Today, much to my amusement, I found myself teaching little people. We started a unit study on Egypt, went to the library, reviewed some math skills from last year, and spread the table with markers, papers, scissors, pencils and books.
I shake my head and chuckle. Often. Life is weird isn’t it?
I always wondered if I would homeschool my kids or not. I’m a recovering homeschool kid from the 80’s. Oh yeah, we’re talking, Bill Gothard, jean jumpers, Volkswagen bus, and Carmen kind of recovery. I don’t want my family to be known as “the homeschoolers”. I’ve already done that.
But like I said, life is weird. And everything has changed since the 80’s, aren’t we all glad. My 5th grader has been to 4 years of public school, including kindergarten, a couple of years ago I taught him at home. My philosophy is that life is full of change, as parents we have to evaluate what works constantly.
In this season of life my family is facing a move before the school year is out. (If we don’t move before then we’ll have other issues to worry about due to my husband’s reduced employment.) Homeschooling makes sense to us. If we’re going to move I hope to keep the re-adjustment for the kids to a minimum. It probably goes deeper than that too. The balance between releasing a 6 and 10 year old into a messy, imperfect, public arena, and smothering them in an over protective bubble is not something I’ve found the secret to just yet. So I do my best. This year it looks like homeschool.
As I kick of the year as a former homeschooler who’s homeschooling here are a few lessons I’ve learned.
Parenting should never be us against them.
There are hundreds of ways to parent. Different isn’t wrong. Just because I’m homeschooling doesn’t mean I think public or private schools are a bad choice. I would love to see more grace between parents and less criticism and insecurity. It’s easy to divide ourselves into the stay at home mom, working mom, single parent, homeschooling, public schooling, little family, big family, camps. But I don’t think we should. There is too much to learn from each other we might otherwise miss. When my kids were born I was a stay at home mom. Up until kindergarten I wrestled with the schooling decision and then became a stay at home public schooling mom. A few years later I was a stay at home and homeschooling mom, the next year I was a public schooling and working mom, this year I’m back to stay at home and home schooling. You know what? It’s all hard. But my priority has stayed the same; raise kids that understand their purpose is to glorify God and to find satisfaction following him, to be mannerly, community minded, and kind. I think we should cut each other slack.
This is a hard one. But I’ve seen it a hundred times. We forget that our children were born to us so that we could raise them into adults, ready to thrive in the next generation. That requires continual letting go. This is especially hard if you homeschool. Ask me how I know. Actually that’s another post. It’s hard on mom’s and kids when you spend 24/7 with each other, for years, and then it’s time to fly away. For those of us homeschooling it’s important to be intentional about training our children to be responsible and independent and then give them opportunities to practice. Of course those opportunities should always be age appropriate and safe. It can start as simply as taking your toddler to a babysitter regularly and be as white knuckled as sending your teenager across the world on a missions trip or summer abroad program. While it’s essential for us homeschoolers to provide those solo test runs for our kids, it’s just as important for families with kids in school too. I think mostly it begins with the attitude that these precious kids aren’t ours. They’re a sacred trust. Our amazing job is to get them ready for the adventure of following God out into the wide world, using their own flare. It’s not about us.
Remember to connect with their hearts
In the business of making sure everyone has their lunch and gets to activities on time, or that every subject is covered during the school day and chores are done it’s easy to miss our kid’s hearts. Which is sad, because that’s what we’re aiming for, isn’t it. I find sometimes though that I’ll get to the end of the day and while I’ve spent the entire day with my kids I haven’t really had those moments where you know you’ve connected at the heart. I think it’s important for us as parents to be interruptable. It’s important to have structure and goals, but not to the detriment of grabbing a hold of teachable moments. More important then knowledge is character, more important than skill is love. Sometimes it’s okay to be late or miss a dance class when a little heart pours out questions and asks why. Why are clouds fluffy and far away and do you think heaven is behind them and how do I get there? You just don’t want to miss those moments. So whether it’s staying up a few minutes later than usual or putting the book you’re reading down, don’t miss the opportunity to grab and shape your kid’s heart. I’m so talking to myself here.
Don’t sweat it
All that being said, don’t sweat it. If you’re worried about being a good parent I’m going to bet you won’t mess up too badly. Your kids will survive you! I’ve already started apologizing to mine. Kids are forgiving and resilient, and God is gracious. Remember? I survived homeschool in the 80’s and I’m not too messed up and actually, weird as it was, I’m grateful for my jean jumper, homeschooled years. I have amazing memories of exploring nature with my adventurous mom, wonderful art and music appreciation, luxurious days spent with my brother and sister side kick romping the woods with a BB gun and imaginations. I also know what it feels like to worry about a small boy being picked on at public school and not communicating well with a teacher and just wondering if you’re doing it right. As parents the best thing we can do is press in, be present, shepherd their hearts and enjoy. But worry drives wedges and causes us to miss out on the good stuff. Parenting with fear is rarely effective, parenting with love is powerful. I’m still working on that.
So moms (and dads) here’s to a great school year, whatever kind you choose!