” What’s a typical day at your house like?” or even..
“How do you do it?”
I understand the question, and on a certain level the question is a good and useful one. Iron sharpens iron. We learn from one another. I get that.
But… It is also a dangerous question.
It really doesn’t matter what a day at my house looks like. Some days if you had visited my house you would have seen me with beautiful scrubbed children sitting peacefully in a circle working on a craft or listening to a story. Well, maybe in my dreams you would have seen that. Other days if you had visited us, you could have helped me try to corral the inmates and scrape cheese puffs off the floor. Then we could arbitrate a dispute between the puppy and the toddler over who’s toy it really was, all while teaching algebra and reading. I assure you the reality far exceeded the dream.
A mom with young children recently shared with me that she really wanted to be “good at this”. I hear her heart. I think it’s every mom’s heart cry and most especially that of every homeschool mom. It’s a fearful thing to pull your child from education run by experts and to take that task on yourself.
If you mess up there’s no one else to blame.
It’s a sobering reality.
That is why I took a humorous look at the whole issue in my first “typical day” post last year. It’s important to know that everyone has those days, and those moments. Moments that are so bad the word ridiculous doesn’t quite cover it. While my post was intentionally funny, my point was not. You are primarily a family.
If your third grader must concentrate while the toddler hammers on his chair legs, understand that the concentration he learns is a “forever skill” that God can use. All that comes with learning in a family environment contributes to the richness of the masterpiece God is painting into the life of your children.
I have 28 years of perspective to draw from here. I have seen all kinds of homeschool families; families with all different methods, styles, and life experiences. There were many hardworking moms whose educational philosophies and styles I frankly thought wouldn’t work.
And you know what? Thankfully, I was wrong.
God prospered all of them.
Now none of this is said to excuse any of us from the necessary organization, planning, or child training God calls us to.
It is merely a reminder that while you must work your very best; it is God who prospers your work.
So what does a typical day look like?
It looks like hard work.
It looks like crazy family life.
Most importantly it looks like line upon line… precept upon precept…
As your children get to walk life and learning with you each day, they learn more than how to read and how to do fractions. They learn what to do with unexpected interruptions. They learn to interact across all ages and generations. They learn that their relationship with God is their foundation, and that it will impact every area of their life.
They learn how to live for Jesus.
You beloved, are an amazing lady doing a great work. I know it is hard some days when toddlers behave like tyrants, teenagers like toddlers, and math looms like a giant determined to defeat you.
Everyone has those days. It’s ok. Just be faithful. Do what comes next.
I have found that there are three stages in every work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done. J. Hudson Taylor
Dear First Time Homeschool Mom,
For the last 28 years I sat where you are today. I remember.
This is scary stuff, and it definitely isn’t as easy as it looks.
I am cheering for you from the sidelines; and since I remember how it feels, there are a few things I want to say to you.
Whether this is your first year, or you are an experienced homescool mom feeling a little weary, this is the best decision you and your husband will ever have made for your family. Really it is.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed.
There are giants in the land. It seems there are always giants in the land that God sets before His people. Israel’s giants were literal. Yours are figurative, but nevertheless they are real, and they can be scary.
My very first year, in the very first weeks of homeschooling, 28 long years ago, I was overwhelmed. I locked myself in my room and told the Lord that I refused to go downstairs and face those kids. (Ok… I was feeling dramatic, but they were a tough crowd.) I needed help. I needed encouragement. I needed Him to give me something that would make me able to do this even one more minute, let alone one more day. He answered and gave me an answer that sustained me to school 7 kids over the next 27 years. I can share my answer sometime if you are interested, but honestly it doesn’t matter. The point is that the same God who answered and sustained me will answer and sustain you. He has the help that you need. Ask Him. He is always faithful.
Your children will learn.
This is an important to say, because I promise you it will often seem as if they aren’t, don’t, can’t and won’t. When they were in school you didn’t see the blank stares, the inattention, the dawdling, the rushing to fill out the paperwork just so they could play on the computer or go out for recess. All those habits are common to children, and yours may bring any or all of them to your homeschool. Nevertheless, they will learn. You are enough. The same woman who didn’t flinch at teaching her kids to tie their shoes, or eat like a human, can teach them to multiply. God calls, and God equips.
Little progress added up over a year equals great achievement.
Don’t measure your progress by days. Some days the kids are impossible and thick headed. Some days they are distracted and whiny. Some days they are wonderful, attentive, and evidently learning. All the days matter. They are all good. Some days they are learning fractions, other days they are learning persistence. Both are needful. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Plod on. They will learn.
You are weaving a tapestry, not sewing a simple seam.
I’ve heard it expressed as a marathon, not a sprint. Whichever metaphor works for you, the point is the same. Homeschooling is a great work, and you can’t see the finished product from the meager beginning. Stitch by stitch, lesson by lesson, day by day you are infusing character, and doing life with your precious children. Remember the goal. Cherish the opportunity. I promise that even 28 years goes by really fast.
Remember the enemy. He will make you think your mistakes are huge, your accomplishments insignificant, and declare that you are not enough. Resist Him. Focus on the One who called you to this great work and who is always enough. He will make your paths straight. He loves your children even more than you do. He knows your weaknesses and your strengths. The God of the universe will help you explain even decimals. (I mention decimals because my first year homeschooling, that was the new concept I was responsible to communicate to my then 4th grader. She proceeded to miss every decimal question that year on her standardized test. It was an epic fail for me that taught us both persistence and eventually how to win. Failure is temporary…. quitting is permanent)
He will help you teach them to read. He wants them to read His Word.
He is behind you, before you and all around you and is not limited by your limits.
Families are fun places. Homeschooling is learning done in a family. Take time to make it fun for your kids (and you). Take breaks, laugh, play, do things in a new or different way. Win their hearts, and you win them forever.
Be encouraged brave lady as you continue on this journey with your family. God has your back. He called. He will enable. Don’t listen to your fears, your insecurities, or the kids whining. Listen instead to His voice and believe that the work you do this day, this week, this month, and this year will impact generations to come; because you were faithful.
Praying God’s blessings on your homeschool this year. Let me know if I can be of help to you.
I can feel the excitement brewing in your heart and home. It is almost opening day, the first day of a fresh new school year.
You want your kids to love being homeschooled, and let’s face it they’re bombarded this time of year with all sorts of back to school images that don’t look anything like their school. The first day is a great time to remind them that homeschooling is awesome, and that family life is fun.
Sounds good but you’re already out of ideas? Well, here’s a few to help get you started.
If you’re really wanting to make a bang, consider having your first day back be a Homeschool Wacky Olympic Day.
We often did this as our homeschool opening day and played all sorts of wild and crazy games. Race with water balloons between your knees. Blindfold your kids and see how many marbles they can pick up out of a tub of water with their toes and put in a bucket in a minute. On a side note and not to brag or anything, but if this was an Olympic sport, I have a daughter who could whomp them all. It’s a measure of how fun and memorable this is that this very lad- like daughter who is now a mom of many still will brag on her undefeated title.
Take a different color of yarn for each child. Unwind it through the house and outside. Throw it out windows, tangle it through trees, go upstairs, downstairs, under furniture, and around table legs. Wind around every tricky thing you can think of. Go out the front door, around the house and in through the back door (it is amazing how long a skein of yarn really is). Then let the kids race to roll their yarn color back up in a ball. To be fair make the younger children’s skein of yarn shorter and easier, use the whole skein as they get older, and do some semi- impossible challenges for the teens.
Consider a breakfast picnic. Pack the kids up and take them to a park or outdoor play area, have breakfast outside and play. Or, do it in your front yard and then have…. Homeschool Wacky Olympic Game Day.
Set up a treasure hunt. Early that up morning plant clues around the house and neighborhood that end up with some special school supplies, or a special treat for lunch.
Take a field trip. While everyone else is loading up on the school bus, pack your kids and take them to the zoo, local science museum, beach, or whatever fun and interesting place is near you. An added benefit is that these places tend to be pretty empty on the first day of school.
Have a picnic lunch and fly kites. If you’re feeling adventurous, home-made kites are easily made with garbage bags and dowel rods. Having the kids design a structure that will fly is both challenging and fun.
6. Try Air Force and Navy Challenge Day. Make paper airplanes (there are library books that give design ideas if you aren’t airplane makers) Have challenges for longest distance traveled (always make it the best out of three tries to compensate for the inevitable occasional bad throw), best trick plane (for the ones that fly wonky no matter what you do), best design or artistry, and best carrier plane (tape pennies or paper clips to the wings).
For the Navy challenge make boats out of aluminum foil. Test them for weight by adding pennies one at a time until they sink.
The possibilities are endless. Any of these special days also work during the school year to spice things up and add a change of pace. I share these just as a spark your own creativity, and to encourage you in making the first day an awesome memory.
Praying the Lord richly blesses your homeschool this year.
Have an awesome first day back.
Let me know how it’s going, and how I can help you.
Help us all out and add yourfamily’s favorite first day activities in the comments.
Hurrah! It’s hunting season. I frankly love this time of year. It’s finally time to get out your catalogs, sign up for state convention and purchase next year’s curriculum.
When I began homeschooling in the ’80’s very little was available to us. It made the hunt easier in some ways, and frustrating in others. If you wanted anatomy for your high schooler, it simply wasn’t available. However, it also wasn’t necessary to sift through mountains of material to find a reading program. It can be pretty overwhelming to search through everything currently available to find those special books that are going to help you captivate your student.
With that thought, here are some hopefully helpful principles from a long time curriculum hunter, as I sit out the hunt for the first time in….27 years.
Curriculum is your servant, you are not its slave.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around this truth. Educating your child at home is a sobering responsibility, and we all feel inadequate to the task. It becomes very easy to enslave yourself to your curriculum. Remember your purpose is education and mastery. It is not the completion of the book, the video or the worksheet. It is not doing every problem, or project. Choose freedom, use curriculum to accomplish the goal. Do not allow your curriculum to become a dictator that you serve. Remember it is just a tool that you choose to use to help you and your child accomplish educational goals.
Don’t limit your children by your choices.
Avoid curriculum decisions that will limit your children’s future opportunities. Do not assume that you or your child know what they will need or use in the future. The future is a big place. Give them everything that you can; so that they have the tools they need to do whatever God calls them to do. You cannot tell at 14 what they will want or need at 24. Don’t decide to limit their math or science because you don’t think they’re inclined that way. Ignore the whine as best you can and insist. At the finish line, you will both be grateful for every subject studied and every experience embraced.
Feed the spark.
Look for every opportunity to enrich and encourage those things that fascinate your child. Let them love to learn. It is a wonderful benefit of homeschooling that it takes so much less time to teach one student a skill, than it does to teach a whole classroom the same skill. Consequently, your student will have extra hours in their day. Fill some of that time with with what Greg Harris calls “delight directed study”. All that means is that you encourage extra learning in those areas that pique your child’s interest. Use the library, the internet, purchase extra books, take field trips and do some fun projects.
Don’t forget the fun.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the academics that you forget the experiences that make learning in a family fun. Include games, crafts, read alouds, field trips, and nature exploration. Plan for those things, that way they are more likely to happen. In this area especially it’s so easy to have good intentions; but when school actually starts, your schedule overruns you, and the fun disappears. If you plan fun into your curriculum it’s easier to make it happen.
Remember the goal.
While it is of course essential that you educate your child, make sure in doing so that you win their heart. You want them to love God and embrace the values that your family holds. To do that you must win them. Don’t get lost in endless worksheets and projects. Have spontaneous picnics. Read aloud under a favorite tree. Talk to them about everything. Share your heart, and most importantly let them share theirs. Point them to Jesus.
Praying you have a fruitful and blessed hunting season.
I’ve had requests for a post about a “typical” homeschool day at our house. These requests usually come from moms with toddlers who are busy trying to do double duty or moms with larger families. I don’t blame them for asking. I wish someone would show me how to do it too. 🙂
*warning* This post contains graphic descriptions of chaos that are not for the faint of heart. If you’re a mom considering homeschooling…. Come back to this blog when you’re ready to quit. At the very least it will convince you that if my kids were successfully educated; yours should go to Harvard.
*disclaimer* My current days bear little resemblance to the early homeschool ones, because while I am a mom of seven, only one is left in the house. Homeschooling my present senior is its own blog post, but I’m not brave enough to write it yet. 🙂
I remember my first year, in a burst of zealous excitement I posted a schedule with start and finish times for each of the different subjects.
That went the way of the dinosaur the first time we tried to do an ABeka math page. Seriously, there were not enough hours in the day.
I think I initially had visions of freshly scrubbed faces eagerly anticipating the day’s lessons. Reality looked more like little kids following me around asking what to do next with cheese puffs stuck to their socks. I had anticipated organization and order. I just hadn’t quite foreseen how quickly the toddler could get to the toilet while I was trying to explain fractions for the umpteenth time. Sopping wet sleeves and cries of “ewww gros” were not necessarily part of an organized homeschool lesson. Unfortunately, if you barricade the bathroom none of the short children can get in.
Reality looked much different than my expectations.
One morning during Bible time a flea had the audacity to jump on my arm. I realize this was not a national emergency, but I do not “do” bugs. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York. It’s too cold there for bugs. No one has bugs. I was certainly not going to have bugs. Additionally, we were new to the area and renting. I had already heard horror stories from long time Oklahoma residents of what happens if fleas get in your carpet. Apparently you may as well move out, because they will take over. Somewhere in the reading of that morning’s chapter this lone flea invaded my space, then promptly jumped off and escaped into the vast expanse of a roomful of carpet.
I was frantic.
I could see it multiplying exponentially in the very fibers of my front room.
Bible time was over.
The kids were sent to the table to do work pages while I dealt a death-blow to the looming infestation.
I only had a few minutes.
Work pages will only keep kids busy for a blip of time, and there was always the toddler waiting for the chance to have a tea party on the commode. I ran to the cupboard, grabbed the flea spray which was in a distinctively shaped bottle, and vigorously sprayed. If you are serious enough about spraying you can cover about three-fourths of a room before the smell of the spray even catches up with you. I know this to be true because when the smell did catch up with me, it had an unexpectedly strong bleachy tang to it. Apparently the bottle shape was not as distinctive as I had thought.
In case you are wondering…..
Yes, I really sprayed almost an entire roomful of carpet with Lime-Away.
Yes, it does change the color of the carpet………quickly.
No, the color change will not be uniform; but it will be permanent.
Yes, I promise you your husband will notice.
Yes, I am still married.
No, we never saw anymore fleas.
Organized lessons looked different than I thought.
Have I mentioned that my kids are intense? In my experience most homeschool children tend to be pretty intense about their interests. In our family, it’s extreme, because it’s a a function of both homeschooling and genetics. One of my middle children (If you have 7, you technically have 5 marvelous middle children) was the first to funnel that energetic intensity into bugs. You are already aware that that particular inclination is not in my DNA.
Anyhow, it all started with a BJU earth science text that had a myrmecology experiment in it.
No, I didn’t know what myrmecology was.
As a general rule….Never agree to science experiments that have words in them you do not know the meaning of. It always ends badly.
This very intense and completely engaged child successfully performed the experiment. Myrmecology refers to the study of ants; and as the text predicted, the ants really will follow each other up from the nest along a stick and into a jar creating a nifty homemade ant farm. It really was amazing with one or two minor issues. The first was that she went on her own to find the ants while I guarded the toddler and the bathroom, and took the first ants she saw. Fire ants are apparently the easiest to find. Unfortunately, at that point in my life I didn’t have instant recognition for fire ants. I also didn’t realize that ants that harmlessly fall back in the sand all day as they try to crawl out of the jar will be instantly enabled when you turn out the lights. They will stay in the jar contentedly all day long looking like industrious oversized regular ants and suddenly turn into a bloodthirsty hoard flooding through the air holes the minute darkness hits.
There were a lot of ants in that jar, and they all escaped to exact revenge.
I could go on and on……
So, what’s the point here?
The point thankfully is not how many idiotic things have happened in my household as I’ve schooled over the years. Though I hope you find some comfort in the image of my kids with cheese puffs embedded in their socks it isn’t my main thrust.
I honestly think it’s important to know that all moms have “those” days. Actually, all moms have lots of “those” days, and because homeschool moms have extra work they have more opportunities for “those days”.
It’s not about the day.
You will have those days that are close to perfect and beautiful to see, but more often the days will have flaws.
Some days like these will be ridiculous.
Some will be difficult.
Schedules get interrupted.
Kids get sick.
Crisis moments come.
The point is that homeschooling is a marathon of days, and it’s the cumulative race that wins. No single day, week, month or year makes your homeschool a failure or a success.
That’s the whole beauty of Deuteronomy 6. It’s that constant walking together, teaching as you go that disciples young children into mighty men and women for God.
I think sometimes we’re guilty of thinking that learning should always look like a school. Then if life doesn’t look quiet, organized, and orderly, we think we’re failing. Actually God made children for families, and educating them was His idea first. It’s ok if your homeschool looks more like a family than a school. It’s supposed to. Just be faithful. Establish what routine you can. Walk day by day in it. Use the best books you can afford. Cherish the beautiful moments (there will be lots of them). Laugh at the ridiculous ones.
And above all….
Believe God. He is the one who called you to this. He is the one who will honor your effort.