February 17, 2014Dear Me,
Yes, the date on this letter is correct, and, yes, it’s me. Or I should say, it’s you writing to you from five years in the future. I know right now you and Chipette are just dabbling in this homeschool thing, basically doing it as a trial run with preschool to see how it goes. I know you’re worried about being solely responsible for her education, you’re concerned that she’ll never learn to read (she will and that pretty nine month old baby you have will too!), and you’re frightened of going against the status quo.
As of this writing, you’ve been homeschooling for five years. Crazy, huh? What started as a trial run has now morphed into a lifestyle that the whole family enjoys (most of the time!). However, there are a few things I want to share with you that you’ve had to learn the hard way over these five years. If you listen, then the future of your homeschool will be spectacular. I know you like lists, so here goes:
1) It All Begins With Me
As much as you don’t want to hear this a lot of the joy and efficiency of your homeschool is going to hinge on you. What that translates into, Ms. Night Owl, is that you need to get in bed at a reasonable hour every night so that you can be awake before the kids and prepped mentally, spiritually, and physically for the day. When you are tired, you get stressed and, let’s face it, a little grumpy. Not a good environment for our little darlings to try to learn in and much more likely that you will take the day off and get behind. So make yourself go to bed, and make yourself get up early. Homeschooling, as flexible and unconstrained as it can be, is still your job, so act like it.
2) Habit Training is #1
I know that you can do cleaning and other chores faster than the kids, but it’s imperative that you train them to help you around the house and make them do it. Get some routines in place NOW for clean up times and don’t slack off. It will save you a lot of heartache five years down the road when you have that ugly “Come to Jesus” meeting where you break down in tears begging for help from these people you’ve allowed to coast because you tried to be Super Mom. Guess what, honey? You are going to fail, so fix it now and be the enforcer.
3) Teaching Individuals
In some sick twist of fate, God saw fit to give you an oldest child who loves experiments, crafts, art, and projects. That’s right, Miss Why-Can’t-We-Just-Read-A-Book-About-It, you are going to have a girl who loves hands on, paint, paper mache, and glitter. Just this year in 2014, you tried to force her into your box. Well, guess what? Now you’re having to go back and purchase the curriculum you should have stayed with from the get go. It’s not certain yet what way of learning Magpie and Monkey (that’s your son) will enjoy, but I can guarantee you one thing, they will probably all be different. That’s not a bad thing, but you need to realize that they need you to teach them as individuals and not force them into a preconceived box that you have for them. However, we are holding out hope that one of the younger ones will devour books like a shark in a vat of chum.
4) A Perfect Curriculum is a Myth
We’ve been on the quest for this holy grail of homeschooling for many years now, but I want to end it before it begins. There is NO such thing as a perfect homeschool curriculum, so stop looking. Stop spending money trying to find it. Stop thinking that every new thing that you hear about will be it. In fact, I’ll tell you what the “perfect” homeschool curriculum is….it’s the one that gets done with the least amount of tears, crying, and drama possible. When you find something that fits that criteria, do NOT change it no matter what other shiny, brand new thing you see. Just say no isn’t only about drugs; it works for curriculum addiction too.
5) Be True to YOUR School
Ahh, the internet. How did anyone ever homeschool without it? I’ll tell you how. They were a lot more content and happy with their homeschools. You love to read blogs. In fact, you’ll have a blog one day, but one thing you need to realize very quickly is that just because Tot Trays or Preschool Busy Bags keep little ones entertained for hours at a time online, it will not work for your kids unless the goal is to have a hot mess in about 10 minutes as they rip everything apart. And those families whose kids are up at the crack of dawn working on Advanced Algebra in fourth grade before helping Mom grind wheat berries to make bread later in the day…that will never be your family. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is your homeschool, and no one else’s. What works for you, may not work for others, but it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong or not accomplishing enough. It just means that God is doing a different work in your family than He is in another. So let it go and accept what your homeschool is.
Notice how pretty much all of these have NOTHING to do with the academic side of things! In fact, most of them are about attitude, our attitude. That’s because you are so worried about getting the academic part right that you do a bang up job on it (if we do say so ourselves!), but you’ve really dropped the ball on these other ones that are probably more important than the academics because they directly impact the learning in your home. I’m trying to sort these things out now, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could work on them from the beginning. It will make life and homeschooling a lot easier five years in the future.
Thanks so much,
P.S. One day in the future you’re going to think that everything is picked up in the living room floor, but it’s not so don’t leave your son on the floor alone. He almost chokes to death on a fairy charm from Chipette’s necklace. Paramedics are called. He’s fine, but it will haunt you for a long time, so let’s try to avoid that one the second time around.
Check out what the other ladies of iHN would say to their younger selves about homeschooling and life: