When the teacher gets home-schooled.
My 3 biggest lessons to date:
When I reflect back on the past 2 years of our homeschool experience I am overcome by such a wide range of emotions. I laugh when I think about all the tears that have been shed out of joy and frustration. I am giddy when I think about the progress Jude (and Lila considering we have not done any formal "school" with her yet) has shown. Most of all, I am humbled because I think the one who might have learned the most is me.
When we decided to homeschool, I went into it with a vision built from fear of "not doing it right" to a determination of "we will succeed no matter what". I chose the curriculum that made me feel like an official teacher. The "safe" curriculum. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved our curriculum. It told me exactly what I needed to do every day without any prep work (which I am all about) and I just had to check off all the little boxes, which makes my type A personality jump with joy. It was perfect for... ME.
One day a friend of mine, who is about to embark on the homeschool journey, and hilarious mama to 3 beautiful girls (read all about their adventure at theunfrazzledmama.com) sent me this quiz — http://eclectic-homeschool.com/what-kind-of-homeschooler-are-you/ — I scored highest in Charlotte Mason, Montessori and Unit Studies. It made me smile, it made my heart smile. When I researched homeschooling methods, these were exactly the methods that sounded most fun and enticing. One of my biggest fears when thinking of how to homeschool our kids, was wondering how to keep our son in a seat long enough to absorb information and do a few workbook pages. I had decided we would choose the curriculum that fit his kinesthetic learning style and the Charlotte Mason approach seemed most fitting. We live next to a gorgeous 3 mile walking trail that runs the length of a creek and he loves to explore and catch crawdads, so spending our school days outside in nature all the time sounded like a dream.
The one thing I completely underestimated was how hard it would be to teach a child with a completely different personality than my own. Jude loves science and math but is not a fan of reading and writing. He tends to need a lot of guidance and one on one help to stay focused and efficient. Pretty much all opposite characteristics of myself. I fully trust that the Lord gives us kids to work out our own selfish desires and to mold us and humble us to see the kids and the world in a way that He sees them.
I will humbly admit a few of my setbacks here. I am a bit controlling. I want things done the way I would do them, which has not worked in my favor when schooling Jude, who has a great deal of his Daddy's personality. I don't think I can adequately express the level of frustration that took place when I couldn't get him to do his work the way I thought he should, the way the curriculum had laid it out and even more frustrating for him because he didn't understand why he had to do it this certain way. I was trying to make him learn by shoving as much information down this sweet 5 year old boy's growing mind and guess what? He started to REALLY, really dislike school. If that doesn't make you second guess yourself as a homeschooling Mom when your child hates school after the first year, I don't know what will. I will also admit that I was really against classical learning. I thought it was rigid and I did not like the idea of memorization, but again, thank you Lord for the lesson in humility because Jude learned a great deal classically and loved our Classical Conversations co-op that my husband so sweetly encouraged me to look into and to be honest, I probably love it even more than Jude does!
Lesson #1: Sometimes our children will not learn the way we learn and you have to humble yourself, change your motives and embrace the child you have and taylor the material to his needs, because that is what homeschooling is all about.
I decided to start Jude on the Kindergarten curriculum right before he turned 5 (his birthday is in November) because with this curriculum he technically met the criteria and I thought, well, why not. Thankfully, this curriculum has a lot of Charlotte Mason built in so it was very hands on in the first year, but the lessons started getting pretty lengthy as well. I felt that I had to complete everything in the lesson because for some ridiculous reason I felt as though I had someone to answer to, someone who would check my work to make sure I was adequately teaching my children. Toward the end of our first year, the workbook pages got lengthy and the reading required a list of 15 words to be read every day. Jude would see the list and immediately get anxious and overwhelmed and break down in tears because it was too much for him. I would get creative and come up with all sorts of games so that he still read all the words provided but he didn't realize it. I was still doing my part and he was too. This worked for a while, until we started year two. From the get go, we struggled with the reading and anxiety that came along with it, and thank the Lord we were plugged into a co-op because I was able to express my frustrations and feelings of inadequacy to other moms who have been in the same position and they were so kind and reassuring, offering all the right suggestions on how to make our homeschooling experience enjoyable again.
Lesson #2: Be involved in a co-op or community of some sort that can offer support. You will need it on this journey!
Lesson #3: Less is so much more. I FINALLY (stubborn ol girl here) learned to set myself aside again and take bits and pieces of the curriculum and then add or take away our own things. Guess what?! When Jude was not forced to do something that did not mesh with his way of learning he did it all on his own and in his timing. He would read things on his own. He would spell words correctly on his own, he would school me on a math lesson I had not even taught yet, all on his own.
You see, I truly believe that kids want to learn and grow. They desire to learn about the world around them, but if they are being pushed in a direction that is not right for them, we can completely ruin such a beautiful experience for them.
I don't claim to have it all completely figured out, but I do claim grace because I desperately need it and hopefully this can help someone else who may be struggling with similar situations in the homeschooling adventure. Because that is truly what it is, an adventure of learning, an adventure of conquering your fears and anxieties, an adventure of overcoming, an adventure of discovering yourself and the best ever adventure (in my opinion) of coming along side your child and seeing the world through their eyes and watching their passions come alive, and being there to see them make connections in a way that will blow your mind.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."- Galatians 6:9
For all you stubborn Mamas out there, do not give up! You can do it and it will be worth it. I remind myself this every day. :)
This journey of homeschooling is one big beautiful adventure, one that I am incredibly grateful to share with these precious kids God has entrusted to us.