Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Homeschool Learning Curve: Part 1

Last week, I shared about the decision to homeschool one of our sons.  After our first *official* month of school, I can honestly say the adjustment has been easier + harder than I expected.  Over the summer, I did lots of reading, researching, planning, and ordering.  But in all honesty, it’s mostly a “baptism by fire” sort of experience.  Meaning, you can’t fully appreciate it until you jump in with both feet.  Here is my best advice for surviving (and thriving in) the transition to homeschool:

Prepare.  Mentally, that is.  I began to map out a plan/outline of what I wanted to cover for the beginning of our homeschool year as soon as we decided that this was actually happening.  I did a lot of reading and researching, but some of the greatest preparation I had was advice from families who had experienced homeschooling for themselves.  (I read this book, and it really helped me understand framework with which I wanted to establish our homeschool.)  My only qualifications for this job are the fact that I love my boy fiercely and I’ve received the blessing of being educated myself.  Never having been in a classroom in a teaching capacity, it took me a while to understand that some days are better than others and some days you accomplish more than others.  Which is what all teachers experience at one point or another.  

Routine.  I find that it is very easy to be hard on myself about not doing things well enough.  Any mom remembers what it was like to take their first child home and wonder, why is no one watching me.  It’s not necessarily that you think you can’t do the job, but the lack of oversight is a little unsettling.  That’s sort of how the first month of homeschooling feels.  Like you’re messing up, and no one can tell, but at some point, the game will be up when your child is way behind.  Thankfully, I’ve gotten past that.  For Carter, routine and clear expectations make the world run smoothly, no matter the context.  So in school, it took us the better part of a month to establish routines that made sense and worked for both of us.  Now, we run this operation together like a well oiled machine.  Our morning work is like clockwork, and our afternoons are a little more free form to do some fun activities.  (PS, he does stay in pajamas for as long as possible . . . my dream).  

Transition.  This has been a huge transition, and it’s taken time to adjust.  I would be lying if I said that part was easy.  Home for Carter has always been a place of refuge, fun, and relaxation.  He’s always happy to come home at the end of a day out, play with his toys, and snuggle in a book.  It was hard to shift him from that idea into expectations to be serious during lessons.  There are times of fun, but there are also times to learn, and turning off the sillies was not something he did willingly.  It was frustrating.  But with time and routine, we nipped that and now we can focus together, get down to business, and do what we need to do in a school day.  Another shift in thinking has been regarding time.  We stick to a routine, but we always finish what we’re working on.  If that means it takes longer and we have to push something to the next day, that’s what we do.  And it’s taking me time to get used to that.  Some things we get through quickly, and other things (math especially) take more time and patience.  Just this week, we went back and started our math all over again (we started over the summer).  He just wasn’t strong enough to continue and need more of the foundational work.  Which is the main reason we wanted him home: so he could work and learn at his own pace and build a better foundation of knowledge for his future.  Taking the step backward isn’t always fun or easy.  But it’s right.

Be inspired to make things personal.  Before school started, I developed two very important ideas:  rules for school and a theme for the year.  The rules are simple, and they apply to both of us:

Patience and Self Control 
Forget Time
Ask Questions
Keep Trying (again and again)
Share Feelings
Be a Team

In almost every moment of drama, we can refer to the “rules” and evaluate our behavior.  And I mean it when I say it applies to both of us.  I am learning this new way of life just as much as he is, and with that comes some not nice thoughts . . . and even if I don’t say them out loud, the rules helps me shift my thinking.  The absolute best thing I did to prepare was to develop a theme for the year.  I did some journaling and really thought about what my goals were for the year and how success looks to me.  My faith is my biggest priority, so I chose a Bible verse that spoke to my heart:

tune your ears to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding.
Proverbs 2:2

It’s posted multiple places in our school area, and let me tell you, it’s been a constant reminder of our purpose in homeschool.

Take the whole family into consideration.  This has been a huge transition for everyone in our family, especially our other boys.  Everyone handles things in their own unique way.  While our oldest is certainly more independent and has always loved school, our first grader is having a hard time being away from home, knowing that we are here.  There have been lots of tears and clingy-ness on his part.  I’ve been helping in his classroom while Carter is in gym/music, and being with him at school is something he looks forward to now.  And a few extra hugs go a long way:)

Preparation helped me keep my sanity and focus on the bigger picture, and it's the greatest thing I could have done ahead of diving into this new adventure.  If you have questions for me, please comment or send me an email!  I would love to encourage someone else the way that I've been encouraged by others:)

Here is a peek at what we're up to this week:

Stay tuned for part II, about our learning objectives/curriculum!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Wildest of All

Carter, age 8

Motherhood is a wild ride.  

Ten years ago, this week, I brought my first baby home from the hospital.  Like most new moms, I was consumed with the never ending cycle of nursing, diaper changing, and sleeping.  Repeat.  Except, I wasn’t doing much of the sleeping.  Every woman who has ever been a mother has shared this experience.  And then our paths divert, as we mother in our own, unique ways to uniquely created tiny humans.

But one thing might remain universal as we all grow in our experience as mothers:  not being able to see what’s to come.  Ten years ago, I could never have imagined that I would be the mother of three boys in less than 3.5 years.  I never imagined some of the challenges that I would face as a mother, and how raw and vulnerable I have felt at some moments over the last decade of my life.  

We are all imperfect humans, and even though I love each of my sons as if they were my one and only, they each have their unique struggles and have learned some lessons the hard way (like most of us have).  But what happens when your struggles become too much?  Where do you turn?  For 8.5 years, I have seen our second son struggle in ways that are beyond what they should be.  Over the years, we’ve had countless appointments with doctors and therapists, as well as school evaluations, IEPs, and so on.  All spinning in a wheel, trying to find the “right” answers to help his brain grow, develop, and learn . . . in a school environment.  But sometimes, you just can’t make it all fit.  

And so, after one very frustrating year, I said to a friend, “I wish I could just homeschool him.”  Instead of telling me I was crazy, she said, “why don’t you?”  And that was the catalyst for one of the biggest, craziest, boldest decisions of my life: homeschooling my third grade son.  

I did a lot of reading, researching, planning, organizing, shopping, and scouring the internet for information.  I told myself I would have the month of September to settle into a routine.  Truth?  It’s been hard.  And not just for me, but for all of my boys, especially my little one, who feels like he’s missing so much at home.  

It’s been the better part of a year since I have written one word here.  It’s been a huge shift in our life, and I am trying to be sensitive to the fact that my son has a right to his own privacy.  Initially, he didn’t want people to know that he was being homeschooled and didn’t want to answer any questions about it.  But as things usually go, he has adjusted to this new way of life, as have I.  

As we go along, I want to share our experiences as a family in an honest way, to encourage others (homeschooling or not) who can relate to parenting a child you couldn't have predicted when you held him for the first time.  Have faith.  Take courage.  Be bold.  And keep moving forward.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015


{Breakfast for dinner}

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