* Always compare yourself to everyone else. One of the best ways to do this is to read a variety of homeschool blogs and always assume that their days are always as perfect as they depict in today’s blog post.
*Be afraid to ask for help and never utilize outside resources for the areas you are not strong in. Don’t be willing to use your expertise to encourage others either.
*Make lists of the books you expect your children to read or number of pages they should read weekly, not lists of the skills that you want to accomplish for the year.
*Use the scope and sequence and ‘what your child needs to know when’ books as THE standard to gauge whether you are a good parent.
* Surround yourself with others who discourage you in your homeschooling efforts.
*Teach your children to be dependent on you for everything. Boldly discourage self-sufficiency, and disregard their maturity level.
*Fill in your daily school to-do list as detailed as possible. Fill in all those time slots with academics that have a definite start time and stop time. Do this for every hour on the hour. This is especially effective if you are not a schedule person.
*Discourage real life opportunities to practice and reinforce academic skills. Schedule the day so tightly with academics not related to real life that you leave no room for spontaneous learning.
*Never use Unit Studies which combine several school subjects into one awesome learning project. Keep all the subjects as separated and non-relating to one another as you possibly can.
*Complicate your schedule so that you can’t possibly be consistent with it. Start huge and over detailed and work from there. Add more to your schedule if you are achieving consistency and things are going smoothly. The goal is to remain in a constant state of discouragement.
This is only slightly funny because it’s so true isn’t it? Do you see yourself in at least one or two of these? In the 25+ years of educating my 7 at home, I have been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. That’s why I could write this list with such ease. I know. I’ve been there and back. These are guaranteed peace suckers. And I have a story to tell for each one. I’ll save that for another time.
I still remember the first time I was asked THE QUESTION by someone whose good opinion of me was important to me. I had just started homeschooling my first born and she was 5. Her baby sister was 2. And it doesn’t really matter who asks THE question, the first time you hear it, it can be intimidating, can’t it? “So just what makes YOU qualified to teach your own children?” Honestly, I’d like to tell you that I rocked the answer but I didn’t. I stumbled on my words and got all red in the face, averted my eyes said something that I don’t remember and ended up mumbling something about ‘God called me to this task so there!’ Not that I’m saying otherwise now, but at the time I did wish I’d been better prepared, if at least for my own confidence boost, and answered something like this:
1. I know my child. I’ve already done the work of getting to know my child, just in the natural course of parenting day to day. I logged the hours of quality and quantity time with my daughter and I already know her interests, likes and dislikes, abilities and challenges. I know that she learns best when she is free to explore without me telling her it has to be done a certain way or at a certain time. In fact, I already know the number one way to get her to shut down is to tell her she has to do it my way or she has to do it now. I know that her best time for learning new things is mid-morning, and afternoons (even after a nap) are not when she wants to process new information. I know that she takes her first born role seriously and delights to show her baby sister what she just learned. I know that I can capitalize on this tendency and use it as a way to review and reinforce concepts. It is well know that when you explain a subject to someone else, you learn it better yourself. I know that she is a serious one so too much preschool silliness doesn’t rock her world but speaking to her as her own little authority does. How many professional kindergarten teachers will even begin to know any of this about her in a class of 20? Not even by the end of the school year, when she would then get passed to the next teacher for the next grade.
2. I love my child. That might be a given, but the point is that my investment in her education goes far beyond a paycheck, far beyond a vague sense of wanting to impact the next generation. My admiration goes to teachers in the learning institutions who work with children not their own, day in and day out. It can be draining and there are days when one must really work at finding the motivation to continue on. For the higher good of society is a good motivation for sure. Well, my motivation snuggles with me at night and calls me MOM and she loves me too. I have all the motivation professional teachers have and then some.
3. We have a connection. She isn’t going to fall between the cracks of the ‘system’ because I so badly want to do what’s right for her. I’ll spend the extra time and effort it takes to tweak the curriculum or lesson until she gets it. If I don’t know the answer to her question, or I don’t know about a subject she is studying, I already have gained her trust so I can be honest and say, “I don’t know, let’s find out together”. Together we can explore the topics that interest her and I don’t have to pretend to be the ‘expert’ knowing everything already in order to maintain order in a classroom. Because we have a connection, she can feel safe with me as she tackles new concepts.
4. I have all the time in the world. I can teach for mastery of a concept instead of being stuck with the pace of a group of school children in a class. I can go slower when she needs more time with a subject and speed up when she masters a subject faster than the lesson plan book suggests it will take. I can literally be with her 24/7 if I want I have time to teach her not only the academic subjects, but I can employ the discipleship approach and teach her about life as well by the example I walk out in front of her. I can even let her see me struggle with teaching, failing and trying again with success, and she can know its ok to make mistakes too.
5. I can chuck what isn’t working and try something different. I don’t have a school board to answer to and I can stop using a curriculum that doesn’t meet her needs. I can teach the basic subjects by choosing topics that delight her. If I know that she learns best when she is active, for example, I can let her literally jump up and down while practicing math facts. My second born daughter really did this. She bounced and ran and skipped as she learned many things right up until she outgrew the need in middle school. What university trained teacher is able to do this in a classroom? It would be anarchy!
This is what I would have said to answer the question if I am qualified to homeschool my own children. It all comes down to this: Successful education isn’t really even a measure of how much the educator knows but rather how well the student learns. And I’m in it for the long haul, I’ll do what it takes to ensure my child is learning. If this sounds like you, then you are qualified too.
Homeschooling mom of 7 children, grandmother to a toddler.
- Safety in Numbers. What is the value of knowing you are not alone? Priceless. Let’s face it, many people in our lives have still not caught up with the idea that home education is a GOOD thing for children and for society as a whole. We who homeschool our children are still looked upon by some with suspicion. Being part of a larger group who also thinks it’s great to home educate can be empowering. Sure, we might be weird, but we are not the ONLY weird ones. Being around others who share our values in education can give us that boost to keep on, on those days we feel like giving up.
- Share ideas and tips, learn from one another. While parents don’t have to be super creative to home educate, it sure helps to have a steady source of ideas for those days when the usual methods are just not working. Support groups are filled with parents who have strengths in areas you might not have, who can offer ideas to get unstuck. Support groups that contain families with a variety of backgrounds can offer perspectives on issues that you might not have thought of. And knowing that you might just have the missing piece to help another family’s struggles is rewarding.
- That dreaded S word. Just as it is important for our well- being to know that we are not alone in this homeschool lifestyle, so too it’s important for our children. No one at any age wants to feel left out, or undue attention placed on them for being different. Support groups offer our children opportunities to connect with other children just like them. While we all tire of the stereotypical questions of homeschooled children and socialization, there is truth that our children will thrive when they interact with peers who also learn at home.
- An understanding and sympathetic ear. Sometimes we just need to vent, to cry, scream or wail when things are not going according to ‘plan’. Who else but fellow homeschoolers can understand that just because we say we are calling the public school tomorrow and marching our children down there to enroll them, that we don’t REALLY mean it? We said it last week too. We’ll probably repeat it next month as well. Not just anyone is equipped to suspend judgments and allow us to release our frustrations in a safe space. Only those who said it themselves yesterday.
- Fun. We all can get so caught up in the day to day struggle, when it doesn’t even need to be a struggle that we lose sight of the fact that this homeschool life is meant to be FUN. Sometimes we just need to go have some silliness with ‘our people; the ones who get us, who know our secret struggles and love us anyway. Support groups can create activities for the whole family that help us remember to laugh together and build bonds that make us all stronger.
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
I still remember the very first time I read The Velveteen Rabbit, a childhood favorite, to my first born daughter. I couldn’t get through it without crying at the powerful story line. What I didn’t know then, but do now is that it has a deep message for us moms.
Have you heard the funny one-liner: ‘I was a great mom before I had kids.’ And it’s true isn’t it? How about this one? ‘I was a creative and pulled together homeschool mom before I started homeschooling.’ Oh, the plans we have before we start. But soon after, we begin second guessing ourselves, don’t we. We begin to compare ourselves to the other homeschool moms (the ones who don’t even measure up to our ideals themselves) and see only our lack.
We think we need to do this or that to be a real mom, especially a real homeschool mom. But on those days…or weeks…or months…or seasons when we can’t seem to ever get to this or that, we call ourselves fakers. Unreal, imaginary, nonexistent, illusory, immaterial, intangible fake, false, imitation, counterfeit. Anything but real.
But what is REAL? Take a lesson from one who knows: “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
You see moms, we don’t start out as real moms anyway. And no matter how many awesome lesson plans we create, no matter how many days in a row we stick to the curriculum guide, no matter how often we attend co-op, or library days, those things don’t make us real. Neither do perfect days of never being angry with the kids and always having a healthy meal for them, make us real.
Skin Horse tells us what it’s like to become real. “Most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.”
It happened slowly, so slowly you didn’t even realize it. It happened as your kids snuggled up with you and ran their fingers through your hair, getting it caught and ripping parts out. OUCH! It hurts sometimes. That’s ok, “when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” It happened as you cried your eyes out over your love for them, only wanting the very best for them and thanking God He gave them to you. It happened as you cried with them each time they experienced the struggles common to everyone but oh so hard for them to feel. It happened as your tired arms carried them and put them to bed after they fell asleep in your arms. Over and over again. Yeah, it happened as you neglected yourself a bit too often, caring for them instead of your own needs. But, when we’re real, “ these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
No, we don’t start out as real moms, but somewhere along the way we BECAME. And the best part is: “once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
A real mom to 7, homeschooling for 21+ years
Happy New Year! There’s just something about having children that sure makes the days and years fly by, huh? I remember as a young mom, back when I had only three children and was just starting out on this homeschool journey, I had many older moms tell me to really soak in the times I have with my little ones because BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THEY WILL BE GROWN AND GONE. Honestly, at the time, all I could think of was, WOW CRAZY LADY, I SURE COULD USE A LITTLE GROWN AND GONE RIGHT ABOUT NOW. Raising children was hard enough, but to teach them at home too? Some days it felt impossible. Would they ever learn not to poop on the floor (when they have a perfectly good brightly colored plastic potty chair) at the exact time my mommy and me class showed up at my house? Would I ever not have a peanut butter handprint collage on my be-hind (to be discovered only after getting home from co-op class with the ALWAYS FLAWLESSLY PUT-TOGETHER super moms)?
But then I blinked, and those original three are in college, one has a baby of her own who now poops on her floor. Another of my babies is about to start college classes as a dual enrolled high school junior, and three more are high school age. Yes, the crazy older moms were right. Time sure flies when you’re having fun with kids.
We made it through potty training, and they eventually learned to wipe their sticky peanut butter hands on their own clothes. They learned their math facts and how to read and write. They learned to be compassionate to one another and fight for what is real and true. They learned that mom isn’t perfect but loves them and always wants the best for them. Yup, I survived those early years and they did too. And we flourished. And my ‘job’ with them is winding down and they are flexing their wings and are flying their own path. And now, I am THAT
crazy lady MOM singing the same song: BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, THEY WILL BE GROWN AND GONE. Soak in these times, mamas.
Mom to 7, homeschooling for 21+ years.
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