Last week I shared the beginnings of a list of things I wish I had known before I started homeschooling. If you haven't read part one, you can check it out HERE.
This week, I want to finish that list with a few more things I wish I'd known. I hope these things help you gain confidence as you begin your journey or reclaim the joy you've lost.
YOU HAVE MORE TIME THAN YOU THINK
We've all felt it. Time slipping through our fingers as our babies grow into toddlers and then into tiny humans, capable of feeding themselves, dressing themselves, developing their own unique personalities. We hear it over and over as new mothers, "Soak it up, it goes by so fast!" It's no wonder when we start homeschooling we feel like we have so much to do and so little time to do it. I wish someone had told me to take a deep breath and relax, slow down. Many homeschoolers, myself included, start out with great intentions but try to do things too soon. I'll use writing as an example. A young child is given a writing assignment at the age of seven, and with limited vocabulary, limited understanding of the English language, and limited knowledge of what great writing looks like, they are expected to write and accept criticism (feedback). When this assignment ends in tears after a painstakingly long time attempting to put something onto the page, panic sets in, and we head out in search of the perfect language arts curriculum that will turn our young children into prolific authors. We overload our schedule, stress ourselves out, and kill any spark of confidence or interest our child may have had in writing in the first place. If we had only waited until our children had a chance to hear more literature read to them, grown their vocabulary, and gained a bit of the emotional maturity necessary for handling the constructive criticism, we would have seen that it wasn't their skills that were lacking. It was the timing. Even now, as my kids sit ready to take on 6th and 8th grade, I no longer feel the sense of urgency to cram every bit of knowledge into their heads. I've watched them blossom in subject areas over the course of just a few months when I thought those skills may take years to learn, and I've learned that slow and steady, taking into account their emotional maturity, leads to a solid foundation and joyful learning. Often times it wasn't that we needed to do more of something, we just needed to do it later. If your child is struggling with something, ask yourself, “Are they emotionally and/ or mentally capable of doing this right now? Should I try a new approach or simply put this aside for later?” Stopping to assess the situation can save you so much angst in the long run. Our homeschool experience will be more peaceful if we let go of the idea that we are rushing against time, that we need to do as much as we can as soon as we can. Let YOUR child's physical, mental, and emotional maturity be your guide- not a chart, a curriculum, or a set of standards that are never one size fits all.
YOU ARE NOT THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM
When you send your children to school, the main objective for the educators within those walls is to teach information predetermined to best suit an entire class of students- children from vastly different walks of life, with different strengths and weaknesses, different interests, and different needs. The public education system is not designed to cater the educational experience to the individual. It is not designed to spark passion or curiosity specific to each child. It is designed to produce contributing members of society who will keep our economy running for future generations. Even the most well-intentioned, kind-hearted individuals pouring their hearts and souls into their classrooms must work within those parameters to help achieve those goals. While the goal of public education is worthwhile and necessary, your goals as a homeschool parent are different, which means you should have a different approach. You probably also hope you’re children become well-educated, productive members of society, but your goals are relational as well as educational. I cannot stress enough, one should not be pursued at the expense of the other, and therein lies the dilemma. It's a hard balance to strike, and an even harder one when we try to model our homeschool days after the public school system. If we want to grow our relationship with our children while also growing their minds, we're going to have to use a different approach, and your approach will look different than my approach, or anyone else's approach, because every homeschool environment is unique to each home. Whatever your approach, your choices should be centered around your child, not a certain curriculum or set of standards.
Keeping in mind that your goals and we objectives are different and more far-reaching than that of the public education system will help you to avoid the trap of simply recreating school at home and free you pursue learning in a way that is most meaningful for your child.
SET LONG-TERM GOALS
Setting long-term goals can be helpful in staying focused on your desires for your children, especially when the emotions of a tough day start to get the best of us. It’s hard when so much is thrown at us day in and day out. We begin to chase things that come up and seem important, and the consumerism that is not absent from the homeschool world begins to cloud our judgment and we lose sight of our priorities. We start seeing curriculum that is advertised as a "must do" or unit studies that are beautifully curated, and we start to pile on extra work that wasn't important to us before, but now, because of the fear of missing out, we overburden ourselves and our kids. Our priorities begin to shift, and before we know it our homeschool looks nothing like we had hoped and planned.
Knowing what your long-term goals are, and being ever mindful of them, will help you silence the voices of doubt and weed out the unnecessary to make room for the beautiful. And the beautiful is whatever is important to you and your children.
When you begin thinking long term, you’ll likely find those things that are most important to you are usually not academic. For our family, my husband and I desire to raise up people who are thoughtful, compassionate, savvy, and wise. We want them to be well-rounded and well-educated in a way that allows them to build fulfilling lives that benefit not just themselves but others around them. These goals drive every choice I make in how we fill our days. Spend time setting your own goals and objectives. Like parenting, homeschooling takes intentionality, and if we fail to set our desires, we will be blown about here and there by all the distractions and persuasions of those seeking to take advantage monetarily and even the well-meaning family and friends. The goals and objectives you set for yourself now will anchor you during moments of stress and emotional upheaval that are sure to come.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING
When I began homeschooling, there were many things I felt very confident about teaching my kids. I have a college degree in Communications. My husband has a law degree, and we were both straight A students. We both love politics and history. I loved (and still love) language arts, reading and writing. My husband is great at math. I figured between the two of us, we would be able to handle this teaching thing, but it didn’t take long to realize my kids have way more questions than I have answers. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t discover things together. I quickly learned kids don’t need us to have all the answers, they just need us to teach them how to dig for truth. Knowing how and where to seek out information from reliable sources will give your kids the freedom and ability to learn and grow for the rest of their lives. When we are honest with our kids and embrace the fact that we are learning right along side them, we teach them that learning never ends. They see that it's never about knowing all the answers, but rather it's about knowing where to find them. It's about having a desire to always be growing.
Homeschooling doesn't have to be overwhelming, complicated, or expensive. Homeschooling can be a delightful journey for you and your child(ren) to explore, learn and grow together. You aren't trying to teach your child everything they'll need to know. You're simply trying to fuel that spark of curiosity that already exists, introducing them to the world of possibilities out there waiting for them.