June 1, 2000
Dear New Homeschool Mom Jill,
Breathe. I know you get really excited about new adventures and challenges, but homeschooling is all about the process, not an item on your “to do” list to be tackled and checked off. Homeschooling is about relationships: your relationships with your children, sibling relationships, lasting friendships, and –most importantly—your relationship to Christ. Until 4th grade, just have fun. Play lots of games, and do whatever you enjoy doing: crafts, nature hikes, field trips. Yes, teach them math, reading, history, science and religion; but, do it in a way where everyone is enjoying the process. Formal teaching at these ages should take less than 2 hours at a maximum. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of years ahead of more “school work”. Your kids are not behind. If all you do is read books together for an hour a day, you will be doing just fine. Your kids will be just fine. Also, don’t get started too early with formal learning, co-ops and workbooks. If you need a break, utilize swap days with friends or spend the money for a mother’s day out program. Yes, teach them; but always through play and laughter and joy. Host events for moms with kids the same ages. These will be some of the strongest friendships you will ever form—and they will be for life and the life of your kids.
You are an extrovert. Make sure you have daily connections with other moms who share your struggles. Oh, and this cool thing called Facebook will be developed. Don’t be fooled by it: it is no substitution for face-to-face connection and can lead you into deeper isolation if you are not careful. It is a really cool way to share information and photographs though. Avoid the vaccine debates. Trust me on this one.
Do NOT worry about proving yourself to the naysayers. Yes, your mother and father. Yes, your husband’s parents too. Yes, your nosey neighbor. Yes, your sister-in-law who insists that you are ruining your children. They are all wrong. You know this already in your heart, but I’m here to tell you 18 years later that you are more than right about this. Your children are amazing young adults with a strong faith life. Homeschooling has so much to do with this because you were able to live your faith out daily with your children as constant observers.
Slow down and let go of perfectionism. You are going to burn out if you continue at this rate. You can NOT do it all and no one expects you to. Especially not God. Do your best every day and let the rest go.
After 4th grade, add in some writing skills and teach the kids how to use a daily planner to begin time management skills. Grade the school work every day. If you don’t grade daily the kids will catch on and work will not get done. They do not have the maturity for that level of discipline. Do not get frustrated as it is a waste of your energy and rooted in pride. Instead, take a breath and remind them that school is the first priority, so no other activities can happen until they are all caught up. They will learn, but it will take lots of repeated effort. Expect to see results in a few years.
Know your strengths and your weaknesses. You are not good at grading and follow through. Find a course to help keep the kids accountable. Don’t fight yourself on this. Especially for high school. Find a course that teaches your visual learners on-line or through a co-op. You’ll thank me later for this.
Lastly, take full advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling. Take the time to visit grandparents, enjoy the good weather days, go camping as often as possible and take the time off to visit with a friend or neighbor in need. Don’t blow off school work, but be flexible with the timing. You would be amazed at how much can get done after dinner when the day was spent hiking and playing outdoors.
Oh, and you were totally genius to do half days of school starting in the horrid heat of the summer. The long holiday breaks at Thanksgiving through New Year were great blessings and really did make Advent a more focused time of preparation without the stress of school. You are also wise to teach the kids homemaking skills. In a few years, when God answers your prayers for more children this will pay off in a big way.
You are not a perfect mom, a supermom, or amazingly patient; but, your kids are amazing people. Don’t forget to give Patrick lots of affection and thank him for supporting you in these efforts. The two of you make an amazing team when you allow God’s grace to flow. You’re doing a great job, Jill, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I need you healthy in 18 years because, well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise…let’s just say you’ll be over the halfway marker by then, but will still have quite a way to go.
With Deepest Prayers of Encouragement,
Veteran Homeschool Mom Jill
January 15, 2018