Last night I spent some time on the phone with a woman I haven't spoken to in years, but who reached out to me to ask me some questions about homeschooling. I've heard her story before:
"I think this is right, but I'm overwhelmed."
"I have parts of it figured out but I'm worried about academics/socialization/support."
"I need to choose curriculum and there are so many options!"
I wanted to take a few minutes and tell you some of what I told her, and what I tell anyone who is considering homeschooling.
1. If you are thinking of doing it, you probably can.
The fact that you are interested in it, that you are researching it, that you are reaching out to others who do it indicates that your desire is strong. And if you desire to do it, you will find a way. So many parents are intimidated by teaching because they are not teachers by trade. But the beauty of homeschooling is that you don't have to be. You are dealing with very small student-teacher ratios, and so many curriculums walk you through step-by-step on the things you may not know. Plus, you have the irreplaceable bonus of being their constant guide, and the lessons they'll learn from you being there, loving them, helping them when they stumble--as only a parent can--are valuable beyond words. The teaching skills will come as you grow into the process. I will add that you will want to search out a mentor. They can be your cheerleader and practical support, and are especially valuable if not everyone in your current circle is down with homeschooling. Lean on them; they will be a great help to you (and soon enough, believe it or not, you may find yourself mentoring someone else!).
2. Commit to a year.
JUST ONE YEAR. Want to know a secret? When I think of homeschooling a kid who is a senior in high school, prepping for college and SATs and doing extracurriculars and DRIVING and about to leave home and be on their own and without me and reading Beowulf and using those big fancy calculators for calculus or whatever it is...I GET INTIMIDATED TOO! But then I remember: I'm not homeschooling a senior in high school! I'm homeschooling a kindergartener and a 2nd grader. I don't have to think about those things right now. I can deal with those when we get there. Right now I just need to think about things like memorizing the Beautitudes and segmenting spelling words and doing the Doubles Plus Ones. We will get those things down and then we will move on to the next step. And all those steps will, Lord willing, lead us to Beowulf and the Big Calculator, when it is time to deal with Beowulf and the Big Calculator. And driving. Oy.
3. Go to a Convention.
Know who goes to conventions? People who have been right where you are, and are willing to help you through it. You will be encouraged by their stories. Know who else goes to conventions? Curriculum vendors. That means you get to see and touch the curriculum, and ask questions. I will caution you to not stress out over making it to every single session or learning everything you need to know in one day or weekend, or even buying all your curriculum then. It can be information overload, so measure your time and spend a lot of it on the expo floor, asking questions. (Just remember that while vendors' answers can be helpful they are trying to sell you things that you may not need, at least not yet. I recommend making a budget before you go. They'll always be happy to take more of your money later, right?).
4. Re-think True Socialization.
If you've mentioned that you are considering homeschooling to more than 1.2 people, you've probably gotten that worried look and The Question: "But what will you do about socialization?" I could say a lot about this, but here are just a couple of things to consider: If kids in institutional schools are so well-socialized, why are there local, state, and national initiatives designed to stop the massive problem of bullying? And, even if a child manages to escape the bully's taunts, is it really socialization if the only people they are interacting with are their same age? When you homeschool, you have the ability to influence their concepts of respect, politeness, and hospitality. You can (and must) teach them those things in the home, then model and oversee them in practice. You are the one at the grocery store who teaches them to watch out for others in the aisles, to help the person who dropped a can of beans, and to look the cashier in the eye and say "Thank you" when complimented. You can have an elderly woman, a woman with younger children, or a friend their own age into your home at any time of day, and teach your child how to make someone feel welcome, warmed and loved. You can visit others, serving them and teaching them to respect other peoples' rule and possessions. You can make corrections in real time, help them navigate interpersonal problems with other kids and deal swiftly and intensely with real issues concerning how they treat others. And if they still need to learn things like how to stand in line, take turns and wait for you to stop talking, take them to the post office and the children's museum and on play dates where you'll be talking to other adults--those are prime opportunities to teach all those things. THAT is practical socialization that will serve them well all their life, and far more skills than what they would learn from 8 to 3 in the school room.
5. Do Bible first.
As you get into the practicalities of homeschooling, there will be days when Life will interfere with School and you will have to make choices on what academics you will accomplish that day. I say, always do Bible, no matter what. It teaches your children that yes, knowing God and serving Him truly is the most important thing, every day. Also, it will help keep all of you rooted in scripture for whatever else the day throws at you. Pray with them. Read from the Bible or their Bible lesson book (I'm a big fan of Egermeier's), sing a hymn (or lots of hymns, especially if you are in the car!). Work on memorizing verses. Talk about God's will for their lives as you start and go through your day. Eventually, the math curriculum will get done. They will learn to read one day. But the time to impress on their young hearts what will truly matter at the end of their life is short. Use it.
Obviously I am thrilled with the homeschool life, and will always encourage people who are interested in doing it. These are the things that helped me when I was starting out, and I hope you find them helpful as well! May God bless you on your homeschool journey.
For more good stuff, you can check out my Homeschool Encouragement Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/lbwolfgangmast/encouragement-for-the-amazing-homeschool-life/
This blog has been long-neglected. Not for any lack of thought on my part, but because much of my thinking has been going on in the background while things that required doing demanded my time more urgently. I am pleased to have the desire and the time to be back at a keyboard and writing this morning.
Lord, may I be single-minded, sincere, and constant in my love and service for you. May I teach your way diligently to my children, and may we all never stray from it.
You know those moments, when your child says or does something that, in that beautiful childlike way brings things into focus? Yep, had one of those yesterday. I told the girls we were having some neighbors over for dinner and my oldest said to me, “Oh good, Mommy! I knew that was going to happen but I didn’t know when.”
“How did you know?” I asked, just because I knew I had unintentionally neglected to tell them until that day.
“I heard you tell Mrs. Jennifer about it in the car the other day,” she said. And then, the articulation of her heart:
“I like to listen to grown-ups talk, Mommy. I do it all the time so I can know what’s going on. I don’t know why. I just like to listen to the grown-ups.”
Now, I try to be mindful of what I say in front of the kids. I don’t want them hearing me be negative, anxious, or grumbly. I do want them to hear me say kind things, praise others and work out problems. So certainly, this was a reminder that I need to continue on that track.
But it also brought to mind a phrase I first encountered as a child myself, reading The Little House on the Prairie series. Ma Ingalls would say, "Little pitchers have big ears." My child is listening to us. She wants to listen to us. And she does it with purpose: to learn.
And then I wondered… Am I listening to the grownups? Do I hear what Christians who are older, wiser, more experienced are saying, both to me and to each other? Do I want to learn?—because here seems to be an easy way to.
If I am listening to the grownups, what can I learn? A lot of them will tell me directly what I need to hear—thank God for those who take on the role of public and private teacher! But I have to be willing to show up, and to listen, and then to apply.
Still others will talk to me about their experiences; share their experiences. There is so much to learn there, if I listen. A lot of times the struggle there is in making the time to listen to them. If I am too busy rush-rush-rushing around, I don’t have time to take in what they have to say. That’s a struggle while wife-ing and parenting, but probably a struggle I need to fight. Those who have been-there, done-that have, quite simply, been there and done that and almost always have a few tips and tricks that will save me pain and heartache in the long run.
And then there are times I get the opportunity to listen to "the grown-ups" talk to each other. To hear their regrets, to hear the ways they care for each other, to “listen” to what their interactions with each other have to teach me about their hearts, and to mimic the good things they do. There is learning in the listening.
But most importantly, am I listening to the ultimate grown-up, my Heavenly Father? Do I really want to learn? Because He has said so much to me in his word! I am his beloved child. Just like I want my children to learn what is good and right and true from what I say, so He wants me to learn those things from that He has said.
One of the most infuriating things in my parenting is when one of the kids says “I didn’t hear you,” when the truth is, they weren’t listening to me. I have found that to make sure they are listening, I sometimes need to put my hands on their cheeks, gently turn their face to me and lock eyes with them. I’m pretty sure that in preserving scripture for us, God did the exact same thing for me. It is my job to listen. I need to lock my eyes with him, in devoted study of my Bible.
Today I need to speak less, listen more. Find the grownups. Read what my Father is saying to me. Have big ears and hear it. Apply it.
And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” 1 Samuel 3:10
I started this morning with a bit of work in Robin’s study on How to Love Your Children. It’s very good—I recommend it if you have children or hope to be blessed with them. One thing I am inspired by every time I read it is Deuteronomy 6:1-13.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. “
It is a comfort to me that God has wanted his children to teach their children diligently since the beginning. If he told me to do it—I can do it! (Because he WANTS me to do it.)
[dil-i-juhnt adj. 1. constant in effort to accomplish something; attentive and persistent in doing anything: a diligent student.
Look at that definition. God is giving us work to do here! It is every day work. It is all-through-the-day work. It is a constant effort. It has a goal, to accomplish something; you’ll find that in verse 12 above. I am to be attentive: I have to stop texting, take a break from cleaning, and interact with these children and figure out what they need to hear in order to never forget the Lord. I must be persistent in my teaching of God’s word. And He will help me do it (Phil. 4:13).
Here’s what that looks like right now, for me:
1. Daily Bible study with the kids. We do this as part of our homeschool curriculum, but you can do it whenever you are together with your kids. A book like Egermeier’s has easily digestible lessons with questions to ask at the end. It makes it easy and my kids beg me to read more than one. Working together to do their Bible lessons for class at church is part of this, too. Someone once told me that kids find it embarrassing to be unprepared for class, so that's an added motivation, too.
2. Learning hymns and songs. This is what I remember most from being a child—the songs we sang. The words comfort me and since those songs are rooted in scripture, they remind me of what the Lord has done for me. I want to impart that to my children. It’s one of the reasons I’m working to set their memory work to song. These don't have to be kids songs, by the way. We do a lot of vocabulary work in explaining what some of the more 'stately' hymns mean. It helps me, too.
3. Being in nature. Children always find things to look at when you are in the woods or even just paying attention to the sunrise/sunset or the growing things in your front yard. “Who made that? Isn’t it amazing what God has done?” Is a constant refrain in our house. When they start asking the “Why did God make that?” questions, things get really interesting! (P.S. if you exercise them well in the outdoors they will be calmer and sleep better, too. You might find that you enjoy this benefit as well.)
4. Being around other Christians, of all ages. Teenagers love little kids and can be a great example and friend to your children. Parents with kids older than yours will remember theirs fondly when they look at yours, and will help pinpoint areas in which yours can be encouraged and more disciplined. Older Christians will actively seek to teach your children and to show them affection. These are special relationships that my children treasure. I do, too.
5. Taking them to evening or weekend Bible studies and singings. Mine are really starting to see this as a way of life, and they are learn to sit, behave, and even participate. If you take it seriously, they will learn to take it seriously, too. At almost-6 and almost-8, mine love to sit with different people (often the teenagers I mentioned above), they love to be able to find and even index a song in the hymnal, and they like to pick out a song to request. Added bonus: we are all getting to know new people better.
6. Thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness. My kids start their prayers now as their father does: “Our Father in Heaven, thank you for this wonderful day.” If we can see every day as Full of Wonder, because of how God has ordered things, then gratitude for everything about it comes more easily. It helps us set the tone in our house for teaching thankfulness for the things we HAVE been blessed with, instead of complaining about the things we don’t have. It is a lesson that, I myself need help putting in practice every day… especially when I get on Pinterest. Amen?
I’d love to hear how you teach diligently, as we look for ways to know God and make Him known. Especially if you have kids in different age ranges than mine, I want to know what this looks like in your home. Share, please!
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11