Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Homeschool Mama {10 Truths To Keep You Trucking}

{I don't write a lot about homeschooling, but I found this in my draft folder this morning and thought it might be a good time to share. We're nearly there!}

We're a few months from the end, enough where you start to look around and realize that this is it: how homeschool life really looks in this house this year with these kids at these ages. Well then. Not quite how we pictured it back in July when September seemed a lifetime away and school and schedules seemed as plausible as snowflakes. We knew they were coming but they were such a long way off we almost forgot they weren't just part of a fairy tale.

But now here we are and each morning blearily staring down the blinking alarm and wondering just how we'll make it through another day. And what we were thinking anyway. And how on earth is this actually working when so often it feels like it's not.  I know we're almost to the finish line, but this Mama still needs a shot in the arm. A quick glance down a list or homeschooling realities. Maybe you, too?

1) It's going to be a mess. Oh I know you have a friend of a friend who homeschools eleventy of her own kids and two neighbors besides and manages to keep her home like the cover of Real Simple, but most of us don't live that way. Consider - if your children were at school, a janitor would be cleaning those bathrooms. They'd be eating in a cafeteria and not in your kitchen, which needs to be swept 3 times a day. There is wear and tear on a homeschoolers house that is just not present in the same way in a home where kids aren't all day. So relax. You're not doing it wrong. It's just how it is. Embrace the chaos, but keep those kids on task with chores because

2) It's a full time job. Not homeschooling and parenting or homeschooling and keeping house. Homeschooling alone is a full time job. You're a teacher. When you're not teaching, you're planning, ordering supplies, stressing, printing, researching. Understand that you are working HARD. This isn't a hobby. It's a job.

3) It's not always fun. I chased curriculum for years before realizing that maybe it wasn't the curriculum's fault that my kid didn't want to do it. Maybe it was simply because my kid didn't enjoy every aspect of school always every single day. I know I didn't! And don't. And that doesn't mean we are homeschooling failures. It means that life isn't perfect. What a great lesson. On the other hand...

4) Natural learning counts. Just because they aren't complaining doesn't mean they aren't learning. Sometimes kids do love learning. It's easy and fun and you think "wait a minute - shouldn't this be more difficult?" Those moments are gifts. Embrace them when they come along.

5) It's Ok to delegate. Homeschooling takes many shapes and forms, and the word "Homeschooling" can be a bit of a misnomer. Really, it should be called "alternative learning style" because when I look at the many homeschool families I know, I rarely see one way of doing it. Some do one or two subjects at home and enroll in co ops for everything else. Some do Charters from home. You don't have to be your child's sole teacher to be a homeschooler. Giving our kids a variety of learning experiences from different places and people is one of the things we love about homeschooling.

6) It's more than just academics. Sometimes we let academics run the show so much that we forget that some of the most important lessons our children learn have nothing to do with math or science or history at all. Good stewardship, servant mindedness and kindness to others are huge life lessons. And you are teaching them every single day. That is a big deal.

7) February Fatigue is real. The more homeschooling Mamas I talk to, the more I realize it's true: We all find our burnout somewhere mid year. Guess what? School teachers do, too. It doesn't mean you're doing it wrong, that your kids are awful obstinate people, or that throwing in the towel is the best option. It means that everyone gets worn out by the mundane sometime. Don't be afraid to change some things up for a little bit to breathe new life into your days when you need to.

8) You don't have to love it. I actually don't really enjoy homeschooling - but I believe it to be the best option for our family right now. I'd love have all the benefits of homeschooling with none of the actual work. Some of my friends really do nerd out about homeschooling - they love curriculum, they love teaching, they make a hobby out of teaching their kids. It's inspiring and awesome. It's also not me at all. If I never have to try and get a resistant child to focus on math again for the rest of my life, well...I wouldn't hate it. But I can still do it, and do it well, knowing that it's good and right for us.

9) It's not a guarantee. Sure, homeschooling statistics are awesome and homeschooled kids really do seem to hold their own just fine against their public schooled peers. But homeschooling is not a guarantee that your kid will make it into Harvard, have harmonious life-long relationships with their siblings, or never stray from the ideals you've set in front of them. People are people. Children are their own people. Do your best by them but do not be devastated or wonder what you did wrong if they don't turn out in that perfect way you always imagines.

10) There's grace for today. I used to get all freaked out if we didn't get to it all in one day. I expected my kids to do every single subject every single day. Schools don't even do that, but I was convinced we had to. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the flexibility to see where your child is today. Not only from an academic stand point but from a spiritual and emotional point of view. Some days a kid needs something more...and some days? Less. Some days the kindergartener really does just need to be sent out in the back yard for some alone time. School will be there tomorrow. He's not losing any momentum by having his needs addressed. If anything, pushing him on when he clearly needs a break will do more damage. So rest easy. A kid doesn't cease learning or thinking or growing when you close the book.

We keep on keeping on with this lifestyle and I find to my surprise that we have the best homeschooling year yet. Maybe I say that every year, but this year it feels true.  When I can keep my expectations in check with my little list of truths, I can enjoy what we have today. Treasure up these moments, knowing that life changes quickly and one day this will all be a fond memory.

Homeschooling is hard. But I can't imagine life without it.

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  1. Thanks for sharing! I don't always love homeschooling either, but it is the best choice for my kids right now too. Sadly, I have seen several friends give up on homeschooling because they thought they should love it every second. And in the end, they find that there are just as many hard days when the kids are in school too.

    I also have friends that have made it like a hobby. They plan school activities with their free time, blog about it, and seem to love it. Until you said that, I hadn't thought of it as a hobby...but you are right. That's what they do instead of sewing or knitting or cooking. Good encouragement!

  2. You're awesome! Thank you for this. You totally nailed it! I needed this "shot in the arm."

  3. Hi Lydia--I've checked in on your sweet blog from time to time, often because our mutual friend, Julia Cooper will link to it. I always enjoy your writing. Then, just this past weekend, I found another connection. It seems that you, too, know Kimmy Ann. Such a small world! As a former homeschooling mama, I find myself remembering the gentle rhythm of our days. Not always perfect, but always together. Reading your blog reminds me of those times. Wishing you all the best as you get ready to welcome another joyful life, Jen Cohen

  4. I swear..every time I check into your blog I find something perfectly relevant to today. It's amazing and scary. The scary thing is that I've been considering homeschooling since that first heartbeat came into view on the ultrasound...6 years and 3 children ago. But I'm afraid to do something so drastically different from how I was raised (loving regular school). So I keep putting it off and saying that if God wants me to homeschool, he'll make it very clear. Well, the topic keeps following me around. It came up again randomly just as we were leaving our church life group last night on a day when I had been thinking about it again. And now this. I feel like it's confirmation in my "inkling" but I know I'll keep putting it off. Is there anything you turned to when making the decision? Or was it just a natural progression for you because it's how you grew up? We're "first generation" christians coming from a roman catholic background, so I'm just so afraid that I might permanently mess up my kids if I veer too far from the worn path of my family history (like going to a regular school).


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