The most significant thing I have learned since I started homeschooling is to cut myself some slack.
As moms we often have this idea of what is ideal –or sometimes others have an idea of what is ideal– that we try to conform to. These expectations, whether from ourselves or others, often serve to discourage rather than encourage.
I have had to try to stop expecting my home or my homeschool to look like that of other people. It isn’t always working very well, but it is a work in progress.
Here are some things which have helped me:
• Never let anyone define what school should look like for you. Truthfully, who decided that school was a classroom with desks and a chalkboard? Why did they decide that and why should they get to tell you that this is how yours should look? Sometimes, my homeschooling is a lot of educational movies and tv shows. They’re still learning. The fact that they are learning is more important than the method of learning. There’s no wrong way to homeschool.
• Educate based on the child’s age and needs. How old is the child? Until they are 8 or 9 most of what a child needs to learn can be taught in daily living: tying shoes, counting forks, picking up toys, etc. Life teaches them some many things, and they don’t even know they are in school. Learning as a way of life is more natural than book learning. This is easier on teacher and student. Let education happen naturally, and it won’t feel like a chore –or a war zone.
• Don’t listen to the critics. Do strangers who interact with your children think they are lacking in general education? This would be a less biased opinion than those who know you and criticize your choices. My children expressed themselves so well at age 9 or 10 that no one would guess their handwriting is as bad as many 5-year-olds. Eventually, their handwriting caught up. Do what you think is right even if the critics don’t like it. You answer to God for how your child was raised, not your neighbor or your mother-in-law or another parent.
• Put the child’s needs first. Perhaps my children would gain more knowledge in a public school, but my children are not information machines. They are fragile little souls. There is no way my children could handle the stress of being put into a traditional classroom situation. Aside from the bullying, the anti-religious mentality in the public school system, the fact that I’d have to medicate them for their ADHD in order for them to sit still through classes, and their learning disabilities– my children would feel emotionally rejected if I send them to school. Those reasons and a hundred thousand more are the reasons that my children will never go to public school. Since I never intend to send them to public school, I don’t have to worry about if they will be “on track.” They haven’t been completely on track since the beginning. They are great in some stuff and not-so-great in others. The advantage of homeschooling is IT DOESN’T MATTER because we aren’t using anyone else’s measuring stick. We are doing what is best for them as individuals.
• Understand that there will be gaps in their education. I wish someone had told me this early on. This has NOTHING to do with you or me having shortcomings nor does it mean we are bad teachers. All teachers –even public and private school teachers– leave gaps in their students’ education. We do our best, and that is all we can do. We give them the best we have. Every parent, if they were honest, would have to admit that they know that there are gaps in their children’s education. Accept it. It is a fact. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Rather than worry about those gaps, teach them to teach themselves so when they get older they can fill those gaps themselves. I have always been an avid self-learner. I love to learn what I need to know or want to know. I was NOT a good student, though. I didn’t want to learn what you wanted to teach me. I wanted to learn what interested me. Knowing how to educate yourself can serve you your whole life.
• Skip the spiral approach. Studies have shown that the current method of repetitive teaching is not the most efficient. You could skip much of what a grade-schooler is taught and introduce it in 7th or 8th grade, and the child would learn it all so fast your head would spin. So why force them to suffer through it when they are young? (I am blessed to live in a state where they don’t regulate homeschooling very tightly). I have chosen to wait for some things (like grammar, writing, and spelling) until they show interest in it or seem better able to grasp the concepts. I still work on it sometimes with them if I see that they have a need, but we don’t do a lot of it and not in a forced way.
• Surrender your homeschool to God. I have sometimes thought I was not serving the children well, but I have to remind myself that God gave them to me to train and raise. He knew what He was doing. I honestly don’t believe that a teacher in charge of 30 children would do a better job of loving and training them than I would.
• Don’t worry about doing everything perfectly. The things I do, I do with the best interest of my children in mind. Do I do everything right? I am sure I don’t. But no matter what, they can never say that I didn’t love them enough to give them my very best –even when that very best doesn’t look very good, it’s still my best. Even when I am at my worst they know I love them, would do anything for them, and have poured out my life into them. That is worth much more than any traditional education.
• Keep homeschooling simple. With all my health issues this was a necessity for me. A minimalist approach to homeschool can actually benefit you. It’s less stressful than trying to keep up with the homeschool Joneses. When in doubt keep formal learning focused on the 3 Rs: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Science, history and other topics are easier to add in via conversations, crafts, activities, videos, recreational reading, etcetera, and don’t necessarily have to be part of your scheduled work until at least middle school.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will be helpful and encouraging. Mostly, I want to take the pressure off you mamas. Relax, enjoy the time you have with your children –minus all the stress and anxiety.
(Originally from a Facebook post in 2013)