I talk to homeschoolers a lot. New homeschoolers seem to get into a flurry. They are so excited at the prospect of being able to teach their children, and perhaps so overwhelmed at all the wonderful things they want their children to know, that they can slip into hyper-speed mode which makes them tense. And homeschooling becomes rushed and stressful rather than the fun, easy, loving-learning, being together, happy experience it should be.
Over the years, homeschooling has ceased to mean schooling to me. It is a lifestyle, a way of living that draws your children into your world to share all things, not just academics. You have their whole childhood in which to transfer your values, teach your beliefs, explore God’s beautiful world together, do the art projects and the science experiments, listen to great music, and read the classic children’s literature. You don’t have to do it all this week!
If I could give new homeschoolers some advice it would be this: relax and live with your kids. Most of what we teach our kids is caught, not taught. Our attitude, our religion, our worldview . . . these things are transferred by our expressions, the gestures we make, the look on our faces. Children are so perceptive!
When thunder roars and lightening strikes, I love to turn off all the lights, open the windows to let the noise and wind in, and enjoy the majesty of the storm, feeling awestruck at God’s power. My children, of course, “caught” this attitude. My daughter was babysitting during a thunderstorm and the children all ran to her crying and hid their heads under pillows. She was so amazed that they didn’t enjoy it! Later, while visiting their mother, I learned she was terrified of thunderstorms. Caught, not taught.
So, spending time with your children, drawing them into your life— your chores, your acts of service, the thoughts you think, the books you read, your music, your friends . . . your world—will teach them how to live and what to value and seek after. And there is a place for academics and study too. Just not first place!
While I had my 7 in homeschool, I rotated from child to child to help them, and I could get overwhelmed with the things they each needed work on. I could get boggled easily. So I started carrying a spiral notebook with me. I divided the notebook approximately into the number of children I was schooling and made a makeshift tab with a colored paperclip for each. As I helped them correct their writing, or do their math, or other schoolwork, I would privately jot down the glaring problems: Emily is making her “j’s” backwards, Nathan doesn’t have his 7x mastered, Julianna is repeating misspelling “because”. . . and so forth for each child. Recording the teaching needs helped me remember, and feel assured that I could focus on it in days to come, without interrupting the flow of learning at that moment. This is especially important with teaching a child to write. Mechanics can bog them down and take the joy out of writing if too much correction is done at one time.
There is a lot of good food to eat in this life, but piling it all in a huge heap to force feed in one meal is overload and not enjoyable or even nourishing. There are wonderful things to learn, much more than one lifetime, or one childhood, can hold. But trying to cram it all in results in little really being absorbed. Choose carefully what you feel is important to teach, write out a reasonably-paced plan, and then teach your child according to your plan year-by-year in a relaxed, playful manner. Don’t panic. Don’t move into hyper-speed mode and try to stuff it all in. Kids don’t need grammar in first grade. They don’t need academic pressure. There is next year and next year and next year. You can make course corrections along the way. You’ll get better at teaching your children as you go, as you learn. Get close to your children and get to know them and, you will know their talents and aptitudes and be able to fine tune your plan and offer just what they need. Enjoy. Don’t get stressed.
Easy now. You’ve got a whole childhood.