When I first began homeschooling all of those many years ago-back in the dark ages- I had an idea in my head of what my homeschooling life would be. I pictured little girls quietly sitting around a table, following my carefully crafted schedule, rapt with attention to my every word, and did I mention sitting quietly? Well, God had a big laugh at me! He had other plans for me and it’s a good thing I didn’t know about them in advance or I would have run for the hills; screaming all the way!
early homeschooling years were have been filled with many trials and tribulations. Including miscarriages, surgeries, new babies, strange illnesses that took years to diagnose, 1 daughter with special needs who had many differing health complications, 2 daughters with learning difficulties. . . you get the picture. My plan crumbled around me as these trials came along. For years I thought that what my family members said may be right, I was going to make my children stupid by teaching them at home.
During this time God showed me that there was one important element in teaching my children. That was to teach them to love learning and to know how to learn. If they know how to learn, then they can teach themselves anything. So no matter how chaotic my days became or what the craziness was that was surrounding us, the girls always had books in their hands. I worked on fostering their curiosity in things around them and made an effort to encourage them to explore. When we lived in Baton Rouge we had a family membership to the zoo (back then it was only $25 for the family for a year) and we would go every week. The girls knew the zookeepers and the animals by name. They would ask the zookeepers questions about the animals and even once noticed before the keepers that one of the goats was walking differently. They told us the next time we came that they had checked it out, and found that it had arthritis. It made the girls’ day to know that they had helped in a small way.
Many times I questioned myself, thinking I was failing them. As time went on I began to notice that they were learning and able to relate what they were learning not only to me, but to others. I was often surprised to hear the facts they would rattle off about things I didn’t know and would ask them where they learned that. I would get the reply, “Oh, I read about it in such & such book.” I felt like our homeschooling was a grand experiment and it was bearing fruit. My self-doubt began to fade and I began to have great confidence in the “method” or lack thereof, of homeschooling we were using.
Early in my homeschooling I read a book, “Homeschool Burnout: What it is. What causes it. and How to overcome it.” by Ramond & Dorothy Moore, that helped me greatly in making it through the tough times. They didn’t just talk in theory, they had actual scientific evidence to back up what they were saying. In it there was a piece of important information that would help me later in my homeschooling. They did a study of boys learning to read. They had one group that was forced to learn to read by 7 and another group that was allowed to learn when they were ready, many not learning until they were 10 or 12. By the time they all reached 14 all of the boys were reading at the same pace. This would prove invaluable to me because one of my daughters had an sensory issues and a auditory processing disorder and reading was very difficult for her. I would pull out the Bob books and we would begin to try to work on them and within minutes she would be in tears. Remembering what I had read, and praying that it was right, I would put the books away. I would wait a few months and try again, and the same thing would happen. We started this dance when she was 5. One day when she was 10 she disappeared to her room for a while. This wasn’t unusual, but after a few hours I sent someone to check on her. It turns out that she was sitting on her bed reading her fifth “Boxcar Children” book. I was elated- and relieved. It had worked! Since that time she hasn’t slowed down on her reading and loves to read and to write.
Lora’s Educational Goals:
My children to love learning
My children to know how to learn
My children to love to read
If my goals hadn’t been firmly established it would have been easy for me to push her too hard and to force things on her she wasn’t ready for. Every time the temptation came upon me, usually due to outside pressure, I would remind myself that I wanted her to not just learn to read, but to love reading. I didn’t want to do anything to hinder that. I feel deeply that the love of reading is what will develop into the love of learning and it will give a person the ability to learn anything.
My daughters have taught themselves everything from computer programming to sewing to baking all through having a desire to learn. My daughters love to cook and they have grown up watching Food Network so that they can hone their skills. That desire to learn something has been developed in what they watch as entertainment. The other day Caroline was talking to a friend and mentioned she had been MIA. The friend didn’t know what that meant and when Caroline explained it to her the friend wondered if she had grown up in a military home. Caroline loves reading and watching things that have to do with WWII. I have tried to teach my girls to learn from everything that they do, watch, read, and listen to. I have taught them to ask themselves what God can teach them through whatever thing they are doing or going through.
What are your educational goals? What is at the root of why you homeschool? What is most important for your children? Are your goals attainable? Are you expecting your children to work on your timetable or by their abilities? Children don’t mature at the same rate and don’t have the same attention spans. I had one that had to take a break every 30 minutes and walk around so she could then focus again. I had to let go of my plan and work within her abilities. We were all happier for it. Look at your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Assess your own. Are you worried about how others will judge your homeschooling if your child isn’t where they think she should be? If you have educational goals, would you share them?