My family has embarked on a bold adventure this year. We have officially entered the world of homeschooling. I know, WEIRD! As someone who attended a wonderful K-12 public school, then got her undergrad and grad degree from The University of Texas (a state school), the idea to homeschool my children NEVER crossed my mind! But apparently, God had other plans. 🙂
We recently enrolled our five-year-old son in Austin Classical School, a hybrid homeschool-private school model with a university-like schedule, which consists of two days a week of full-time instruction at a brick and mortar school, two days of at-home instruction with mom (or dad) and one ‘free day’ (that can be used as a catch-up day on lessons, a fun free day or BOTH!).
Here are 10 things I’ve learned about myself after 10 weeks of homeschooling
1) I need structure. As much as I pride myself on being a fun, flexible, and spontaneous person, I do best with structure. I need a schedule. Parameters to work within. Without them, I get in a tizzy. Anxious. Irritable. With no intentionality to my day, I am scattered and unproductive. My children also do best with structure (as do most). They like to know what’s coming next. So after many failed attempts to ‘just wing it’ on our homeschool days, I have learned that structure is a necessity (i.e., a schedule). Of course, it’s a flexible one, as my personality requires, which allows for spontaneous outings like trips to see Daddy at the office or lunch breaks with homeschooling buddies. But I know I need to stay within the confines of a schedule or our day turns to crap (which is known to still happen).
2. I love watching my child learn. I am fascinated to observe how my son learns. Who knew that teaching him to decode words, learn phonograms and do simple math would be so much fun! Sure, it can be tedious at times, but for the most part, it’s amazing to watch those little wheels turning in his brain.
3. I love learning alongside my child. One of the things I love most about homeschooling is that I get to learn WITH HIM! Even though I had a great public school/university experience, the Christian classical method of learning (Cliff Notes summary: an educational philosophy that emphasizes going deep (think scuba diving) rather than broad (think jet skiing) in the core subjects with a Christ-centered focus) is new to me. This year, the entire school is studying the Renaissance time period and we are getting to learn about influential historical figures like Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Martin Luther, Henry the VII, and King Ferdinand and Isabella. We get to learn how they influenced literature, science and the religious beliefs of that time period. It has been eye-opening for me to learn about these facts in a much deeper and comprehensive way!
4. I love taking on the role of educator for my children. Initially, I wasn’t sure about this one. It was honestly the main fear I had when it came to committing to this model. Would I actually enjoy being my child’s teacher? Would he listen to me? Would I even know how to teach? I have learned that those are common fears for homeschoolers. While it is not always easy to be his teacher, it is not that different from what I was already doing before: exploring and processing the world with him, encouraging him to make observations about his surroundings, paying attention to how things work, listening to wonderful stories filled with adventure, heroism, goodness and beauty, and especially, providing a God-centered lens for him to process what he is learning. Now it’s just formal and it’s called ‘school.’ Well, and that there are things like grades and lesson plans and due dates and such. 🙂
5. I love watching my relationship with my son deepen because of the new dynamic that homeschooling brings. This was not something I expected. But our relationship has changed. For the better. I understand how his mind works in ways I didn’t fully understand before. I have learned what things come naturally (memorization and math) and what are areas of struggle (handwriting and reading). Gaining a deeper understanding of how his brain works has helped me in the broader role of parenting. I find myself to be more understanding when he acts out, gets frustrated or struggles in certain situations because I have a deeper knowledge of how he thinks and processes information.
6. I still desperately struggle with knowing how to be a firm, but loving authority for my child. This came as no surprise. As an approval-seeking people-pleaser, I fall into the category of push-over parent who wants to make my children happy and just have fun. I knew going in that being a firm authority would be incredibly challenging for me. And it has been. I am also highly emotional, with somewhat volatile up and downs. This means I can easily fly off the handle and explode when I’ve been pushed too far (usually because I didn’t set limits or follow through in the first place!). This is still our biggest struggle. He likes to be in control and tries to run the show. I lack the backbone to push back and prefer to avoid the fight. This often leads to belligerent behavior and a pissed-off mommy. Oh, how I need a heaping dose of God’s grace and His supernatural guidance in this area! I do believe I am making strides, but in all honesty, most of our homeschool days are chock-full of desperate “Lord, help me!” prayers and repenting and re-starts.
8. I must build in moments of rest during the day. This is something I have recently discovered about myself. I tend to go hard, without taking a break, throughout my entire day. I forget basic things like eating, calling my husband to check in, or taking a mental break from my to-do list. When I started homeschooling, my poor little buddy was exhausted. When it was time to move onto on the next subject, I found myself growing incredibly irritable with him. I read somewhere (one of the many mommy blogs I follow!) that all of us need moments in our day when we STOP and BE STILL and REST. That will look different for everyone, but for me, it means going into my bedroom, even just for 10 minutes, shutting my door, tucking myself into my comfy chair with soft lighting and classical music and journaling out my prayers or reading a good book. After a few minutes of quiet time, I am a new person!
9. I tend to forget the good and remember the bad moments of my day. This is a trait of mine that friends and family have gently pointed out time and time again. I tend to only remember the negative parts of my day. The places where I failed. Where there was conflict. Disappointment. Where things went wrong. When in reality, my days are usually made up a mix of good, bad and a lot of in-between. I am trying to stop rating my homeschool day as a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ and instead, take notes on the hard parts of the day in order to learn from them, but also: celebrate the good! This is SO much better for my mental health and outlook on life!
10. I need healthy outlets that don’t involve my kids
. This one has been a huge eye-opener for me. Before I decided to stay home, I really enjoyed working. I supervised a bilingual team at the American Cancer Society, went back to school for my master’s, then worked at UT as an ESL instructor. I loved all of these experiences. I got to utilize my love of writing, reading and people skills on a daily basis. When I became a stay-at-home mom, except for the occasional blog post or playdate, I didn’t have much of an outlet for my natural gifts. After having what I consider a full-blown nervous breakdown (Read More: A Diagnosis Doesn’t Have to Define You
), I was forced to put both my kids in full-time childcare while I spent two years in intensive counseling and let my mind and body ‘heal.’ A significant contributor of my healing process was working part-time for my husband’s company. I had pooh-pooh-ed the idea long ago, when he suggested that I work as a content writer for his website. But when I no longer had kids at home during the day, I needed something to do that took my mind off myself. So I started working for him. And it has been incredible
. Not only does it provide a mental outlet and a boost of confidence as I use my skills to help others, it has helped me gain a deeper respect and empathy for my husband as I watch him manage a company of employees and handle all that is required to run a business.
Do you have any feedback, comments or experiences you’d like to share regarding homeschooling? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to leave a comment!