I’ve had a lot of people ask me lately how homeschooling is going.
“I could never do it” they say. “You’re so brave!” they say.
Am I? Brave by grace, maybe.:) I did have a chance to get my feet wet last year when I kept Faith home for PreK. This fall, having a Kindergartener and a First Grader to teach has been going well.
I am doing what I think I’m supposed to be doing. And God has been good to me lately. I tell people who ask me about homeschooling that it really is true: If God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it.
The graces God has been pouring out on me this fall have taken so many forms. Like my precious little pre-teen neighbor–my own “mother’s helper”–who comes over once a week to spend the afternoon playing with the big kids and holding the baby for me. Like the outpouring of kindness I’ve received from other mothers in the Catholic homeschooling community. Like slowly (although veeeeeery slowly) figuring out daily routines that help to fit Everything in (except the bathrooms, oh the bathrooms). Like my husband’s support and confidence in me. Like Gabe’s confidence as a student skyrocketing. Like Faith breezing through Kindergarten material as fast as I can give it to her. Like my once-fussy three-month-old turning into a cuddly, bombproof little lovebug. Like the realization that I corrected one of the kids today with a little more patience than I use to. Like a friend commenting that Gabe (who spent the last two years in traditional school) “sort of looks like a different kid.”
Homeschooling is humbling me in some big ways, though. For example, I didn’t realize that I had an icky little pride issue going on where my husband was concerned. We were blessed to be able to start piano lessons for Gabriel and Faith this fall, but for the first few weeks I was having trouble fitting in daily practice with both of them. I asked Michael if he could help me by doing it with the kids in the evenings. However, he came back with the suggestion that I add it in to our homeschooling routine in the mornings. Truth be told, our kids go to bed less than an hour and a half after Michael gets home from work; there’s just not a lot of downtime between dinner and bedtime activities.
So, naturally I
raged fumed cried balked at his suggestion. As in, how dare he have a suggestion like that–doesn’t he know how much I’m trying to do and that I need some help around here??!! The thing is, when I put some honest, prayerful thought to the idea…it wasn’t such a dumb idea. The next week, I started switching off a quick one-on-one piano practice with each child. The other child does “journal time” copying and illustrating a Bible verse, poem, or writing prompt for the day. And it works beautifully. Usually.
Man, those “you actually had a good idea and I was being stupid about it” apologies are tough. And that’s the work of marriage sometimes, isn’t it? 🙂
When I told my family and friends that we were pregnant for Roman, most of them knew that I was already planning to homeschool my oldest two children starting this fall. I probably had five people ask me immediately on hearing my due date: “Oh, so then you’re not going to homeschool anymore? How is that going to work? That’s brave!” I never had a good answer for that question. I didn’t have a plan for how homeschooling was going to work with a newborn in tow. I just knew I would have to figure it out, and that God would have to help me.
Really, everything is still a work in progress, three months in. Homeschooling is definitely a new kind of lifestyle for all of us, and as the engine and heart of just about everything that goes on in my home, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t. And I imagine that I may never stop learning. My kids will keep getting older…the material will change every school year…and the baby will be a gamechanger once he’s walking and getting into trouble sooner than I want to think about!
Don’t I know that changing seasons of life may mean I never find a perfect routine that sticks for long. Maybe the secret is to not get so darn discouraged when I can’t seem to pull everything together, and think calmly instead, “OK. So what can I tweak that may help things run more smoothly here?”
Like laundry. We spent several weeks this fall with laundry perpetually on at least half of the big sectional in our living room. I cried a few times about it. And then I up and started running a couple a loads a night and folding those loads before breakfast the next morning. And I started making the kids fold a pile of anything remotely square or rectangular. Then, I started having the kids also put away all of the folded laundry. We aren’t 100% on this. Not nearly. But it’s all part of learning what works, isn’t it?
There are so many other things I’m learning in homeschooling and in life in general lately. Aren’t we mothers always adjusting and figuring out new ways to love and schedule and nurture and provide and get All of It done?
I’m figuring out how many days a week I really need for schoolwork. Currently–about three or four days a week. I’ve learned the best times to schedule doctor’s appointments so that we can fit school in. I’m learning that it’s best for all parties involved not to leave schoolwork until the afternoon. I’m learning that taking all four kids by myself to certain kinds of field trips is a terrible idea right now. I’m using my crockpot more than I ever have in my life. I’m learning that making it a priority to get to the gym a couple of times a week helps me to be a better mom. I’m learning the spiritual and logistical necessity of getting up on time every day (now that I don’t answer to the school bell anymore). I’m learning that it’s not the end of the world if I have to nurse the baby or bounce him in my arms while helping the kids with schoolwork. I’m learning that small gestures I make to “include” my three-year-old in homeschool work go a long way in keeping her happy. For example, she is over the moon for the two minutes (literally) that I sit with her and do her “penano” practice after Gabe and Faith are done. I’m also learning that there is nothing wrong and everything right about putting “use paper plates for dinner/spend time with Michael TONIGHT” regularly on my to-do list.
I get that the idea of homeschooling can be intimidating for a lot of people. It certainly intimidated me! But it’s not about me. You don’t have to reach a certain level of fearlessness, or put-togetherness, or holiness, to be a homeschooling mother. You just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing with calling you to homeschool for this school year, and that He’s going to help you. You’d be amazed at what you end up being able to do with the thousand little graces God sends to help you through something He wants you to do.
And ya’ll, I am still using paper plates for at least two meals a day.;)
Roman, 3 months 🙂 Behold, the cuteness.
Brothers. Gabriel loves to hold his brother. It melts my heart every time.
The Trunk-or-Treat festival at my aunt’s church near our house. The kids had a blast this year. Michael couldn’t make it, so I went solo but had my aunt for help, thank goodness.
This picture was taken on a homeschool group field trip to a local pumpkin patch. It was a great place, but I literally couldn’t keep track of the kids running around to all of the different activities. The breaking point was when I had to go pick up my three-year-old, Gianna, in the lost and found. She had wandered off into the woods and a kindly teacher from one of the school groups had escorted her to the farm office. #momoftheyear #neveragain #canistickmyheadinthesandnow
A family friend who is a retired teacher called me up out of the blue recently to ask if she could come do some fun history and science activities with the kids once a month or so. Um, yes?! She came over a couple of weeks ago to teach the kids a solar system lesson, complete with a solar system and “universe” made our of cookie dough and candy. So fun.:) I don’t do many crafts at all in our everyday schoolwork, so this was a real treat. #punintended #edibleeducationrocks
Why yes, this is a forty-foot play set that my husband built in our backyard. And no, from this angle you can’t see the rope ladder, fireman’s pole, and rock wall features. In all seriousness, this play set has been another grace from God.
Jelly bean math is the best! My friend Julia came over one day with her four children, and we did fun math and sorting activities with a huge Costco jar of jelly beans I didn’t know what to do with. 🙂