It’s been 24 years since I embarked on this homeschool journey. Since we had eight kids, I’m still homeschooling the last few, but there are three things I’ve learned that I think every homeschool mom should know, regardless of where she is on this pilgrimage:
Our two biggest enemies are comparison and distraction:
We can be humming along nicely in your homeschooling groove when out of the blue, comparison strikes like a night raid. Few things are as debilitating as seeing another mom ROCK at something that you stink at OR worse, had never even thought of doing. But I can tell you this: comparisons are futile. They never lead any place good and most of all they can suck the life out of something beautiful that God is doing.
When we do find that “sweet spot”, the Enemy wants nothing more than to rip it right out of our hands or simply prevent us from ever finding it in the first place.
Moms, God has made us for our kids and our kids for us. We know them better and love them more than anyone could. If God is going to talk to anyone about what’s best for them, it will be US. When He gives you a plan and it’s even MOSTLY working, REJOICE! Be content, be thankful! Grab your kids’ sweet little faces and smother them with kisses!
For many of our family’s early homeschooling years there was no internet, no cell phones, no social media. I can tell you that both comparisons and distractions were still a temptation, but nothing compared to what moms deal with now. We have to be ruthless when it comes to both. Put that phone on silent. Commit yourself to engaging with those kids. Watch the wonder in their eyes as they ride on the merry go round, chase frogs and watch the stars at night. Make hot chocolate and sit in their blanket forts with them. Read a book and ask lots of questions.
Bake cookies together. Take a nap together. Work alongside of each other. BE in that moment.
Mr. Rogers said,
The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.Our kids need to know that they matter, not in a self centered kind of way, but in a “I really can make a difference” kind of way.
Education often doesn’t look like what most people think it does:
Every time I tell someone that I homeschool, I can almost see what they are envisioning and I want to yell, “It’s not that!”. But there’s a good chance I might regret having to explain myself.
These are the things that can really trip us up when it comes to education, that in the big scheme of things end up being no big deal:
-It doesn’t matter if you finish the curriculum by the end of the year
-It doesn’t matter if they are reading by age 5…or 6…or 7…or 8. (Hint: each child has a different time table for learning, but typically they all get where they need to be eventually and stressing about it does NOT speed up the process)
-Overloading our kids with information doesn’t make them smarter, it overwhelms them and eventually teaches them to hate learning
-Character REALLY is more important than curriculum. I heard this many times along the way and it was a little hard to wrap my head around, but now that most of our kids are adults, I wholeheartedly agree. It’s their character that has made the difference far more often than their knowledge or skill, but their character also helped them acquire the knowledge and skills they needed.
-If you think kids are only learning when the books are open, you couldn’t possibly be more wrong. We put education in a box when the reality is that learning is fluid. Kids are curious by nature and have an instinct to learn. Our job is just not to burn them out by insisting that they always conform to our “adult” version of education. Learning can be hard work, but mostly it should be fun and enjoyable and be whetting their appetites for more.
-The simple basics (3 R’s) ultimately serve a higher purpose: to help our kids learn what they want and need to learn to do what they were made to do, but not everyone needs to learn to diagram a sentence. Our kids’ educational experience can be vast and varied and they will still be just fine.
-The need for our kids to not be overcommitted or over scheduled cannot be overstated. Kids NEED to be kids. It IS what prepares them for real life and higher learning.
-Kids are often smarter than we are. We get caught up in checking off the infamous “list”, while our kids are drawn to the things that they really want to learn about. When that happens, real learning is alive and well and we simply need to get out of the way.
-Although our kids attending college can be an earmark of success, it does NOT define the success of our homeschool career. What defines success is actually pretty broad and diverse. I can also tell you that hard working problem solvers with people skills are a dying breed and in HUGE demand in the job market.
-Your inadequacies as a mom are not THAT big of a deal. You heard me right. We moms tend to focus on what we CAN’T do, instead of all that we DO have to offer our kids. I stink at math, but I am pretty good at encouraging my kids and (like you) would certainly try to move heaven and earth to make sure that they have whatever they need to keep moving forward in their education (or any other area for that matter). God made women strong and resourceful. Most importantly, as believing moms, we have the God of the Universe, the One who created our children AND us and brought us together, who promises to give us wisdom (James 1) He said He would NEVER leave us or forsake us and our inadequacies are NO obstacle to Him!
You have to be tough:
People are mean. They say things to homeschoolers they would never say to the parents or kids in traditional school. Sometimes it feels like we are walking around with a target on our backs for rude, cutting, heartless comments and questions. The worst part is that it often happens in front of our kids. So we have to make a choice. We can show our kids that we are not sure about our decision to homeschool or that what other people think determines our steps (instead of the Lord) OR we respond with as much grace and humor as we can while holding a firm and positive position on our decision. The longer we homeschool, the easier this becomes because we begin to see the undeniable good fruit in our kids that makes other people’s opinions matter less and less.
Homeschooling is not for the faint hearted. Becoming more confident is a process. It begins by learning to embrace the fact that each of our journeys are unique and remembering that homeschooling isn’t about doing everything “right”. It’s about enjoying your kids while raising life long learners through the freedom that homeschooling offers.
If you’d like to hear the podcast based on this post: http://durendawilson.com/the-3-most-important-things-ive-learned-in-24-years-of-homeschoolingpodcast-57/
Also, please check out my books: The Unhurried Homeschooler and Unhurried Grace for a Mom’s Heart on Amazon!