As we begin Trinity’s tenth year, I am reflecting on some things that I have learned, and actually continue to learn every school year. I wish I could check these off the list like fact drills, but the truth is I am still learning the implications of each of the points below on a daily basis. In no particular order…
1. I am learning that I don’t have to master all the curriculum.
I am learning that it is impossible to know everything that I need to know to teach my kids. For example, at TCS, we divide history and literature into four time periods. Our kids are spaced out out so that each is in a different historical time period. That means that, every year, I have to teach from creation to current events. It is impossible for me to know every date, every ruler, and every implication to every war. Much less apply it to our current life and spiritual journey. There are opportunities every week to learn alongside of them, and even be taught by them. We just finished our fourth time through Story of the World, and I learned something every single time we read it. I am learning that my interest in and willingness to learn about what they are studying is more important than already knowing the lesson I have to teach.
2. I am learning that I have to be flexible.
Homeschooling is kind of like having a newborn. Every time you find a routine that works, something happens and you have to adjust. Just like babies drop a nap or cut a tooth, schedules and needs change in homeschooling and I am learning to be flexible. I have often set up the ideal school room, only to find that the kitchen table works better. My perfect, prayed over, and printed schedule has often gone into the trash once I figured out that, yes, math takes that long. I am learning to always evaluate if our schedules, routines, and systems are a blessing to us or if they are stifling the joy in our days.
3. I am learning to focus on my kids’ academic weaknesses.
All students have strengths and weaknesses. When I am spread thin with many children, spelling lists, and historical time periods, I am learning that I need to spend my focused time with each student devoted to their weakness. I am learning to give them more freedom in the areas that they are strong.
4. I am learning to simplify.
I am learning that it is true, we have to say no to the good things in order to make room for the best things. If you fill your schedule with activities, be aware that it is costing you much more than money! I am learning that having peace in our home, knowing my kids’ hearts, and having time for reading, art, and worship means having to say no to some good things.
5. I am learning to include our kids in this process.
I am too often guilty of viewing education as something we do to our kids, instead of including them in the philosophical and practical reasoning that we as educators understand. I am learning that explaining the trivium, giving the reason for rote memorization, why we have history pegs, and such things adds great value to their experience, and certainly goes a long way in helping them appreciate a classical education.
6. I am learning that homeschooling requires sacrifice.
This lifestyle means that we are called to greater levels of personal sacrifice for a season. We are giving up our time in order to educate our kids. But I am learning that if I view it as “giving up” my time, it affects my attitude toward what I am called to do. When I signed up to homeschool, I did not sign up to be the best cook, or have the cleanest house, or be the most fit I can be. I signed up to lay those things down for the greater joy of investing in my kids’ lives. I believe that one of the the most important lessons our kids will learn from us is not taught from books, but from how we spend our time. There is joy in obedience–isn’t that what we want them to learn? I am learning that it is my joy to be with my kids.
7. I am learning to share the curriculum as a family.
Every so often, something that someone is learning captivates all of our attention. Whether it is how World War I began, or a poem about Sequoias, or the retelling of a story heard on campus, these are some of many moments that break us out of our checking-off-the-list routine and initiate discussion as a family. I am learning to look for these opportunities and be intentional about sharing them at the dinner table or in the car. Getting excited and learning things as a family are some of our best memories. There is a difference between “homeschooling” and “doing school at home.” I don’t want my kids to simply accomplish the tasks assigned to them at home. I want our home to be filled with exploration and discovery, and that often means going a little above and beyond the assignments.
8. I am learning to trust the process.
We have the luxury of going to a school that planned a K-12 scope and sequence. There are things we do in Grammar school that don’t bear fruit until Logic or even Rhetoric school. For all of you in Grammar school that cannot handle another dictation sentence, or another phonogram drill–take heart! There is a reason, there is a purpose, and the fruit is sweet. The classical approach means we focus on the foundations for longer than we are comfortable with and take more time to develop skills than most progressive methods.
9. I am learning that my attitude affects my kids more than I realized.
This is applicable to any area of life, not just homeschool. If my kids hear me complain about and criticize our Latin curriculum, or a certain teacher, or the dress code, they will in turn without fail, do the same. I am learning that I have to acknowledge our struggles and define them in a Biblical perspective. (Yes, I occasionally mention children starving in Africa.) Gratitude does not come naturally to most of us, and the lack thereof is a breeding ground for discontentment and bad attitudes. I am learning to give thanks, and focus on the joy set before us.
10. I am learning where homeschooling begins and ends.
I am learning that we were a home before we were a school. And that home started with just two people, before they were mom and dad, and before they were co-teachers. Everything that is under our care: our home, our children, their education, our church involvement, is governed by our mutual, unified submission to Christ. Communicating with, investing in, and caring for one another is what makes all of this work. This home will be here long after we are done homeschooling and our children leave. All these years of homeschooling our children are meant to sanctify us and draw us closer together. The things that I am learning about my life as a homeschool mom also apply to life in marriage. After all, the goal of both is the same: that our children and marriages would glorify the living God, and that as we know Him more deeply our worship would increase and change the world.