If I could give my younger homeschooling self some advice, it would be this:
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.
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis.