It happens all the time. I’ll be out with my kiddos and somebody will approach me tentatively (or not) and admit quietly (with sideways glances) that they are thinking about homeschooling their children. I don’t know how they pick me out of a crowd so easily . . . is it because I’m often out running errands in the middle of the day, school-age children in tow? Is it because my children always need haircuts or because I’m wearing an ankle-length denim jumper (kidding on both counts, kind of) or what?
In any case, though I used to feel vulnerable and sheepish about homeschooling our kiddos, waiting, perhaps, for “the other shoe to drop,” for me to realize that whoa–this teaching our children at home, this rash foray into culture-defying-action that we had embarked upon really isn’t working out!
“Why didn’t we leave it up to the experts?” I’d wail in my nightmares as I pitched Algebra and Latin texts out the second story window, the pages fluttering and the books lodging themselves into the earth below by the corners. I had nightmares about missing something: waking up in a cold sweat because somehow I missed the fact that Andrew really never did a math lesson in his life and he was facing the ACT test next weekend. . . or that, horrors! Amalia was 14 and still couldn’t read! Or that Matthew, though he said that he was reading Tolkien and Lewis and Dickens and in his room at night, was actually holed up with Richie Rich comic books all these years!?
I’m thankful most of that insecurity is behind me. There are a few benefits about getting older and (hopefully) wiser. I have trusted God to give me the wisdom I needed to stay one step ahead of my kiddos, and He has given me peace and confidence in teaching my children at home. The first thing I want to tell people who ask me about home schooling is that, hey, it works. It works. My grown-up children are happy and healthy and socially adept and smart and . . . (wait for it) . . . well educated. I’m not bragging, please understand that, I’m just stating a fact.
And it’s not about me. I always felt that God was leading me in this direction, and I just followed, though there were times (believe you me!) when I wanted to flag down that big yellow school bus and just be done with children for the day. Or the school year. Honestly. I suppose every home school mom has that fantasy now and then. I’m not brilliant (though I do have a college education) and I’m not super-organized (though I do manage to get three meals on the table every day, most days) and I’m not crazy-creative. I’m just my kids’ mom and I love them all to pieces.
I love them enough to watch them closely and enjoy what makes each of them tick. And that, perhaps, is what makes home teaching so successful, at least at our house. I don’t force Amalia, for example, to memorize science facts that she’ll slough off right after the test, because I know her real love is good literature and great writing, so we focus more on that in much of our time together. She is still learning math and science, of course, of course I want her to understand and appreciate more of the world than just her writing projects. But I support and encourage her in what she does best, and I think that will give her a jump start on accomplishing her dream of becoming a published writer before she graduates from our home school.
It was the same with the other kiddos, too, as I tried to focus on what they did best, especially as they got closer and closer to finishing high school. But I could write a book about all this. I suppose someday I should.
With all that said, here’s a collection of a few homeschooling-related posts for you to peruse. If you’re curious about how home teaching works, at least at our house, this collection will give you a taste of how we roll at our house, schooling-wise.
First, here’s how I discovered a quick, dandy, low-tech way to motivate little Mack to do his piano practice with no prompts from me, and a way to get myself and Amalia to practice our instruments, too: a rocket chart!
We don’t do rocket charts all the time. They seem to lose their effectiveness after awhile, and we move on to something else, but they are a great way to encourag that desire in your child to be self-motivated at . . . whatever . . . getting his math lesson done, or his morning chores, or his music practice. It works!
Secondly. Just because, I suppose–occasionally!–we appear to have our act together, I’ve had people say something about our having the “perfect children.” When I hear that comment, after I’m done with a bit of maniacal laughter, I’m quick to disavow any existence of perfect children at our house. They are pretty sweet kiddos, but hey, nobody’s perfect, right? And I certainly don’t want anybody to feel intimidated by the fictional notion that my kiddos never make mistakes, so I wrote this:
In my book, “perfect” is just another entry in the dictionary.
Third. Successful schooling depends so much on not so much the teacher’s readiness on any given day, but a child’s readiness to learn. I do feel for the large numbers of little boys who are put on drugs in our current world, primarily so they will sit still longer. My little boys have never been good at sitting still for very long, and so I don’t ask that of them. Little Mack does do some “seat work,” so he can learn math skills and how to write and other important skills (also so he can learn to sit still for more than a moment) but I try to make these sessions mercifully short for him. When I tell him he’s done a good job and is finished for the day, he shoots out the door just like a stiff rubber band is pulling him out. Then the great learning outside begins. I wrote about this in the following post:
I’ve got to say, I’m glad my boys are boys. They must learn their manners because I require that, absolutely, but they are active and adventurous and often bare-footed and they like to run and climb and play and laugh loudly and shoot guns and wrestle in the living room. And all that is just fine with me.
Fourth. Sometimes the best science class happens on the fly: out in the garden where we uncover a new insect that we’ve never seen before, so we (meaning little Mack) race to the house to pull up a website by which to identify it, and then pull out the camera and nature journals to document the finding. While pruning the orchard, we find a massive cocoon attached to a tree trunk and we have to study it and then keep an eye on it in the spring just in case it might hatch. Or in the kitchen, when the desire to make cheese consumes you on a gray and icy day.
Those science lessons, accomplished with your hands in the dirt (or in the ricotta cheese) are not forgotten like the ones learned from the textbooks might be.
Fifth. Sometimes your best-laid teaching plans need to be put aside and you need to go with the flow. Little Mack lugged around a thick “Fun and Creative and Educational ACTIVITIES!” book that he picked up at a garage sale, for days, just longing for me to sit down and do some of the fun and creative and educational activities with him. One day I stopped my constant pushing and striving and to-do list accomplishing and let him set the agenda. We made a little cloud in a jar. It tickled him to no end, and he smiled the rest of the day. It took about 15 minutes. Lesson learned.
It only takes a few minutes to learn a science principle and to capture your child’s heart and how efficient is it to do both at once??
And sixth. Of course every day is different, but I took the time to write down the way a typical day went at our house, from the time I woke up until the time I fell into bed at night. But was it a typical day? It’s so hard to say. Aliens didn’t land in the backyard, and I didn’t win the lottery, both events which would have made it an atypical day. So anyway. It made me tired to read it all just now. A good tired, but tired just the same. Maybe I’ll go take a nap now.
Whatever “typical” means. Honestly.
Seventh. What does the first day of school mean at your house? When I was a kid, it meant brand-new (stiff!) school shoes, a new dress or two that my mom sewed for me, a new lunchbox, and starting that daily morning walk to school again.
Here at our home school, the first day of school means: a photo op with costumes pulled down from the attic (what can I say–we’re a theatre family), dragging out all the books and figuring out what we might be missing, and playing hookey and spending some time outside, if it’s a nice day.
Also it might mean cuddling a new kitten, as that generally helps with the stark and uncomfortable transition from summertime to schooltime. Sigh.
Eighth. If your kids really, really want to dissect something, you get out the pins and the scalpel and you (gulp!) start cutting.
The world is a beautiful and fascinating, and gross and nasty place. Some of us are more interested in the beautiful and fascinating, and some of us are more interested in the gross and nasty things of this world. I try to follow my children’s interests in our schooling (at least some of the time) so that means, perhaps, that I may have to help little Mack discover what is inside a snake.
P.S. It really was pretty interesting. Perhaps I oughta let little Mack plan more of our science lessons.
So that’s it for now, Gentle Reader, eight posts related to home schooling and also (natch!) living a full and beautiful life. I hope you enjoy them!
I’m linking up again with the generous folks over at The Prairie Homestead and Frugally Sustainable. I learn so much from these Blog Hops, I’ll bet that you would, too. Join me!
- The day I saw my dog’s brain
- 10 Things I Took Away from Thanksgiving Dinner