Today’s post is from my friend Christin. She is a beautiful spirit and I adore her; I know you will too. Enjoy.
I began thinking about homeschooling when my first child was three years old. She showed an interest in doing some worksheets around three and a half, so I just bought some preschool workbooks from Rod & Staff and let her at it. She completed the entire curriculum in three months. I really didn’t do much other than provide the tools, a little direction, and let her go. Of course, each child is unique, and this is just my story to give you a glimpse of how I started off and where I am today.
I needed direction and the accountability of a structured curriculum. I proceeded to buy her a Kindergarten curriculum which was simple enough to work through. It laid out all lesson plans and even included activities for furthering each lesson. At this time I had two children. It was not too difficult to get the lessons done each day. She continued this same curriculum for first grade and the beginning of second grade. However, she began to complete the workbooks at an advanced rate and the work was becoming mundane for her. At this point, I felt comfortable with a more in depth, hands-on curriculum.
This now puts me in a place where I can share with you what has helped this undisciplined, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants mom get homeschooling done, most days.
There are three solid attributes that have been foundational to our homeschool these past years – as imperfect as they are, they have kept us moving forward.
Curriculum is not a dirty word. It simply means course of study (dictionary.com). Whether you piece it together yourself or buy it, everyone uses some form of curriculum. I use it as a guide. Right now, as a baby homeschooler, I would be quite lost without it. However, over the course of the last few years, I have grown comfortable moving on to curriculum that isn’t so restrictive, allows more choices, and requires a little more work on my part. Curriculum provides structure and direction in our learning experience. I am not bound by it; I’m inspired by it. It’s simply a tool, but an important tool, that I use to roughly map out our plan and extend it as I see fit.
A Loose, Flexible Schedule.
I never used to be into scheduling. I didn’t like the limitations it put on me. That is something I have had [and am still learning] to let go of. The schedule isn’t for me, it’s for my children. It is so they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Even now I don’t keep to a perfect schedule. But I promise, it is getting better the more I work at it. Especially since my daughter is getting older (she is now 8). She sees my inconsistencies now. In fact, she watches for them, hoping to get out of doing something she should be doing. (Many of us still try this as adults)! This makes me try that much harder. So, although I’m not a scheduler by nature, it’s something I am learning to embrace. The stability is needed and the days run much smoother with a schedule.
I perhaps should have mentioned this first and maybe it goes without saying. But sometimes, I think we tend to forget the most obvious and most important element to being successful at anything. Not only do we need to pray regularly for direction, but friends, we need to pray regularly for strength. Homeschooling was never meant to be easy. There just is no easy road. So many days I have struggled needlessly simply because I didn’t take the time to pray for strength and offer up my day to God.
I have five children now and continue to face new challenges. The above factors are the foundation of our homeschool days and have become quite necessary in keeping the chaos manageable and getting something done. Even with these factors in place, I still struggle. I am not a morning person. It literally takes me a good 2-3 hours to wake up each morning. Ideally, I would like to get up at 5am, have my prayer time, and just wake up before my children get up. Some days I do this and the resulting day is SO much better. But, realistically, this doesn’t happen often. Instead, most days, I drag my feet, feed my children a cold & easy breakfast, and guide them through their chores. Since I drag my feet, my children often do as well.
When school begins, my challenges arise. Toddler needs something. Toddler fights with brother. Baby needs to eat. Baby needs a diaper change. Preschooler wants to do “school”, too. I set out blocks for constructive free time for my little ones. Often, screaming commences, hitting and offense takes place, and training is in order. I am faced with many distractions throughout our homeschool. For this reason, it is important my little ones get individual “face time” each day. This is where Tot School and Preschool Corner come in. Yet still, this doesn’t happen everyday as it should.
The bottom line is that we have to be open to change. Homeschooling has taken me out of my comfort zone and stretched me in ways that are completely opposite of how I operate. It hasn’t been a quick process, but something that has happened over time. In addition, having many children as taught me a thing or two about each stage of a child’s life, because I see it repeated in each one. This has helped me adjust my thinking and my days to better accommodate their needs.
We also must realize–life is messy! Most of the time, things will not go the way we picture. We must be flexible and roll with it.
So, rather than trying to fit homeschooling into my very confined box with me, I have had to come out of that box and allow God to mold me in order to comply with the needs of homeschooling, and each child as an individual.
I understand this may leave a lot of unanswered questions, so please feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have any.
Christin is a woman who longs to be lost in God. Wife and mother of 5. Daily learning the beauty of grace. Loves the community of women she is surrounded by. You can find her writing at Joyful Mothering and on Twitter: @christinwrites .
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