So, if you have 4 or more children, you’ll totally understand what I’m about to say. And if you don’t, then you’ll just have to trust me on this one: The things that are super, incredibly, life-definingly, important with your first child, or even with your first two…well, most of those things just aren’t by the time you reach baby #5.
And why is that? It’s definitely not because you love your children any less (I’d say the bond between parents and children just grows stronger with time). It’s definitely not because your values have lessened (again, I would argue that they likely increase with time as a parent). So what is it?
Well, the answer is simple. You’ve lived and learned. As a new parent, you start out with the absolute best of intentions, and probably even a game plan in mind. You’ve analyzed and thought through the best you could, read the books, and in your mind, you had something to prove to the world—that you were going to do this parenting thing RIGHT!
And through the years, the ambition to do the ‘parenting thing’ right is just as strong. You probably analyze yourself and your ways just as much, if not more. But what has changed is that
1. You and your husband don’t feel the need to prove your success to anyone but yourselves. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way. You’re just more sure of yourselves and the decisions you’re making.
2. Your parenting method is now determined based on experience and understanding, rather than literature of some sort (except for the Bible).
Well, the same goes for homeschooling. When you start educating your first child, if you’re anything like me, you probably start a year too soon, with too many intended ‘subjects,’ all the while having in mind that you’re goal is to have your child out-performing public schooled kids his own age. This latter ambition is more likely to be had if you’re the only person in your family/friend circles who has opted to homeschool, and you’re being looked at as a loon by everyone (or at least that’s how it feels).
But let me tell you from experience: this, too, shall pass. I could go on and on about all the pro’s and reasons for homeschooling, spiritually, socially, educationally, etc…but I will save that for another day. What I want to focus on here are some of the changes that I’ve gone through over the years as a homeschooling parent, so that maybe it can inspire a few things in you:
1. Maybe you’ll like some of the ways that I’m doing some things, and want to incorporate them for your own families.
2. Maybe you’ll be encouraged to see that ‘needing to change’ isn’t a sign of failing thus far. It’s a sign that, like everything else involved with parenting, you’re living and learning. Adjusting. Adapting. Growing. I want you to be encouraged!
3. Most importantly, with this and every article I write in regards to this topic, I hope that you are encouraged to look at homeschooling as the gem that it is. I hope to help you feel confident in not trying to recreate ‘public school’ in your living room. To not set your standard of success based on transcripts. To look at the whole picture when you set the goals and determine the value of what you’re doing. When you weigh out the benefits of homeschooling, think about faith, and familial bonds, and instilled respect, and character, and innocence…and then, also think about education. Because, if you ask me, that’s about where it should fall on the list if those are your priorities as a parent.
So, with that being said, here are just a few things you might consider in your homeschooling journey. And I’ve lived and learned enough to know that if there’s anything I can say with near certainty, it would be that I’m sure I will be making more changes in the years to come! The list will only grow!
1. When we first started homeschooling, I found myself basically copying what I saw in public school. White board, school desks, binders, and 5-6 subjects. I’m not saying that all of that is bad. We still use a white board and desks and binders. But what’s changed is that I’m not concerned with all the subjects. Not at the age that my children are at. Our priorities for the individual child, when it comes to education, are READING, WRITING, and MATH. No longer am I trying to fit subjects like Spanish into the daily routine of each individual child. Those types of ‘interest’ based subjects are things they can delve into as they get older, and more capable of learning with guidance rather than assistance.
2. As my younger children have started reaching schooling ages, I’ve learned to make the ‘extra’ subjects a group thing. We love our Apologia science books, and our world history books from Abeka. And they are so fascinating to all of the kids, regardless of age. I mean, when you’re talking about whales and jellyfish, or mummies in Egypt and gunpowder in China, it’s not hard to capture the attention of children! So, rather than trying to have 2nd grade science, 4th grade science, and 6th grade science individually, it’s MUCH easier and effective to have one science lesson that involves everyone. Of course, when it comes to things like journal-keeping and material review questions, those things are reserved for the older kids. But the lesson itself is a group thing. And it never ceases to amaze me how much kids retain. Your youngsters will impress you! Seriously!
3. Recognize what your kids need, day by day. What I mean here isn’t so much about your teaching material as it is about your schedule. Let’s say you’re goal is for school to be done every Monday through Thursday. But it’s Wednesday, and your 8 year old son, who, for one reason or another, hasn’t gotten much time to run and play outside lately, and he’s about to bust at the seams. It’s a struggle to get him to focus, he can’t sit still, and as a result, it’s taking him twice as long to get anything done. Do you fight him and require that he finish every worksheet, regardless of if it takes him til dinner? Sometimes. There are times where he will need to learn that he can’t ‘get out of school’ by making it take forever. But sometimes, he’s sincerely not trying to get out of anything; he just has too much built up energy. These are the times that I would encourage you to take advantage of being a homeschooling family! Close the books, tell him to put his shoes on because ya’ll aren’t doing school today. “Get outside and don’t come in until I call ya.” You’ll be happier, and so will he. There are perks to homeschooling. Don’t be afraid to use them!
4. Knock out two birds with one stone, whenever you can. Here’s an example situation to show you what I mean: It has always been very important to me to incorporate the Bible into our school days. When I first started, I had the Bible as it’s own subject (one of the 5 that I mentioned earlier). Well, the school days were just too full, and I couldn’t sustain that. So instead, I have found a way to incorporate the Bible along with their core subjects. For now, for example, my 3rd and 6th graders, have a daily writing exercise in which they write the Ten Commandments (in print for the younger ones, and in cursive for the older one). Our Apologia Science is based on the Genesis 1 account of creation, and references Scripture all throughout. Our world history curriculum is similar, referencing scripture throughout the text.
I hope that these tidbits are a help and an encouragement. Feel free to let me know some things that you’ve adjusted in your years of homeschooling!