Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back-to-school: Preparing my heart for homeschooling

School starts for us on Monday.
I've spent the last couple weeks getting ready for this.
Meal plans, baking, charts, curriculum orders, bookshelf purging, cleaning out.
I'm also taking time this year to really prepare my heart for our 11 th year of homeschool.
This isn't an easy road.....often one I would like a detour from.
But I feel it's what the Lord has for us again this year.
So I'm pulling from the archives a post I wrote a couple years ago about what a homeschooling home REALLY looks like.
It's good for me to remember to have realistic goals and visions for our year!

Since beginning our homeschooling journey 8 years ago, I've learned a thing or two.
I am by no mean a "know-it-all," but I've been around the block a time or two, and made of mistakes.
I think that one of my biggest mistakes was thinking that you can manage teaching several different ages and learning abilities, all the core subjects all at the same time with 2 pre-schoolers stealthily snooping around, while preparing 3 meals a day, cleaning up after said pre-schoolers, keeping the laundry neatly folded and the house neat-as-a-pin, and participating in a myriade of outside sports teams, church activities, homeschool "co-op" groups, music lessons, and remain smiling and completely peaceful and sane all at the same time!!

Let me blow the lid off this cover-up right now.
Let me give you a peek at the dirty laundry laying around in nearly every homeschoolers home.
Let me let you in on the big, dark secrets.

It ain't happenin'!!

If you are considering homeschooling
or if you have just begun homeschooling and you handled the first year okay,
but you're adding more children as the years go by and you're starting to feel overwhelmed,
won't you allow me to put your mind at ease.

Because when you are homeschooling multiple children (with a new baby or toddler or two):

1.  You have to adjust your priorities to what's realistic,
and accept what you're really capable of.

2.  You will always have dirty dishes in the sink.

3.  You will have a difficult time keeping on top of the laundry.
(Unless you can afford to bring in an extra person to handle this for you)
It takes a herculean effort to figure out the best strategy for YOU to handle your family's laundry efficiently with the limited time you have during schooling days. 
With a large family that produces several loads a day this is particularly challenging.
If you'd like to take a look at the system I've come up to tackle my own laundry challenges,
just click here.

4.  The pre-schoolers will make messes (that probably won't get cleaned up right away)
and there will be days when you cave to letting them watch more PBS or videos than they should.

5.   Not every homeschooling family wakes their children up at 6:00 am to start lessons, happy and smiling,
hair combed, and dressed at the kitchen table by 7:00 am.

6.  Your bathrooms probably won't be as clean as they would be if you were cleaning them all the time,
but since you are letting your older children learn these skills,
they won't be as thorough as adults yet.

7.  You will be late to nearly everything you leave the house for.
Especially if you have more than 5 children or a newborn in the house.

8.  Money will always be an issue.
No, the lack of money will always be an issue.
Especially in large families.
Because usually if you're homeschooling, that means you're only bringing in one, full-time income.
So you learn how to live large on way less.
You get your priorities straight really quick, and you figure out you don't need nearly
any of the stuff that you think you really do.
And the stuff you really do need, the Lord takes care of.

9.  Unlike teachers in a school (of any kind) you probably won't have an "aide" to make copies for you,
and cut out visuals for bulletin boards.  Nor will you have a cafeteria to send the children to where there
are lunch monitors who help your children open their juice boxes and cooks who have the meals already prepared, giving you a quiet lunch break by yourself.  So being organized and having meals planned (and even prepared in advance) is a huge plus.  It takes a couple weeks or so to figure out the best plan for your family, but having a meal plan is one of your most critical tools!!

10.  Unlike teachers in a school, you are also probably using a room that doubles as a kitchen, or laundry folding area, or any other number of rooms that are busy and full of household items not normally
found in a schoolroom.  It has taken me awhile to figure out that doing schoolwork in the same area in which you LIVE means things will get messy and your house won't look like the homes where children are not there.
No matter how long you've been training them and how many chore charts you have tried.

11.  I (ME, Mom) am the one who has had to learn the very most about what's really important.  What really matters, and that letting go of the other stuff (of course, to within healthy, safe, LEGAL limits) is what is the hardest for the homeschooling mom.  So what, if there is still bits of grass and papers on the floor after bedtime.  So what if the laundry is still piled up the next day.  So what, if there is yet another wall colored on with marker, crayon, pencil, or pen (GRRRRRR!!).  So what if the kitchen floor hasn't been swept in a week because we're still looking for it from when a child was using it outside to knock something out of a tree?
What about the smirk on the face of your ADHD daughter when she realizes that she DOES know how to figure out the additive and multiplicative inverses of fractional problems?
Or the smile of joy on the face of your anxiety riddled son who has begun reading from his Bible OUT LOUD
even though he's worried he'll make a mistake and be laughed at?
Or the great fun you had with your daughter as she realizes she is beating the clock
during timed math flashcards!!
Nobody sees the TIME you've invested into the growth of these children, but they often notice what isn't done around the house.

It isn't about how the house looks, but what do my children remember about their life at home?
Did I make them daily feel like an inconvenience to me?
Did they feel like they were in the way all the time, and the next thing on my list was more important than listening to them or sitting with them for a minute?
Did I see them as more important than the never-ending little chores that pull at me to be done?
Do they see me practice what I say?

Doing things for them (or for the sake of the house) isn't the same as being WITH them.

So you'll have to excuse the way my house looks.
No, it does not look like the cover of  "Good Housekeeping."
But I'm spending time teaching my children,
teaching them how to love.
How to love each other.
How to love the Lord.
How to love their parents.
How to love their friends.
How to love learning.
How to love who God created them as with all their individual struggles and weaknesses.
How to love the family God put them in.
How to love the Word of God.

12.  Homeschooling is not always the joyous, fun experience often advertised by retired homeschoolers.
Many days I don't like it at all.
Many days are ugly and tedious,
and messy and frustrating,
and the routine can be mind-numbing.

But in my surrender to what the Lord is doing in my home,
I'm learning that when I'm broken and crushed,
 I'm learning how to be more like Christ.
Our Mighty Elohim breaks us so that He can flow through us more fully.

The big secret?
That the teacher is the one learning the most.

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