2 Words of Advice for My Younger Self

2018_1_11 - 2 Words of Advice for My Younger Self_Sara Jones.jpg

If I could give my younger homeschooling self some advice, it would be this:

Pace yourself.

I’ve been officially homeschooling for 11 years, and this year we’re teaching elementary, middle, and high school. While I have some of the biggest hurdles in front of me, I can at least say that I successfully navigated preschool and (most of) elementary school. I can look back and see more clearly what I wish I had known.

I know now that if you’re starting out homeschooling when your children are young, it’s easy to get caught up in both the enthusiasm and the pressure. Which I did.

My favorite part of those early years was teaching kids to read. I hated field trips and nature walks and unit studies, but I couldn’t wait to help my children unlock the reading code. Meanwhile, as most of my friends sent their kids to preschool and Montessori, it seemed urgent to prove that I wasn’t just wasting my time at home.

Back in 2005, I blogged about my frustration and a breakthrough I’d experienced when it came to teaching Gamerboy his alphabet sounds. It was a golden moment in understanding my children’s different learning styles.

Gamerboy was supremely uninterested in the standard “A is for apple, B is for ball” litany, so I asked Darren write a customized list based on Gamerboy’s passion at the time, the computer game Age of Mythology. Enthralled, Gamerboy happily learned, “A is for Ajax, B is for Boar, C is for Colossus . . .” It was, I wrote then, a start toward Gamerboy learning to read, and Mama learning to teach.

But myself of today is annoyed by the frustration and anxiety I expressed over this situation. Because in 2005, Gamerboy was 3 years old. I had plenty of time ahead of me to help him learn his ABCs and phonics. Just simmer down already.

Throughout those preschool and elementary years, I encountered many other mothers who were driven by the same combination of enthusiasm and anxiety. One mom spent an hour on phonics every morning, with a very reluctant daughter. Another mother guided her under-10 crew through a science experiment creating polymers. Field trips had to be regular occurrences and always as educational as possible. I knew moms who had their young children in two co-ops a week, just to maximize their educational quota.

A few years out, I noticed something: my kids had forgotten most of those early days. All those field trips, co-op lessons, science experiments, and customized alphabet lists had long ago faded. I was exhausted and incredibly discouraged. Why should I put in the work with the younger ones when the older ones didn’t even recall most of what I did with them?

Gradually I found the right perspective. Those days weren’t wasted. Young children take in information at a breathtaking rate, and those early experiences formed the foundation that they build on even today. But I wish that I and those other moms had known that we could slow down, take our time, and enjoy the process instead of fretting about it.

If you’re just starting out with your young children, keep this truth in mind. You’ve got thousands of hours of consistent, almost repetitious, lessons ahead of you. You have time to accomplish what you need to. You don’t have to fret.

So pace yourself. And enjoy the journey.

-Sara

Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis.

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9 Comments on “2 Words of Advice for My Younger Self”

  1. Rose
    January 13, 2018 at 3:27 pm #

    I was saying something similar to a friend today. I just started my 8 1/2 yr old with counting money and telling time a few months ago. She got it within a few days of lessons. It was the best math teaching experience I’ve had yet because we didn’t tackle it until she was ready for it mentally. I try to remember this when I feel panicky that my 5 1/2 yr old knows only a few letter sounds.

    Like

    • SJ
      February 12, 2018 at 8:34 am #

      Yes! It makes the lessons go faster, and both of you have a lot more fun. I toss in little mini-lessons periodically, just to see how they take. (“Hey, Ranger, I found two dimes and a penny on the floor. Do you know how much this is?”) Once a child is ready, it usually “takes” pretty quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. B Motyka
    January 17, 2018 at 5:49 pm #

    Might I add that you cannot teach them everything, but you can foster curiosity and love of learning which will take them a long way.

    Kids are all different. My oldest son is a 19 year old college welding student. This FIRST time he ever told me that he likes School was LAST WEEK! So stay the course, the sweer reward will come at last!

    Liked by 1 person

    • SJ
      February 12, 2018 at 8:37 am #

      My mother figured that if she taught us to read and choose good books, we could go a long way in educating ourselves. Obviously children need a foundation to build from, but you’re right — with a love of learning, they can take themselves much farther than we can do for them. Congratulations on getting your 19yo to a point that he can enjoy school. 🙂

      Like

  3. Anne Miller
    January 17, 2018 at 6:06 pm #

    Oh, Sara! “…Gamerboy was 3 years old.” I almost fell off my chair in surprise, tears and laughter. Oh, the things we mommies worry about, and the unnecessary stress we cause ourselves. I LOVE your perspective and writing–we can use more of both!

    Like

    • SJ
      February 12, 2018 at 8:39 am #

      Unnecessary stress, exactly. I’m like, “Younger Sara, you’ll one day have kids in high school. Don’t use up all your fretting energy on preschool!” Thanks for your kind comment. The writing I can do pretty easily. The perspective is harder to learn. 🙂

      Like

  4. Jassi Kaur
    January 24, 2018 at 7:48 pm #

    Hi, thanks for sharing your experience. This has reassured me more than I can say. I have four children between the ages of 12 and 1, and all have very different personalities. I want them to have the best I can offer within our budget. How do I start? Is it better to have a part-time teacher or should I just go it alone?

    Liked by 1 person

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