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Friday, January 4, 2013

Mommy's Toolbox--Things to Consider When Turning the Corner in Your Home-schooling!

A major planning slump!
It's the beginning of a new year--a time when countless home-schooling mothers seem to experience a major planning slump in the months between Christmas and spring-time, especially with those mothers who are home-schooling for the very first time!

We may feel a bit unsure because:

  • Our children are not cooperating.
  • The curriculum we chose doesn't seem to be working.
  • The relatives (and/or friends) are really negative.
  • Our life and/or home is in such disarray that we can't get "school" done.
  • We aren't sure we can handle 12 years of this!
  • Financial circumstances are adding to the difficulty and pressure of the situation.

Here are some ideas that have helped me to get "over the hump" during the past 25 years. 

1. Don't give your children too much too soon. I read recently about a young mother who wanted to begin officially homeschooling her little girl before she had even reached the tender age of two-years-old! In my humble opinion, bright toddlers are like "little learning machines," they rarely lack the energy or enthusiasm necessary for discovering and enjoying new things!

The trick is to tap into their natural inclinations. A good initial step would be to keep a toddler's environment free from empty-brained "time wasters," such as the new gadgets for babies that are supposed to mimic iPhones, iPads, and the like. Small children will learn best in an environment that facilitates and encourages open-ended play, such as with blocks, dolls, a sand-box, Legos, etc. Fortunately, these types of play-areas and toys are easy to come by, and are not too expensive.

Three other important parts of a good preschool curriculum are: 1) responding in a warm and supportive manner to questions, 2) reading books aloud, and 3) including your child in day-to-day life experiences.

To many this is a natural part of the nurturing that is essential to teaching your children at home. 

What is next?
2. Don't be afraid to drop something that is either too advanced or too tedious. If your children don't like the curricula or methods that you are using that's one thing, it's another thing if you dread using them yourself! 

No matter how colorful, glossy or high-tech a program may seem, it could be the very worst thing for you and your family. 

The kind of learning that makes a lasting difference in a person's life is not the canned-type that must be driven by teachers and other authorities. Schools don't understand this, of course, and this is primarily why they are forced to use advertising gimmicks to keep the attention of students. This is the reason why much of the curriculum materials are so colorful and filled with graphics, but even the best window-dressing in the world will not hide the blandness that lurks beneath, and savvy young scholars can sniff out demagoguery a mile away!

The learning that sticks is so interesting on its own merits that your children won't have to be prodded to use it. You will quickly discover that your kids will sneak it into their bedrooms, and hide under their covers to read about it after bedtime. They will be so engaged with it that they will want to spend every waking hour in its pursuit because it is "delight-driven" learning. 

I know it is hard to give up on something that you have spent a lot of money for, and it is a bit hard on one's pride to admit to making a wrong choice, but the alternative is just too detrimental to consider not correcting the mistake! 

Do yourself and your kids a favor and let it go.

(We have chosen to use McGuffey's Readers, Ray's Arithmetics and Spencerian Penmanship, etc. because these cover the basic academic subjects and leave loads of room for other topical subject matter to be learned in more natural ways) 

3. Get some encouragement and moral support from someone who has been where you are now. Keep in mind that home-schooling is still counter-cultural today. When a parent chooses to educate their children at "home," there may be some folks who feel uncomfortable with your decision to do so. The grandparents are worried about how their grandchildren will get along in the world, both friends and some relatives may automatically assume that they are being judged by your unconventional choices, it's simply human nature.  

Be sure that you become grounded in your decision to home-school, so that you will be able to intelligently communicate the why's and wherefore's of what you believe. Have you ever noticed that those who are very confident hardly ever spend time defending themselves, while those who are secretly unsure are the ones who are the most vociferous and adamant? More often than not, they are, in reality, the ones that are filled with unfounded doubts and are easily influenced.

Why are you homeschooling? It is important for you to examine your true motives, because the foundations will determine whether you will be building your home-school with a "house of cards" or on "solid-rock." 

Read some good books, not only about how awful public schooling is, but also about how wonderful true learning can be, and even what true learning is. Take some notes, talk to some people, read some testimonies, make some friends; pray, pray, pray. It is likely that you will come out of such a time of soul-searching stronger than ever before, and you will be able to look past the voices that were once a torment and be able to show unconditional love to those people in spite of themselves! 

4. Get a handle on the small and disorganized things in your life. Are the children unruly?--take some time and energy to get them back into line. Is the current condition of your house in disarray--roll up your shirt-sleeves and get your house in order and then learn how to make it run more smoothly. Get the social media in your home under control, have some sort of routine in place, and become self-disciplined. You know, order adds to our lives, it doesn't detract. Good habits benefit us, but bad habits will enslave us. 

Just imagine how wonderful it would be to not have to waste hours searching for a pair of scissors, a pen, or a hammer when you are hanging a picture. It would be so great to know ahead of schedule what you are having for supper, or that your children will be wearing clean clothes. All of these things take planning and diligence, but having a place for everything and everything in its place will pay you back in dividends! 

5. Learn to take things one-day-at-a-time. In some ways, the choice to public school ones children can give a parent a lot of security; there is an expected course with an expected end, hopefully a college education and as a result a successful life (provided you agree with and are willing to submit your children to their agenda, curriculum, amoral approach and resulting statistical record of failure). 

We are not all the same!
But we human beings have a way of thwarting "the best laid plans." Try as we might, we simply can not squeeze every child into the same mold in the elusive hope that by so doing we will alleviate all of our problems! Students are often unwilling, or even unable, to follow the expected course. They don't always finish the reading assignment on time, or perhaps they can't grasp abstract mathematics, and sometimes may have difficulty concentrating, or get easily bored, and have behavior problems as a result. People are individuals and not machines; they are living and unique spirit-beings, and the God who is there and is in charge is not interested in factory-produced automatons.

Don't live in the future, but allow His plans to unfold before you. If you submit to His perfect will, live to please Him and teach your children to do the same, you will be amazed at how He will be able to work even the worst of things together for your good. (Romans 8:28) 

6. Tighten up, simplify, and learn to live a faithful and thankful, praise-filled life. Learn to make do with little, and God will make you worthy of much, either in this life or in the life which is to come! Money has been tight for us for most of our home-schooling experience. During our 30 years of marriage we have predominately lived from month-to-month, often having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I have had to learn to fix my own hair, give the boys haircuts, sew clothes, alter and repair second-hand clothing, make rice and beans a staple part of our diet, and drastically limit restaurant visits. Nevertheless, with this "deprivation" we have discovered the richness of a life of simplicity and thanksgiving, and the bounty of trusting a loving and merciful God who provides for all of our needs.
Above all, remember, walking in obedience to God is the best way to live a peaceful, and hope-filled life, because He holds our future and we can leave all the consequences up to Him.

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.


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