The very first thing I would have told myself is relax! Seriously, I would have. I would have also told myself to take the first year off and truly enjoy my kid’s. I would have told myself to not be so hard on Maddie while she’s learning her letter sounds, I would not have pushed her so hard. There is so much pressure as a home school family, pressure to have my kids be a Nobel prize scholar at three. There is pressure to make sure my kids are well beyond what grade they are actually in. The pressure is great and I have to admit I too succumbed to that at first.
The number one thing I have learned about home schooling and I am guessing it is the same in public school. The fact that I cannot force my kids to have a light bulb moment and they will not have one until their minds and bodies are ready for it. Until they can picture it, understand it, and grasp it, it will simple sit there. I do have the responsibility to continue to provide the letter sounds, the phonetic awareness, blending of sounds, and the how and why words are made up. If I stay diligent with presenting what they need to be good readers, they will get there! I have seen Maddie time and time again grasp a concept we have been working on and then runs farther ahead with it than I would have ever thought possible! I remember this last year trying to get Maddie to read chapter books, yet she wasn’t ready, she was content reading simple story books. When we went to the home school conference this last spring I learned about Logic of English, a fantastic reading/spelling/handwriting curriculum. I presented her with some of the information I thought maybe we either hadn’t covered or some how she didn’t connect with when I did present it. So I reintroduced her to it, low and behold she took off as a reader and as a 2nd grader she is now reading at a 3rd or 4th grade level. She is loving it and she cannot get enough of chapter books right now, all the places she is going in these books thrills me to pieces!
I would tell myself do more read alouds and more field trips, run outside and look at nature, I would tell myself kids catch so much more when simply living life and experiencing it for themselves. I would tell myself to not sweat it and to breathe and be diligent to keep patiently waiting for the light bulb moments. I would have encouraged myself to listen more to what Maddie had wanted to learn and was interested in than what schools and systems told me she should be at. I would have let her get up to her elbows in pudding paint and drawing. I would have told myself to relax more, because he who is more than able will give me the exact tools I need to complete this job as a mom and a teacher.
I would have also told myself how much I would truly love it! I would tell myself that spending so much time with my kids would become one of the greatest joys in my life. I would tell myself it’s ok to love teaching, it’s ok to take time off to breathe and have fun with my kiddo’s. Fun after all is the number one reason I wanted to home school!
So here is what I would tell a newbie home school family:
1. Take the first year to bond as a family, to have fun, to take as many field trips as you want. Even if it’s just to the park or the woods to discover. Getting to know your kids, building that relationship with them will be the key component to any disciple issues you may be having. Your kids want first your time, they want a relationship with you, when you take time to build that, the training and teaching will come along with it. Take the first year to learn how to work together to do chores, to learn honor not just obedience.
2. Assess what your kids know so you have a realistic idea of where to start, learn how your child learns. Are they a kinesthetic learner, do they need to be moving to learn. Are they auditory learners, do they do best with books and tests read to them. Are they introvert or extrovert, all these variables will matter in having the most success with your kids absorbing what they are learning.
3. Plan time off for fun. An example is we try to home school Mon-thurs. leaving Friday for what we have come to know as Friday fun day. My kids know if they get all the work done needed during the week, including chores, we’ll get a day off to plan a picnic, field trip, day out with Grandma, or whatever we have money and time to do.
4. If at any time you find discipline is getting out of hand, you have become buried under school work and you have not connected with friends in a while, these are times to pause schooling. Getting behavior or attitude issues under control is so very important, because it is one of the premises on which absorbing what they are learning is built upon. Sometimes I need to continue school while dealing with the attitude, because they need to learn that they cannot throw an attitude just to get out of home work. If that’s the case then privileges are taken away and we really buckle down. Learning to work with a good attitude is a life lesson, it is an adult lesson, it is not one to simply get them to do what I want them to do. It is a life skill that may determine whether they are able to keep a job so they have food and a place to live.
We have also found at times we have become so buried in our schooling that we forget to come up for air to spend time with friends and other families. This is so important and not just for socializing, but for sanity. For our kids to have friends and for me to have adult conversation. To get support from friends and to get encouragement; it also gives me time to see just what my kids have absorbed and where they are in what they are learning.
I always knew I wanted to home school, but I did not know how much I would love it. I did not know that God had wired me to home school. I am the kind of person where I can be good at almost anything I do, but I never felt I would be great at anything. I can honestly say while I don’t understand Albert Einstein’s physics or the super technical math stuff, that I am great at teaching the kids God has given me. I am great at being the wife and mom that God has created me to be.
What I would have told me about homeschooling knowing what I know now is exactly what I need to know now and continue to remember and the days I’m discouraged, I need to come back to this and remember to take time and breathe! You may have noticed a pattern in this post and that is the many references to breathing and relaxing, because it is something I need to remember everyday. Too often I get anxious about where we are or were we’re not, I worry about my kid’s staying on top of their learning, and meeting the status quo, whatever that is. But, what I really need to do is you guessed it, breathe and relax. I need to remember that God has each of my kid’s in mind and that He will equip them with everything they need to know to be adults and if he has not given them the tools now, he will continue to equip them with each situation and circumstance they face. God loves my kids so much more than I, he has their good in mind, even more than I do, and I need to trust them into his care and guidance. I will do my part as their loving, caring parent and I need to trust God to do his part, because he is more than able. So…Robin, breath, relax, and trust God with the rest.