I am dedicating this post to my Mom. My example and inspiration.
I am a bit of an anomaly in many homeschool circles as I am an older Mom of one young child. That was not by my plan or my choosing but I can now see and have recently accepted that it is God’s beautiful design for our family. My daughter Emma has been coming to CHAMP for 3 years now, starting in the preschool class and now doing her second year in Level 1. She is 7.5 and in grade 3 but I chose to leave her in Level 1 this year so that she is with her friends. So technically I am in my 3rd year of homeschooling although I believe homeschooling begins to take place the moment your child comes home as a newborn.
When I was asked if I would share it actually made me stop and think more about our typical days than I ever really have. To think about why I do things the way I do. A little background on myself. I am a homeschool graduate. I attended public school for kindergarten but the next year my parents pulled my older brother and me from school. For the next couple of years we did various things like attended a private school for a very short time and did basically homeschool co-ops that were more like Christian schools but everyone was still homeschoolers. The summer I turned 10 we moved to a very small coal mining town and were on our own. Now you have to know that I was homeschooled in the 80s. A time when it was virtually unheard of and when we moved to this new town my Mom was truly on her own. No co-ops. No fellow homeschoolers. Really, no support. By this time my younger brother had joined us in being homeschooled as well. My Mom ran a tight ship. In many ways I think it was because there was so much scrutiny in the town we moved to that she wanted to be above reproach if anyone should ever question what we were doing. The requirement of being registered had not yet come into play and my younger brother graduated shortly before it became mandatory. That also meant no funding of any sort. Our typical days looked like this…We ate breakfast, got changed, made our beds etc. and were ready for school around 8:45 when we would meet for devotions and get going with our day. We knew that if we finished all of our school in the morning we would then have the rest of the day free to play or read or whatever we wanted to do. Because of this my brothers and I learned self-discipline and a strong work ethic that people throughout the years have noticed and commented on so often and which has carried my brothers far in their careers. I have always only wanted to be a wife and Mom and I always knew I would homeschool. It took a little longer to convince my husband who had never even really heard of homeschooling before he met me but he is fully on board and supportive of it now.
Our typical homeschool day is similar to what I grew up with. I learned early on the importance of working hard to get something done so that you can have time for other things and want to install that in Emma. We usually start school around 9:00am. We start with our Bible journaling, then do our devotions, then pray that God would be with us as we learn and focus. This is something we have always done but the rest of the day has changed and morphed over the years. I decided this past summer that we will be doing school year round. Emma is a very intelligent girl whose brain needs to be fed on an almost daily basis (which makes summer with no school incredibly long for this Momma) but along with that intelligence comes intensities or overexcitabilities and those have made it harder for me to figure out what to do and how to do it. I’m not going to expand on that right now as it could take up so much time but just know that it has been and is a big learning curve for me and there have been so many days of both of us being in tears and me feeling like I just can’t do it because I don’t understand my daughter and wondering why God figured I could do this when He blessed me with her. I remember one day that was one of the worst we had and Emma saying to me that she felt like we were the squares on a quilt and as mother and daughter we were the squares right next to each other but that as student and teacher we were the squares farthest away from each other. That really made me pause and reevaluate so many things. Homeschooling isn't supposed to drive you apart or harm your relationship but rather draw you closer together and bind your hearts to one another. Finally, very recently, we seem to have settled into something that works for us, although I am fully aware that it could change next week.
On Sunday afternoon I sit down with Emma’s schoolwork and I write down what needs to get finished every day. We typically do school 4 days a week so I break it all down. On the days we do school, after we finish our devotions and praying, she then goes through the list of what needs to be accomplished for the day and numbers each subject according to the order she wants to do them. It changes every day. Giving her that little bit of ownership has made such a difference for us. She feels a little more organized and like she knows what to expect but also like she has a choice in it all and I am happy because she is getting done what needs to be done. We do math, language arts, handwriting, Bible and usually computer every day. Then we do history, science, geography and art one day a week each. In there we also schedule a break that really is just Emma sitting down with her reader and a snack and is only about 10 minutes long but she feels refreshed and ready to go again. This might sound like a lot to do every day but in reality from beginning to end it is pretty much never more than 2-2.5 hours. After that she has the rest of the day free. Except for things that have to get done like piano practice. In her free time she loves to create. I found one of those huge Costco dollhouses with all of the furniture second hand for an amazing price and that was her Christmas present this year. Using old kleenex boxes and tea boxes and paper and tape she has created more furniture and appliances for it. She has started sewing on her own and I love the things she designs and creates. Does she still need to learn technic and such? Yes. But I don't want to squelch her creativity by all of a sudden telling her it has to be done a certain way. She loves to create. It feeds her soul and makes her heart happy. Most of the time when she is creating she is singing softly to herself and I so love to hear that because I know it is bringing her joy. School is a priority for us and it always will be but it is also so important that she have the room and opportunity to be who she is and to do what she loves. It is my dream to one day have a bigger house that has a room that can be her creating room where she can just go and lose herself in doing what her passion is.
As far as actual curriculum and schoolwork itself we are doing a hodge podge of things right now. I am a very linear learner. I like things to be neat and orderly and I have always loved workbooks and lists etc. Language Arts was my strong suit. I could do math and science but they were not my strength. God in His sense of humour gave me a little girl who is my opposite in almost every way when it comes to academics. The only things we really seem to have in common are our stubbornness and strong wills so you can imagine how things turn out sometimes. Although we do both love books and nature. Our first year of doing curriculum was awful. We butted heads more often than not it seemed and school just didn't bring either of us joy. There were meltdowns and arguments and tears and apologizing and hugging and just affirming that we love each other no matter what. The next year when we registered and our facilitator came to see us I told her what we had been using (by the way, it was a curriculum that I would have loved as a child). I appreciate our facilitator so much. She is a lovely Christian lady who taught elementary school for years and then homeschooled her own children who are now grown. She looked at me and said “It isn't you. It isn't her. It’s the curriculum.” What a weight lifted off of me. To go from beating myself up because our days were so hard to realizing I just needed to change things was so freeing. So that year we changed things up and it helped so much. All of this time I was finally starting to learn how Emma learns, how her brain works, what might work for her and not work for her. She is not a linear learner at all. She is kind of all over the place. She has her math that she is working through plus she does supplemental worksheets of just addition, subtraction and most recently multiplication and she loves it but I remember one day last year she had to write a short poem about a kite flying in the sky. This girl of mine who has the most vivid and active imagination I have ever encountered could not think of one single solitary word for the poem. She was getting frustrated because she couldn't think of anything, I was getting frustrated because I didn't understand why she couldn't think of anything. So I finally sent her upstairs with her doll and told her to pretend that they were flying a kite. So she did. The next thing I knew she was yelling down all these words that had to do with flying a kite while I jotted them down for her and then she came back down and wrote a fun poem about it. I have learned that it isn't just that Language Arts isn't her strong subject but that it is a struggle for her and so we have started doing more things orally. If there is anything that Emma likes more than creating it is talking! Even doing it orally she still struggles a bit and she told me one day that when she has to write a paper on something or even write a sentence that the words are in the front of her brain when she is thinking about it but then when she goes to write it all down the words move to the back of her brain and can’t get out and that she can’t think of just the perfect word to start. While it sounds kind of silly to hear her explain it I always take things like that very seriously because it is a window into how her brain works and I take it into consideration for the next time.
I love homeschooling. I love the freedom it brings. I love that I can teach my daughter in the way that she needs to be taught. I love that because she is at home with me she is not being labeled like I know she would be in school because of her intensities and struggles. I love that if either one of us has a day where we just can’t do it we don't have to. We can snuggle on the couch and eat popcorn and watch a movie knowing that school will still be there tomorrow. I love that homeschooling isn't an event that happens but that rather it is a way of life every day. A constant learning and changing and growing and often that happens more in us as the parents and teachers than it does in our kids! I love that even though there may be hard days and arguments and tears those times can end in hugs and love and prayer and a deeper love for and understanding of each other. Yes, school is a priority for us but even more important to me is learning the heart of my child, tending and nurturing that heart which some days means the books don't open up or some days means school comes to a halt as we deal with matters of the heart. As a homeschool graduate I can tell you that one of the biggest blessings in being homeschooled wasn't the education I received (although that was fantastic) but rather the times spent working through life problems, praying together and just doing life together.
I know I have probably shared more than maybe I needed to but when asked about what our typical day is I can’t just break it down into steps or hours because to us it is just life. It is a constant intentionality on my part to not just teach Emma but to learn how to better teach her in the way that her brain and her heart need.
I want to leave you with a few things before I close. I am by nature and gifting an exhorter and so I can’t close without sharing these things that God is nudging me to share.
Many of you probably have or will encounter opposition to homeschooling your children, my parents did, but keep doing what your heart is telling you to do. Do what you know is right for your children and know that as people observe you through the years they are going to see that you got it right and that your children are flourishing because of it.
Then there is this…My Mom once gave this bit of advice to a fellow homeschool Mom and it later came back to me through that same lady. The advice was this “Remember, you are not teaching the subject…you are teaching the child.” How true that is! When this journey we are all on comes to an end the most important thing will not be did we teach them how to do algebra or diagram a sentence but it will be did we nurture their hearts? We all have days when we wonder why God thought we could do this, why He thought we could mother these kids or homeschool them. For me as an adoptive Momma it is something I have struggled with because I know God intentionally placed Emma with for me a reason and I so often feel inadequate for the task. I recently read this quote that had me in tears and that confirmed what God has been whispering in my heart for so long…
”Don't give undue credence to the opinions you're continually faced with. Don't let anyone or anything shake your peace. Most of all, don't doubt the woman you are or the children you've been given. God knows what he's doing, and you're the best mom for the job.”
Finally, we have this verse hanging on the wall of our living room.
May the children that God has blessed us with be filled foremost with the wisdom that is from above when it comes time for them to face the world on their own and may we have that same wisdom in our hearts so that we can teach and nurture that understanding and knowledge in their hearts and lives. When the time comes for them to leave the nest may they take those nuggets of rare and beautiful treasures with them. If that is what we do I can assure you that they will feel the same way I do about having been homeschooled. So very thankful. So very blessed.