We’ve been at this homeschooling thing for quite awhile now. If you count the pre-school years, when I started teaching my daughter to read, it’s been about 18 years of non-stop homeschool. But I really count starting homeschool as when we signed up for our church’s Christian-school-sponsored home study program. It was basically a homeschool co-op that was under the umbrella of the Christian school. My oldest was entering kindergarten at the time.
I remember our very first co-op day. The kids went to classes taught by the Christian school teachers, and we homeschool moms met for coffee and encouragement. The group discussion that morning was about doing homeschool with older kids while having toddlers and babies around. I have no doubt that the discussion leader chose that topic to help out the new moms in the group such as myself.
But guess who was one of the first to speak up with advice for everyone? Yup, that would be me. Granted, as a mom of four at that time, with the oldest being 5 years old, I had some experience in controlling a circus of kids. But as a new homeschooler, I had no business thinking I knew the score. I had SO MUCH to learn — but I didn’t realize it.
In case you’re wondering, I told them about a book I had found a few years before, called Managers of Their Homes, by Teri Maxwell — it’s all about scheduling your home and family. It had helped me a lot, and I still recommend it to anyone who would like to feel more in control of their daily home life and homeschool with many children around. BUT having a ready answer meant that I didn’t listen very much to what others had to say. I thought my way was best and others just needed help. My help, apparently. And that first day basically set the tone for much of my homeschool mom career.
Looking back now, I realize I could have learned a lot from those other women. There were many styles of homeschooling represented there — but I was stuck on mine.
I wish now that I had listened to the ladies who WEREN’T so rigid and controlling about their homeschool schedule. The early elementary years could have been so much more fun for us, if I had been willing to ditch the books and take my kids out for field trips and walks in the park, or if we had read more together or played more games. I was so afraid of not covering everything I should, of my kids not learning what they were “supposed” to learn. I didn’t trust myself to evaluate them; it was necessary to plod through the books so they could take the tests which would show me what they knew.
So let me go on record now and say to all the young moms starting homeschool who might be reading this:
RELAX. Take time to breathe. Take time to have FUN with your kids. If you want to schedule your days, that is totally fine — but build in field trips and walks in the park and reading and games.
Don’t be so tied to the workbooks that your kids find learning a chore. Guess what? It is VERY OK to not finish the book each year. It is VERY OK to not give tests. It is VERY OK to take days and weeks off in those early years. All of what they are doing now will be covered again — AD INFINITUM.
Find ways to make learning fun, like memorizing multiplication facts with singing or watching historical movies or going to the children’s science museum every other week (oooo, that would be a great family Christmas present!). Drag the toddlers and infants with you and don’t stress about naps so much. Yes, everyone might be more cranky — but life is not all about controlled situations with everyone at their best. Life and learning are often more about EXPERIENCES — which don’t happen when all you do is sit at the table filling in the blanks.
Oh, I wish I had been more open to listening to what others were doing then. REALLY listening, and changing our ways to incorporate more of a relaxed learning approach for those elementary years. Middle school and high school are soon enough to begin a more rigid approach, and whatever the child missed in the elementary years can be made up quickly then. LISTEN TO ME when I tell you this.
Just to be on the safe side, let me hasten to clarify that I am not advocating not doing school at all. I think grammar and math are important, and I am not against workbooks for those subjects — or for any subject. I am just cautioning against being so tied to the kitchen table and the pencil and paper that family life becomes an endless round of rigid school days where a certain amount MUST get plowed through and no one is smiling or laughing much. Homeschooling is the perfect opportunity to broaden your kids’ horizons and live at your own family’s tempo — don’t waste that.
My kids don’t have fun memories of homeschool when they were young. (Read Our Homeschool Journey for more about that.) I regret that. If you are a young homeschool mom, don’t be as arrogant as I was. Be open to other ways of doing things. Slow down and gaze at the flowers — the beautiful faces of the children God has given you. Enjoy them, and enjoy making homeschool enjoyable. For all of you.
I’m linking up today over at the iHomeschool Network, where many homeschool moms are sharing about What I Wish I Would Have Been Told Before My First Year of Homeschooling. Click the image at the left to go see what they have to say! 🙂