Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
Everywhere I turn, especially online, I have been meeting a LOT of new homeschooling mothers. I'm not certain if the increase in the numbers of homeschooling moms is a result of the new Common Core brouhaha, but there is no denying that there are more sweet, "newbie" moms asking advice and seeking answers for educating their little ones.
In fact, it was the inquiry a young mom made to a group of homeschoolers online that has inspired me to write this morning.
Because I don't wish to cause contention and make the young mom in question feel targeted by my remarks, I decided to write this blog post with advice for all the new homeschooling mothers out there.
Dear New-to-Homeschooling Mothers:
I have been homeschooling for fourteen years. (yikes.) Somehow, we have produced two high school graduates, and many more to come. (We have thirteen children, so yes, I am in this for the LONG haul!)
I have tried a lot of resources, and made a ton of mistakes where I have fallen on my face, crying my heart out. I have even wanted to quit forever more times than I care to admit! But through it all, I have been blessed to be comforted and inspired by my husband, other homeschooling moms, and by the Lord, Himself.
I presently find myself in a lovely place of knowing what works for me and my children, but also having experience enough to know that things will and can change in heartbeat. It truly has taken me these full fourteen years to come to this place, and my only wish now, is to save other moms from some of the mistakes I have made.
Often, when we are starting out in our homeschool, we will ask for advice from those with more experience and wisdom, but then broadly reject what we hear from those voices of experience. I freely admit that I have done it myself!
Of course, we can each do things the hard way, and learn from our own mistakes. But we can save a lot of time and heartache, if we humble ourselves enough to learn from the experiences of others.
So, here's some hard-earned advice from this fourteen-year-veteran-homeschooling-mom of thirteen. Take it, or leave it, but it is all given in love and with the intent to help you on your homeschooling journey.
Gather Ye Rosebuds, While Ye May
There's a lovely poem written in the first part of the seventeenth century that I quoted at the beginning of this post. It's advice given to young maidens about how they should spend their time when they're young.
As a mother of grown children, I feel this advice is also good for young moms. When our children are young and we are first starting out, we tend to get in a rush for our little ones to grow up. We can't wait to see them crawl, then walk, and then talk. We tend to live in their futures, and while it's all well-meant, we may regret those inclinations when those little ones are grown.
Recently, there have been a few articles I've seen written by young mothers, complaining about older moms telling them to treasure the time their children are little. They say they don't want to hear it! They say that more experienced moms don't understand, or don't remember, how hard it is to raise little children.
Honey, we get it-- we LIVED it. We haven't forgotten how hard it is, or how lonely it often feels. We simply know that things will get harder, and in more heartbreaking ways!
So please stop being angry. Dry your tears, take a deep breath, and try to honestly hear what we are saying.
On a related note, I know it is frustrating for new homeschooling moms to hear again and again that six year olds don't need a fully-comprehensive curriculum so they can get ahead, or stay "on level" so they don't "get behind." They are ready to dive in, full force, so that their precious kids don't "fall behind."
Sweet, young mothers, there are reasons for the responses you get to your questions, and here they are:
1) Burn Out Is REAL.
I started homeschooling my babies when my oldest child hit the age for preschool. I read everything about homeschool that I could get my hands on, and spent hours and hours perusing catalogs with shiny new curriculum and fun-looking workbooks. I spent an inordinate amount of money on a stack of textbooks and workbooks.
MY kids were going to be brilliant! I would do everything the RIGHT way, and would find the PERFECT curriculum, and that would be it for us, forever and ever, amen. YAY! We would master homeschooling!
Honestly, that enthusiasm and confidence lasted for about a year. And suddenly, one day I found myself sobbing, staring at a textbook I hated, crying for mercy. I wondered why I had ever thought I could do this homeschool thing. My kids hated it. I hated it. I began searching the yellow pages (This was before Google, y'all.) for schools, thinking my children would definitely be better off without me as their teacher.
And then, in one last-ditch hope, I attended a small homeschool conference, and finally listened to what other homeschooling moms had been trying to tell me:
"Enjoy the journey."
"Don't stress out-- relax!"
"It's okay to try something else, if what you've got isn't working."
"Let them play. They are only children once!"
"Build the relationships first."
"All they need is for you to read aloud to them."
"God sent your children to YOU for a special purpose. Trust Him."
As I opened my heart and humbled myself, the burden began to lift, and I began to hope again that we just might be able to continue homeschooling. And we have!
Rigid structure, strict deadlines, trying to live up to perfection, and worrying about kids being "caught up" all CAUSE BURN-OUT.
Ask any experienced homeschooling mama, and they will tell you the same thing.
2) Love of Learning Can Be Killed.
When I was trying to shove textbooks and multiple assignments down the throats of my sweet little ones in a effort to "show the world" that I could be a good teacher, I cultivated vitriolic seeds of hate for learning into my children.
They were frustrated.
I was frustrated.
And they were learning NOTHING, no matter how much harder I pushed.
There is a wonderful quote by the brilliant poet, William Butler Yeats, that holds great truth.
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.As a winner of the Nobel Prize for poetry, Mr. Yeats knew of what he spoke! In fact, he was paraphrasing the great Socrates when he said it.
Our children's minds are not blank slates for us to write upon. Rather, they have genius in them that we need to draw out! And nothing closes a person's mind faster than coercion.
We may even be able to produce little automatons that do everything they are told to do, but what happens when they grow up, and no longer listen to us? Either they will do whatever the majority of the world tells them to do, or they will spend far too much of their adulthood rejecting everything they're told, until they come to learn through hard experiences and years of wasted time.
On the other hand, when our children fall in love with learning, they thirst for knowledge, and will be much more open to the lessons we have to teach them. We become more effective teachers with less frustration and heartache, and peace ensues.
And who doesn't want peace?
3) Relationships Are Easily Damaged.
This next point is closely attached to the last one. Nagging, yelling, forcing, and punishing do not build relationships of trust. They never have, and they never will!
There is a scripture in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants that says:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained... only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;We cannot truly influence our children for good, unless we seek to influence them in the same way that God influences us.
We must come to Him-- He will "force no man to heaven."
When we are pushed by someone, resentment takes root. Trust cannot be built between an enforcer and the enforced. Our very nature, as children of God, rejects coercion.
Remember "persuasion..., long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and... love unfeigned."
That is how GOOD relationships are built and maintained. And, consequently, how the best learning can take place.
4) Your Kids WILL Learn, Even in Spite of YouWhen the Lord asks us to homeschool, He will always provide a way for us to do the difficult thing He has asked us to do. (1 Nephi 3:7)
And it will all work out GREAT.
I freely admit that I have made an immense amount of mistakes as I have taught my children at home.
But wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they have learned everything they need to know in spite of all my failings! I have two grown children who are doing wonderful things in the world, and while they are not perfect, they will be FINE.
In fact, they will be more than fine.
It feels GOOD.
And YOU can do it with your children, too.
5) A Second Witness
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (Matthew 18:16)
I am not the only homeschooling mom who has successfully homeschooled her children. There are many moms that have done much more amazing things in their homeschools than I have done.
But I am willing to bet that every homeschool mom has had to learn the same lessons I have listed above.
Those that have not learned those lessons have given up and sent their kids back to school.
I have many homeschool friends who also have words of wisdom to share. If you don't want to take my advice, I invite you to read the following articles by other homeschooling moms I love and admire:
- "The Most Important Homeschool Tip Ever"- Meanwhile at the Castle
- "The Gift of Boredom"- LDS Blogs
- "Five Ways to Keep Inspiration Going for Your Learners" -TJEd Mothers
- "The Temptation to Stuff the Student"- Latter-day Homeschooling
- "So You Want to Homeschool: Five Ways to Fail and Five Ways to Succeed" - J&M Ranch
The above posts are great places to start, and each blog listed has even more fantastic articles to offer.
You Can Do It!!!
Don't let any of the advice you read discourage you. YOU CAN HOMESCHOOL!
But please, PLEASE learn from those who have gone before you. You will save yourself a lot of heartache, wasted time, and even loads of money if you do so!
Wishing new homeschoolers everywhere the very best, with love,