Another new homeschooling year is just around the corner. As I look forward with both anticipation and a bit of dread (just being honest!) I find the need to get back to the center. What are the most important factors that help us have a successful year?
As a veteran homeschool mom, you would think I know what I am doing. But even after 20 years at the job and 5 graduates, I am still a bit nervous.
I have homeschooled long enough to make almost every mistake possible and to be very aware of my own weaknesses. I have also learned valuable lessons along the way. As I head into this year I want to remember what I already know and apply them to our year so we can be successful.
5 Ingredients for Success
1. God First
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Prov. 9:10, NASB
American churches don't talk a lot about fearing God. Grace we talk about. Love we talk about. But fear?
Fearing God means He is first, He matters most, and what He says, goes. Always.
We homeschoolers fear many things:
- what the grandparents think
- if are using the right curriculum
- how our students compare to their friends in public school
- how our students compare to their homeschool friends
- if we are doing too little or if we are doing too much
- if our kids will succeed in college, or even get into college
There are lots of things to fear. But what if I bagged all that and just feared God? Don't I believe He has the best interests of my kids in mind? Don't I trust that He will guide their futures?
Fearing God and putting Him first solves problems on both ends of the spectrum.
- On the one hand, fearing Him make sure He gets first place above every other subject and we don't abandon Him on the way to academic success.
- On the other hand, fearing Him increases my responsibility of faithfully accomplishing the task He has given me. Sleeping in, half-hearted assignments, and missed subjects do not reflect putting Him first.
There is nothing more foundational I can do for my homeschool than fearing God and putting Him first.
Nothing is accomplished without prayer because without prayer I am working in my own strength and asking my kids to only use their own strength to learn new facts and accomplish hard things.
Prayer frees me from my human limitations. Prayer offers answers to problems. Prayer brings light to the dark places. Prayer brings focus to the blurry. Prayer funnels God's strength into the void of my deficiencies.
There is nothing more valuable I can do for my homeschool than pray.
3. Stay Home
Here is a shocker: it easier to HOMEschool when we stay at HOME.
I can confidently say that for every student and for every stage in our home we get more done before lunch than after. If we have a morning appointment and are gone for several hours we NEVER get much done when we get home.
If we stay home, get up early, and do nothing else but studies in the morning, we are a long way toward success.
Yes, homeschool offers more flexibility. Yes, there are many hours during the day to have lessons or take field trips. Yes, we are not constrained by the public school regimen.
But let me just say: blah, blah, blah.
For us, it simply doesn't matter if those things are true. We get school done at home and in the morning better than any other place and any other time.
There is no better key to our homeschool success than staying home.
4. Read Aloud
No matter the age of my kids, they still loved when I read out loud to them.
Some of my best memories consist of the books we read, the stories we shared, the mutual tears we shed, the laughter that erupted around our table, and the begging for "one more chapter" that I happily complied with....all of this because of good books.
The educational upside is that my kids heard a great deal of excellent literature. And if something problematic or questionable came up in the story we could immediately talk about it. Also, hearing great writing has proven to be more influential in learning writing skills than just reading it.
A mentor mom, many years ago, gave me the idea of reading during lunch time. It helped quell the silliness that could easily break out and it was something the whole family could share together. I took that advice and read at almost every lunch. My kids learned to make their own lunch (Home Ec?) so I could read longer and we often could read for 30 to 45 minutes. And 30 to 45 minutes most days of the week adds up to hours and hours of reading.
There is no better ingredient to add joy to our homeschool success than reading aloud.
5. Just keep swimming
Disney's™ "Finding Nemo" has a scene where the two characters must take a swim into a scary dark place for a long way without any assurance that they will safely arrive or succeed at their quest. See why I identify this scene with homeschooling?
Here is the deal: homeschooling is cumulative.
It is a whole bunch of little faithfulnesses, interspersed by some really bad days, that string together into a successful training and education of your child for life.
It is a marathon. It is climbing Mt. Everest. It is swimming the English Channel.
It is long. It is hard. It is accomplished one small step (or swim) at a time.
How do you succeed? Just keep swimming, of course.
During one particularly hard year, when I had all seven students stretched out from Phonics to Physics, I had a Winston Churchill speech printed out and put up at my desk. It was given during WWII when Germany was succeeding, Britain was standing alone, and despair threatened to overtake the island. I was rather close to despair too, and this speech reminded me daily that I had a job to do, it was hard, but I better keep doing it:
"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender" -Winston Churchill
To keep swimming is a happier picture, even if it is to the deepest trench in the ocean, than to keep fighting. But sometimes homeschool moms (ok- not to be discouraging- but MOST of the time) are called to Warrior Moms, and we have to keep fighting.
There is nothing more important to homeschooling success that to keep swimming, to keep fighting, and to never, never, never give up.
Homeschooling isn't easy. But it is worth it.
What is the most important ingredient for you to have a successful year?