Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homeschooling Encouragement

Recently I shared some thoughts about homeschooling with my sister in law and she suggested that I might post some of my response to her questions here on my blog.  Before I share, let me explain who I am and where I'm coming from.

I've been on all sides--public school, private school (to a lesser degree), and homeschooling.  I have a master's degree in education and taught both Elementary and Middle School, have tutored high school math, taught math in a community college GED program, taught unsuccessfully at a private Christian school, and have now been homeschooling for five years (if you count the two years that we formally homeschooled for preschool).  The unsuccessful jaunt is a story in and of itself which I learned a lot from.  But, I think I'll save that for another time...

I remember the middle of PK3 and my husband doubted whether or not I could commit to homeschooling.  We were two of those parents who couldn't wait for our kids to start learning, not realizing that it would all come in time.  There is no need to rush.  But, now I see both sides and I can genuinely encourage other moms to not worry about rushing as I did with our first daughter.  My husband and I conflicted and I became more resolved to homeschool and prove that I could do it.  He became more concerned so I set about finding ways that I could show him our daughter was doing fine.  I found the World Book Scope and Sequence and went through the list of what she could and couldn't do.  I used this as an evaluation every 6 months for PK3 and PK4.  I also found other evaluations which I added on to show how much Autumn learned during her PK4 year.  What I realized the next year when we began kindergarten was that as much as I thought I'd gotten the hang of homeschooling, I really hadn't!  I did have assessments in place and I'd started on my journey, but I realized that each year is a new adventure.

In the middle of Kindergarten, I began to fall apart and doubt myself.  I questioned whether or not I could really do it.  I hadn't sought out any homeschool networks (as a way to save money) and so I was very isolated since there were no other homeschooling families at our church.  Autumn and I survived the second half of kindergarten with me learning as much as she did.  Maybe I learned even more.

The first thing I learned was that we all have these times (and they aren't just during kindergarten) when we get discouraged and think we can't do this homeschooling thing!

Here is the story I shared with my sister in law about that time during Autumn's kindergarten year...

    I remember breaking down several times the year Autumn was doing Kindergarten (which was only 2 years ago!).  She is a very compliant child, but she struggles with procrastination and I just can't do the work for her.  Sami is my strong willed one and with that comes determination, but different challenges.   I remember days when I would get so upset.  One day I even explained and asked Autumn if she wanted to go to school and for me to go back to work (since that's the only way we'd be able to afford it).  I even worked out in my head that I would need to make $50k per year to put two children in day care and one in private school.  Then last year, Autumn was mourning that she can't play all day anymore and then I explained to her that her friend Abby gets on a bus at 8:30 a.m. and then gets home at 4:30 p.m.  She realized that the only reason she'd want to go to school is for recess.  I've watched her come to terms with being home and realize that she wouldn't want to be away from me all day--and just as much I wouldn't want to miss out on seeing her all day.

We often take these struggles and turn them inward towards ourselves.  I compared myself to other homeschooling moms and fell short in my own eyes.  In time I would meet a group of other homeschooling moms who helped me see that we are all different--and those differences are on purpose.  

At the core of it all is finding peace with God, I believe.  Peace with trusting that He made us the way He wanted to--imperfections and all.  Trusting that there is good in us--this is a bit tricky theologically, but there is good in us that is the reflection of Him.  But, at the same time, coming to a place where we like ourselves and who God made us to be.  I was reading about the Amish and their beliefs because of a book I just read and I realized that they shun all individual ideas.  They see all of it as vanity.  I would differ with them on this one. God created us all differently--we are not carbon copies of one another.  Logically, if God had wanted us to be, he would have made us that way ;)    I actually think it's a good thing to like ourselves--to enjoy the things we do well.  We don't have to be better than everyone else at things in order to feel good about what we can do--that's a conclusion that is still working its way into my heart.

Here's my list of things I like about myself and the way God made me:  I am a good cook (I like my cooking), I like my handwriting, I like my voice and singing, I love people and care about them a lot, I like being able to take something that's ready to be thrown away and fix it up, I like saving money and doing math in my head (I'm glad I can do it).  Most of all, I am thankful that I am a Christian and that I love God--I wouldn't want to go through this life without Him!  Anyways, those are random things that came to my mind.  

It is easy to lose ourselves in being moms and lose sight of who God made us to be.  Being moms is part of that, but we need to make efforts not to lose our interests and personalities.  It is these things that shape us and that we give to our children and share with our husbands.

I don't do this perfectly at all.  I am on this journey with all other homeschooling moms.  I think our identities and our confidence that we can do what we have set out to do is often shaken.  Honestly, my kids and I have had a crazy January!  Our days have been different every week.  I long to get back to a Monday through Friday schedule and I'm hoping to next week.  But, that is the life of homeschooling.  We do need to be committed to sticking it out, but we also need to allow ourselves grace and take break days when we need to whether it be for sickness, holidays, or family crises.  

I do believe we need to stand firm in the knowledge that we have sought God before starting out this homeschooling journey and that we are trusting Him with our lives and the lives of our children.  

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