Educating your children at home is easy and difficult all at the same time. It takes a lot of prayer. It does take some planning (even when I don't want to,) and it takes a lot of love and sacrifice. What kind of sacrifice? - the sacrifice of your own selfishness... not such a bad thing to sacrifice after all.
When Emily was four, my dear friend Ginger suggested I read a book, A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. She said I should think about both WHY we were going to homeschool, as well as the HOW. Kurt and I already knew our why - God had told us we were going to educate our children at home, because God wanted us to be the biggest influence in their young lives, so we could show them Jesus. (They also got to learn a lot about fallible man, and how to say you're sorry.) The HOW part was still up in the air, but we knew we didn't want to just 'do school' at home. The methods of Charlotte Mason spoke to my heart. It was going to be gentle learning, it was going to include a LOT of good books, it was going to include a lot of art, and a lot of time outdoors.
Fast Forward to Emily being four-and-a-half and starting Kindergarten at home. I read books to the girls (Arlene was two-and-a-half,) we went to the library, we went to the park, we planted flowers and vegetables. Then came the first wrench in my grand plans... Arlene despised finger paints! The girl who I frequently found sampling the offerings of dirt in the garden or flower pots would scream, cry, and throw things if finger paint touched her skin. (Thankfully at 14 she is over this now - I think - LOL!)
So we stopped finger painting. Emily got to use crayons instead. There was no real schedule for education in our home, even though a lot of Charlotte Mason fans use one, we didn't spend a lot of sit-down time on it, because we were turning it into a lifestyle. As the girls got older, educating at home gave us great freedom to explore. I began to think "Life is a Field Trip," and it was for us. When the girls were still little, I worked part-time at the daycare in a health club. We would work Emily's phonics lessons around my shifts. The girls were able to come with me, so they got a lot of exercise in the kids' gym, and a lot of craft time. We put weekly trips to the library on our to-do list, and we spent as much time as we could outside.
By the time Arlene was old enough for Kindergarten, she was already taller than the other kids in her class at Sunday School, so even though I wasn't sure if she would be ready for phonics, we went ahead and started trying. Arlene has always been the gross-motor-skills kind of girl. She climbed the apple tree every time I let her, and she wanted to always be doing something. She was a totally different type of learner form her big sister. That didn't bother me much though, because we had the freedom to fit her needs. Arlene was slow to be a proficient reader (see yesterday's post if you missed it,) but she loved to listen to stories while she did something else. Emily could read to her, or I would read to her, or she would convince me to check out an audio book from the library.
When the girls were little, we started then helping with chores. It does take longer to be their employer than their servant at first, but it was worth it! Now at 16 & 14, the girls can do just about anything around the house that they set their minds to. I also taught the girls how to bake...and a little cooking. They have also mastered how to be independent learners. Each girl has areas where they have exceeded my skill. None of these things happened overnight. There were times when I lost my temper, and times when I was stumped on how to help them learn a skill. That's where prayer comes in again and again. God has been so faithful to help us along this journey. He has brought many people alongside our family to help teach and mentor the girls. God has provided wonderful opportunities for them to learn and see things we could have never imagined back at the beginning of this journey.
When the girls were little, I never really imagined it ending someday. Now that they're both in High School, I can see that the journey is changing. You'll need to come back later in the week for that post!
Be encouraged, God does have plan for your family. Expect your journey to be filled with twists and turns. Most importantly, make sure it is filled with love. That love will guide your choices, and grant you peace in the midst of struggles. Remember your Why!
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36
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