Saturday, May 21, 2016

Home-schooling Adventures

My middle child is graduating!  When she was little she attended public school half the day except one day a week when they were there the full day. I hated her being away all day! Her little sister was lost without her and we couldn't wait for her to come home.

I will never forget the day, 12 years ago, when I completely forgot what day it was and thinking that it was the full day (it was only a half day) I was out and was not home when she was to be dropped off. I got a phone call from an annoyed office worker and I had to pick her up at the school. My baby looked so sad. This was, at the time,  the most absolute worst mistake ever and I felt awful. I truly was The Worst Mommy in the world! Sadly, I have let my children down many times over since then. I have learned that home-school moms always feel like they are short-changing their kids; not doing enough, not meeting deadlines and failing at the most important job a person can have. I wish that these statements are just overly critical self-assessments and that there was no truth to them... but, regrettably, there is.

By the time that year was over it was apparent that public school was not what we wanted our children. We never in a million years thought that the Lord would be calling us back to home-schooling but there we were. (My eldest child, now 30,  was home-schooled for a couple years in the 8th and 9th grades.) Our first year back was tough as I tried to make a public school setting in my home using workbooks and time schedules. Ugh! Life was yucky and hard like that and learning was no fun. This was not the home educating experience I was hoping for. All the sweet times were being eaten up by the militant momma. I cried, she cried and we were not joyful! Where is the Charlotte Mason moments and the child who appreciates all that I was attempting to do and where were the bluebirds and and sweet teaching moments that could have been documented as the perfect home-school family on the cover of a home-school magazine???? What was I doing wrong?

Eight long months into the first grade year a sweet woman (sent by God, I think) at the local home-school conference unlocked our chains when she explained that it was okay if we do not finish every problem in every book in the limits of one school year. What?!?! That was crazy! I am a type A person. The rules, the rules, it is all about the rules and every problem being done and, and, and ..... whew. The weight fell off my back. I felt free like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress.

I shopped the rest of that conference for some fun learning stuff. That was the beginning of my love of unit studies. We began with a curriculum called Konos; no work books, no regimented schedule. Essentially, a unit study incorporates a theme or period of time of study and builds literature, history, spelling, social studies, ect around that time period or theme. Each subject is related and keeps the learning cohesive. We used this program for a couple years. We saved the work books for mathematics only. We met with two other families for music and art on Fridays. For us this was a much better way of learning. We learned that we could have fun while we learned!

My girls would dress up like Native Americans each day as we learned about the early days of our country.

 We went to the grocery store dressed like that! Another time we dressed up in colonial garb and went to Sturbridge Village.

Those early years were filled with dress up and playing as we learned. We journaled our way through science drawing dragon flies we saw in the backyard along with our renditions of fern spores. There was peace in our home and learning that we were enjoying and loving. My children spent afternoons curled up with me reading on the couch or when nicer weather permitted we moved outside at a local park as we played Lewis and Clark gathering local specimens to bring back to Washington for President Jefferson.

Tea parties were necessary as we studied King George's reign over the colonies.
Eight years ago we switched our curriculum to Tapestry of Grace; a different unit study curriculum and I will tell you more about that another time.

For now, if you are struggling with what your child is missing or if like me, you feel you are doing more harm than good at times or if you are just beginning to consider educating your children at home I want to encourage you. There is not a more difficult or rewarding experience as a mother. While there will be days you may question your abilities and whether or not they are learning what they need you are spending time, pouring your life into theirs and that cannot be matched by anyone, anywhere and it will not be in vain.

I think this is my absolute favorite photo of these two sweet babies.
The only worthwhile piece of advice I can give is to know why you want to home-school. For us it was and is to raise our children in light of the Word of God. I need to remind myself of that often as I doubt and fear. We love our children and they are a gift from the Lord. Nobody wants better for them than their father and me. I could not have made it through one year, one semester, one quarter, one week or one day without my God leading me.  Very early in my home-schooling adventures, a godly woman and mother of twelve (if I remember correctly and thank you Mrs. Mohan wherever you are) prayed with me. Her prayer was this, "Lord, in order to do what you are calling me to do- I need you! I need you like Peter needed you on the water." I would sink, the waves would be too high and I would lose heart if God did not rescue me, my children and our feeble attempts to honor Him as we learn.

Our main goal is to raise children who love the Lord. We stress character over grades. Have I failed my children? Yes, and a thousand times, yes. Has God failed them? Never! He is faithful, he will surely do it. If you are homeschooling for the same reason, preach it to yourself daily and walk in the truth that God will supply all your needs. If this is the road you are feeling led to your calling is high and lofty. I am reminded of Augustine's famous quote, "Lord command what you will and provide what you command."

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