I’ve spent the past 23 years homeschooling, and unless I collapse from exhaustion, I have 11 more to go. There are days when I’m not sure I’ll make it to the end, and if I don’t, I’m going to give myself the same grace and kindness I would give you and say, “Well done – that was amazing.”
Over the years, I’ve been hard on myself. I’ve compared myself to other homeschoolers, private schools, and public schools. I’ve fretted over my children’s failures and successes and feared I might have ruined them. Don’t ask about the year that one of my children “forgot” to do math for months (and I was too overwhelmed to check) – I promise, that child is now an adult with two college degrees.
If I could give my younger self some advice, this is what I would say.
1. You will never get it all done – and that’s okay.
Sure, there will be days when you pat yourself on the back as you check off the last item on the lesson plan, but most days you’ll find yourself packing up the books long before it’s complete. Some days you’ll spend an hour just trying to find a pencil that is relatively sharp and hasn’t had its eraser chewed off. Take a breath; tomorrow will be better (and don’t take 18 years to buy yourself a good pencil sharpener and Ticonderoga pencils – they’re the best).
2. Over the years, there will be periods of time when you hardly teach, and your kids will still learn.
One day you just might want to write a book titled, “Homeschooling by PBS.” During that stretch when you have a baby every 22 – 25 months; you will miss many days of structured schooling. And when you have a rough pregnancy and you’ve taken time to recover, call the year complete, order new books, bump everyone up one year and start a brand new school year in March. Just think, your kids will get ahead rather than fall behind.
3. You may never feel that you are doing a great job homeschooling, but you’re doing better than you think.
Don’t be so hard on yourself because ultimately it will make you harder on your children and that will take the joy out of homeschooling. Remember that your goals are long term – very long. There just might be a year when your kids test low in punctuation because, honestly, you sort of forgot to teach it to them, but they will learn it next year. Your goals go far beyond test scores, grade levels, or even grades – don’t bother to give them, especially when your kids are young. Go over their work, let them correct their mistakes, and move on.
4. Your children will learn more than you can ever imagine simply by being with you and their siblings.
The time you spend folding laundry, cooking, and serving others with your children by your side will have a greater impact than any number of formal lessons. Some of your children’s favorite memories will be of you reading aloud to them – I can’t emphasize how precious it is to snuggle up with your children while a story unfolds. Read to them often, and then read to them some more.
5. You won’t teach your children all that they need to know.
It’s simply not possible. Set your sights on teaching your children to love learning. Encourage curious minds and teach them to find the information they need. Allow messes when creativity is happening – even if it means your kitchen counters are cluttered with science experiments. Bring other people into their lives who will share their talents with your kids: techy folks, dog experts, master gardeners, writers, artists, coaches, and musicians, to name a few. Prepare them for a lifelong educational journey.
6. Step back and let God work in your children’s lives.
His plan is far better than yours anyhow. He has created your children with unique interests and talents; your job is to cultivate them. Encourage your kids to serve one another and people outside your home. Determine what is most important to your family and steep them in it. Some day you might make this your family mission statement: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Young mama, just starting out, you are undertaking something incredible. Homeschooling will be hard and sometimes more than you can manage, but you will never regret the time spent with your children. Hold on, it’s going to be an amazing journey.
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