January 12, 2013
Homeschooling should be the most natural thing in the world for a mother to do, but like breastfeeding, it is surprisingly painful and difficult to get started. ;)
I have a friend who is an exceptional mother. She has been teaching her small children in such fun and enriching ways that one of my girls asked if they could join her family! However, since my friend made the decision to “homeschool” she has been totally overwhelmed not knowing how or what to teach her kids.
I felt the same way. Many of us that grew up in the public school system have a hard time conceptualizing what a homeschool should look like and sound like. It can be frightening walking into the unknown- especially when we have our little ones following our lead.
I received a degree in elementary education, so I have been thinking about teaching for a long time. I was probably as prepared (on paper) as a mom can be to teach. I had been collecting educational supplies until I amassed a collection of curriculum, work books, reading books, educational movies, games, and supplies that spilled out of every closet and shelf in my home. Yet when I checked my oldest out of public school to begin homeschool I had no idea where to start.
But, what I learned, and what my friend will learn is that she simply needs to keep doing what she’s been doing all along- being the mother, her child’s first and best teacher.
For my friend, and anyone else marching boldly into the great unknown, here is a pep talk and some things I have learned that may help you along your way...
1. Great Schools Look Like Home
When I first started homeschooling I got a desk and flag and we had the pledge and a bell schedule and even a hall pass for the bathroom. I even had an apple shaped clock on the wall. I tried to make my home like “school”. Which might work for some families, but the baby ate my visual aids and my toddler didn’t understand “not now, its school time” and suddenly learning with my kids was a chore- Forced and stressful and frustrating. Where had all the fun gone that we’d been having before “school” started?
In my elementary education courses we visited many classrooms. We were taught to look for the best practices that we would emulate in our future classroom. The best schools were the ones that provided individualized instruction, hands-on projects, low student-teacher ratio, field-trips, real life applications, safe learning environment, loving teachers, taught values, encouraged positive relationships with families and integrated subjects together. Hey, wait a minute…that sounds a lot like homeschool! The best schools (private, charter, or public) are trying to replicate a home learning experience.
Don’t try to be like school. School stinks. Be like home. That’s what the pro’s are doing.
2. Less is More.
When I was little, my sister came into our room and found me crying. I had arranged my stuffed animals on my bed to sleep with me, but there were so many of them that there was nowhere left for me to sleep. In matters of curriculum and such, less is more. To begin homeschool you need a library card, a high speed internet connection and some paper and pencils. Really. That’s it.
3. Head for the Endzone
I have tried so many different programs, school methods, and curriculum I feel like a football player who can’t decide which team he is on. It’s hard to score when you don’t know which goal is yours. While we waited for our dinner on a date, my husband and I made a quick list of the most important things we want our kids to know before they leave home. I was surprised at how few of those things could be learned at public school. Now that list guides me to what and how we will learn. I was constantly second guessing my decisions before and this has helped me to have direction and confidence in the course I am pursuing. We can't teach everything. We can't please everyone. There will be holes. Said Voltaire "Don't let perfection be the enemy of Good". Do your best. Trust your instincts, make a goal and head for it!
4. Learn from the Master Teacher
If you’ve been keeping up with your church news you’ve heard about the way the youth program has been redesigned in the church. I am convinced that the kids today are a special bunch and just as they are sent here to earth at this time for a special purpose, we are the special group sent just ahead of them to help them learn. The youth program “Come Follow Me” is helping leaders of youth learn to teach like the Master Teacher, our Savior Jesus Christ. The online training is exceptional and applies directly to homeschoolers. Check it out. The Best “Us” is the best teacher for our kids. We need to rise to the potential within us and become the best teacher we can be by following the Savior’s example.
5. Parent Teacher Conference
As a young school teacher interning in the first grade I was convinced that I knew better than the parents how to teach the kids in my classroom. After all, I was the one with the degree and spent every day with these kids. But, what an eye opener it was for me when the first parent teacher conference came around and in ten minutes of conferencing with a mother I learned I should be asking HER for teaching advice. She knew how to teach her son better than I ever could.
As teachers of the young spirits entrusted to our care we should not neglect to conference with their Father. Their Heavenly Father, the one who created them, knows best how to teach them and how to meet their specific needs. He loves them even more than we do and knows what they can become. If we will ask, He will help us.
6. NOW is the fun part.
It is good to have goals and look ahead, but with kids it is essential to enjoy the now. For so much of the last decade of my life my husband and I have been in the acquisitions stage. Getting degrees, getting jobs, getting kids, getting a house, getting pets, getting things…. These things are good to get, but somewhere along the line we need to stop acquiring and start enjoying.
I feel like an old lady saying this, but time really does go by so fast. (I know, I know, tell that to moms of colicky babies, the reluctant potty trainer, or cranky teens.) But, in the grand scheme of it all we have our children for such a short time. If we are always wishing away the moments or focusing on the next big thing we will find we missed it all. The days are long but the years are short. ENJOY IT!
7. Perfect Match
God’s plan for families is the perfect plan. We are divinely designed as the perfect teachers for our kids, just as they are divinely designed as the perfect teachers for us. Together we will learn what we need to learn to become like our Savior. It is this learning together that will bring us joy. William Butler Yeats wrote, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” Grow together.
8. ‘Tis the Season
On days that are so rotten I just want to hide in a quiet corner and rock, I try to remember that there will be other seasons to my life. Diapers won’t last forever. I will get to have a moment alone one day. Someday I will have a private conversation again. Peace and quiet will be mine. “We can have everything we want, just not all at the same time.” When I finally get my moment to rock in peace and quiet, maybe in a nursing home someday, I want to know that I gave it my all. That I made every moment count with my family. That I didn’t pass off the responsibility to teach my kids because I was too scared to try something unknown or because I felt inadequate or wanted my season alone too soon. Like Elder Anderson said, “Children are what God gave us time for.” I want to rock happily knowing that I enjoyed the heck out of motherhood.
9. We Can Do Hard Things
I know every family’s needs are different and homeschooling is not for everyone, but if you have chosen to homeschool and haven’t received a spiritual confirmation to do so, go to the Lord and ask for one. You will need that confirmation to get you through the hard days. In Moroni 7:33 Christ says, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” Through the strengthening power of the atonement of Christ we can become all that we need to be for our families. We can do hard things.
Homeschool on, my friends!
---------------------- Jana is the mother of five who spends half her day thinking homeschool is the best idea ever and the other half wondering, "Whose idea was this anyway?!" Regardless of which half of the day it is she feels truly blessed to be a mother with kids to teach, and the health to do it. She wants to be like Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley when she grows up. -----------------------