Ever feel like you are bumbling around amidst a three-ring circus in your attempts to homeschool? There is nothing like a new baby to restore a teacher/mother’s humility in the face of her own inadequacies! For our homeschool, this chaos repeats itself every few years with the advent of a precious new “student.” I have homeschooled in my robe nursing my baby while I have tried to teach math, correct papers and read stories:
“Mom, can’t you hold the book still? I can’t see the pictures.”
“Sorry, honey, the baby needs to be rocked.”
Guilt inevitably settles in as I imagine the public school superintendent dropping by for a surprise visit: “This is school?!”
Any of this sound familiar?
However, there is something about persevering with the matter of learning every day that convinces me that homeschooling is the right choice, even when it is far from perfection. Maybe it is not so far from perfection as we perceive it to be. What could be the perfect Unit Study if it is not watching your own mother morning-sick, uncomfortable, growing, waiting, and preparing, and seeing your own father helping, praying constantly for the well-being of the mother and child, serving tirelessly, taking on Mother’s workload—all in the anticipation of a new family member’s arrival after a tenuous 9-month journey? Our older children were able to see their baby brother’s delivery, and what awestruck expressions they had on their faces! Even though they were only present for the last few moments of his birth, they got a taste of the sacrifice required, the pain involved and also the joyous miracle of a new life! Then came the meals, letters, flowers, gifts, calls of concern, help of friends and neighbors: what an outpouring of love, and what an impression it made upon my children! “Lots of people care about us!” they said. It caused us all to recommit to helping people when they need us because it made such a wonderful difference to our family.
The time I spent recovering laying in bed listening to my children was quite a revelation! What a time to assess how well I have taught my children to be self-sufficient: to cook a meal, do the laundry, care for the little ones, be patient, etc. Here’s the real report card! If they can’t take care of day-to-day living, it really doesn’t matter very much if they know how to divide fractions, now does it? First things first.
Oh, the sweet vulnerability of babies! How dependent these little children are upon us, their parents, to teach them things of importance as they grow to the age of accountability. Seeing my little babe’s helplessness instills a great desire in my heart to carefully consider how I invest my children’s learning hours. Every homeschooler knows the frustration of “there is so much I want to teach them!” and time seems so limited. School year seems to flow into school year, and when I stop and consider what we’ve done, it doesn’t all seem as vital as I hoped it would.
So, with this new baby, I am taking the opportunity to see with new eyes what is really of value and how I can best teach it. I am setting some goals for what I want them to know when they leave my tutelage and just how we will arrive at that envied destination. The motto “Begin with the end in mind” is crucial to homeschool. With every-day crises, it is very easy to just survive instead of living your plan. Yet the years keep on circling around, and the moment is lost if we are not vigilant in aligning our activities with our goals.
Here are the goals that I have prayerfully arrived at:
- Teach my children to love the Lord and to know Him as their personal Savior, their help in time of need and their model of what to grow to be like.
- Teach them to love the Constitution and their freedom more than their lives.
- Teach them that each has a gift to give to mankind and that it is their responsibility to discover their gift, their life’s mission, and to make it their life’s work to give it to the world.
- Teach them that they can be a far more useful instrument in the Lord’s hands if they are clear-thinking and articulate.
- Teach them to be self-sufficient and live providently.
It is amazing how little this has to do with square roots and diagramming sentences, although those are necessary and have their proper priority.
After mapping my goals, I search for the best books and teaching tools and try to commit myself to what I will use with each child that year and to exactly what we hope to accomplish. Of course, this is subject to change, as are all the best of plans, but at least it points us in the right direction. Reviewing my goals regularly keeps me on track (and also helps me see how easy it is to get waylaid!).
I know one mother who is going to begin homeschooling “as soon as she gets organized and prepared.” She has been “preparing” for 6 years now! Preparation is really a spiritual matter. You are prepared enough if you can answer “yes” to these questions:
- Do I want to do the will of the Lord in educating my children, whatever it may be?
- Do I have my child’s best interest at heart?
- Am I teachable—willing to be learn, accept, flex, be inspired?
- Am I dedicated?
It takes time and effort to homeschool. Those hours must come from somewhere, which means less time for Mom to do what she wants.
“When you take the very first step on the road, you also take the last.” Take the time to make sure you are on the right road so when you’ve been retired from homeschooling, you can look back on your years with your children and feel confident that you’ve taught them the things that really matter!
May I recommend: