized I was dragging the kids, our family, and I was dragging myself mentally. What I really needed to do was stop. I needed to work on our relationship, I needed to work on my heart, and then I was able to regroup.
When I began to breathe and let go, my kids began to learn! When I breathe and let go, my kids crave learning! Maddie loves animal science, she always has, and probably always will. Naomi loves sewing, crafting, and what she calls arting. Titus loves building and inventing. Timothy loves cars and balls. In each passion our kids have there are huge elements of math, science, handwriting, and reading that will have to take place. Each one will look unique because they are unique.
Dear momma’s who are tempted to drag your kids because you want them to be where they need to be. What they need is for you to relax. They need you to be peaceful, they need you to speak confidence in them, they need you to tell them they will be just fine and that you believe in them! It’s easy to freak out and feel like we are loosing our minds. Mama’s God’s got us, he has our kids, and he is passionate about us. He created us with passions to pursue and he has created our kids uniquely and beautifully!
Homeschooling is going to look differently for every family. There may be similarities, but it will look different. Don’t focus on what other families are doing, they are not your kids or your family. Your family is awesome! Your kids are awesome and you are all going to be more than wonderful! Breathe, dear beloved homeschool family! God’s got you! He loves you! Christ living in you and living out through you can do this!