Advice to My Younger Self

Advice to My Younger Self

I’ve been participating in a 500 Words a Day Writing Challenge and today’s challenge is to write a list! That’s one long list! So instead of boring you with listing all 500 things I need to get done today, I’m going to get creative. Hey, look at that! I’m already at word fifty-three! J So here goes….

Five Things I’d Tell my Younger Self About Homeschooling

1. Don’t waste your money! There are so many resources available and marketed to homeschoolers, and many of them are really, really great! But the truth is, many of them are not needed. Don’t rush into any purchase of homeschool materials. Look closely at them. Talk to others who have used them. Look at them for yourself. Let it rest and then decide. If it still looks good a few months from now, chances are it will be a good fit. Discern wisely.

2. Home is a great place to learn. Sounds silly even saying that since home is part of the word homeschooling. But the thing is, oftentimes we feel like we need to get out, do something, take a class, sign up for this or that. These are all good but there is something to be said for time spent at home. Uninterrupted time to get bored and find a way out of that boredom. Kids (and parents) need this time. Every family has a different balance for time home and away. Each member of a family may have a different need. Honor those differences and our children learn to honor them as well. They also learn that home is a wonderful place to be.

3. Trust. Trust yourself. Trust your child. There is no magic formula that when applied will ensure that our children turn out ok (whatever that means anyway). And if there was, how boring this journey would be. Every child and parent is different. And when we allow for those differences and tune into the cues our children give us about their boundaries and interests, we teach our children to do the same. We show that we trust in them and they in turn can trust in us. Then we trust more in ourselves to parent from a place of authenticity rather than fear and control. This deserves 500 words all to itself, but in the interest of today’s writing challenge, I will move on.

4. Be yourself. This probably sounds trite but hear me out. In the homeschooling world, there is a lot of discussion about which method you use, and which curriculum, and what your daily schedule and academic year look like. These discussions are good to have as long as you never try to homeschool in a way that doesn’t work for you and your family. Whatever method you use or don’t use, own it. Be authentic. When you look back at the end of your homeschooling road, you are the only one who will have regrets if you aren’t.

5. It’s all about relationships. This whole thing, books and pencils aside, is about how you connect with your child. There are things that books can’t teach like empathy and compassion. A good story can certainly start a discussion about it, but our actions as parents tell far more than the words in a book. Have fun together. Learn. Laugh. Cry. Together.

Reading this over, it’s pretty clear that these principles are more about being present and intentional in our parenting, regardless of our choices in how we educate our children. But rather than edit this whole post, which is against the rules of the writing challenge, I will leave it as it is, and open the discussion up to you. What is the one thing you would tell your younger self about being a parent?

Reading Aloud: Comfort in a Crazy Day

Reading Aloud: Comfort in a Crazy Day

The thing that I love about books is their ability to calm a stormy day. The mesmerizing language of authors who have mastered their craft pulls in even the most reluctant listener. Even as I open a picture book that I intend to read to my littles, once I begin, it is inevitable that my biggest boy will curl up nearby to soak up the story. Maybe it is the closeness that sharing a book brings. We sit close. We share space. We snuggle. We listen. We laugh. We hold our breath waiting to find out if Marty will get to keep Shiloh.

On the days when I feel like nothing is going as planned and everything is going awry, the one thing I know that can bring us back to our center is reading together. If the toddler is too fidgety, we listen to an audiobook, but we still share a story. We immerse ourselves in another world and somehow our brains and our bodies relax, our breathing slows and we are there. Present. Together.

When the days turn into weeks of chaos and questioning just how I can keep up with this crazy, grace-filled life, we return to the basics. It always includes lots of story-time, often only leaving home for a library visit, filling the bags to overflowing. It is a common occurrence for all eight of us to leave the library with 50 or so books. All to be savored in the week ahead. Some have been chosen by me with the idea of sparking some interest in a topic, but most of them are chosen “just” for the sake of reading. Everyone has their favorite authors, even the little girl who’s not yet two. They find them on the shelves and peruse the books on display, always willing to hear something new.

So when I question myself…Am I giving them enough? Educating them well? I just step back and look at what we have built together: a family culture around books. When I set out on this parenting gig, the one thing that I was absolutely clear on was that I wanted my children to love books, not reading, but books. I have a few who are definitely capable of reading books independently, but they still prefer to be read to. When any one of them is sick, forget movies or tv shows. Give them a great audiobook and a warm bed. They’ll be there all day long. And even if they’re not sick, sometimes I have to remind them that the CD player has a pause button:)

Reading together is not just a single thread in our family tapestry. It is the weft and warp, the threads that intertwine with each other to create the beauty that is the tapestry.

The benefits of reading together are greater even than the quality time we share as a family. Hearing the language as fashoined by professional writers, our minds and our own language are permeated with it loveliness. We begin to articulate ourselves with greater clarity and grace.

Just the other day, my oldest two children were having a discussion about which would sound better when asking a question about the price of an event. “Will it cost money?” or “Will there be a cost?” We ended up having an interesting discussion about how there are many ways to say the same thing, but the words we choose can affect how they are perceived. I think that the fact that they were able to appreciate the subtlety of these differences is due in large part to the countless hours that we have spent reading together.

So I leave you with this. Reading together is a gift. Where in your day can carve out even 15 minutes to be together? It will be worth every second, and you may find that 15 minutes just isn’t enough:)

If you need more inspiration, check out The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, and the series of podcasts, The Read Aloud Revival, by Sarah Mackenzie. They are all worth the time, but even if you can only listen to just one podcast, I bet you’ll be inspired to get reading!

What Do You Value?

What Do You Value?

Homeschooling is about way more than education. Just ask anyone who has been at it for a while or has even considered it for a second, and you will get many, many definitions of homeschooling. There are so many varying views of what it means to educate children at home that some people choose to not even call it homeschooling. Some call it home-learning, life-learning, home-education, unschooling, child-led learning, or any other personal variation that resonates with them. Others like to stick with the term homeschooling because of its commonality, but then add an adjective to describe their specific flavor of homeschooling. There’s eclectic homeschooling, classical homeschooling, Montessori-based homeschooling, project-based homeschooling, Waldorf-inspired homeschooling…just to name a few!

But all of this means very little unless you are clear about your goals with homeschooling. What are your goals for your family? What are your priorities? What do you value? If we are not absolutely clear on this, it is very easy to forget why we are doing this in the first place, especially on days when the days when your house in covered in art projects and laundry and everyone in the house is snapping at each other because, well, because it happens, and you just want to take a nap or have a break but you can’t because the kids. are. always. around! J

The truth is…educating our children at home is this crazy mix of challenge and joy. The challenges look different from family to family, and the joy is contagious. Your vision for homeschooling keeps this all in perspective.

A little story about that…We began homeschooling with a very traditional definition, which basically meant school at home. I am a certified teacher and setting up a classroom in my home was fun for me, but not so much for my oldest boy, 5 years old at the time. When time came for him to begin kindergarten, I had a little space in our house with a desk and all the classroomy things, like bright posters with the alphabet and numbers, counting bears, workbooks, and a schedule on the wall.

I should have known the first day that this was not in line with our vision of homeschooling. Maybe I did, but I didn’t know any other way to approach it at the time. Our goals for homeschooling were for our children to love learning, books, and exploring new topics, and from the outside it looked like we were acting in accordance with that vision, but the reality was that my 5 year old hated sitting at that desk doing workbook pages. After only a few weeks, I could see that his love of learning was being squashed. Since we were clear, as a family, that love of learning is something we value, we put the workbooks in a box and there they stayed. I still didn’t really know how to approach homeschooling other than school at home, but I was willing to put it aside for the time being. So we kept on reading great picture books together, making messy art, playing outside, and baking together. At the time, it felt like I was giving up, but really I was following the cues of my son and my own instincts. These tenets became a part of our homeschooling vision: If we were to encourage our children in their love of learning, we could not ignore their individuality or our own. We had to find a way to dance together, taking turns guiding one another, but always respecting that we may not always be hearing the same music.

So before I begin in earnest describing the various homeschooling philosophies, as I promised in yesterday’s post, I challenge you to think about your own assumptions about homeschooling. Does it have to be school at home? Does it mean a set schedule and textbooks? Whatever homeschooling looks like for you, how did you come to your definition? Is it still serving you? Are you unsure of what else there is, how else it can be done?

Then ask yourself, “What are my goals/values for our homeschooling experience?” Are they academic? Interpersonal? Personal? Holistic? Extra-curricular? Or a combination of many?

I’ll be back soon to share more of our experiences and begin to walk you through the various homeschooling philosophies. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of the posts in this series, click the follow button at the bottom of your screen. So excited to share our journey with you!

Curriculum Confusion

Curriculum Confusion

One of the first questions, people ask me when they decide to homeschool is, “What curriculum should I buy?” That is definitely a really important question because the choices are so overwhelming. My response is always, “What is your homeschooling/educational philosophy?” Most people have no idea what I am talking about or even where to begin with finding their own answer.

The joy and challenge of homeschooling is that there are so many choices, but without understanding the teaching and learning philosophies behind the curriculums (or the reasons not to buy one), the challenges often end up outnumbering the joys and we spend way more money than we need to on educational materials that don’t really fit our families’ needs.

I like to think of our family’s educational philosophy as the vision that guides all of our homeschooling choices, and since homeschooling is a way of life and not merely a way of educating, it informs all of the decisions we make about our family from chores to activities outside the home, from books we buy and how we organize our days. The beauty of knowing your own personal homeschooling vision is the flexibility it allows in revising your approach as your family grows and changes.

Over the past 11 years of homeschooling, I have changed my approach many times, but my basic vision has stayed the same: nurturing a love of learning in my children. Sounds basic but that’s the beauty of it. With its simplicity, I could quickly tell if we were moving in the wrong direction and when our learning was at its richest.

This doesn’t mean that I knew from the beginning all that I know now about educational philosophy and how it translates to the practical day-to-day learning taking place. It has taken me all eleven years as a homeschooling mom and, an additional 7 years as a teacher before that, to come to where I am now and to find my family’s own unique blend of homeschooling, and to be ok with the fact that what it looks like today will probably change next year or even next month.

So over the next few weeks, I am going to share about the various homeschooling philosophies, and in doing so, share some of our story as a homeschooling family. I hope it will be informative and inspirational to those who are just starting out or have been homeschooling for a while. Feel free to leave any questions or comments down below.