Hello fellow mama.
How ya doing? Hanging in there? Me too.
It’s early and things are still quiet here in my home right now–a rare lazy morning, and I’m glad to have a chance to sit here in front of my computer, make a few lists for my busy week, review our school schedule, and take a deep breath before the day starts. But before I do that, I wanted to jot some thoughts down…a few things to do with raising little ones while homeschooling because it’s fresh on my mind at the moment.
We just enrolled our two oldest kiddos in another round of winter gymnastics, and on Friday when we were at their gym, I got to talking with a sweet mom who was also watching her child tumble and swing on the other side of the glass windows.
When she found out I homeschooled, I got the usual response that went something like: God bless you. I could never do that. How on earth do you find the time to do school with three other little ones running around? I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience.
And so on.
And I responded in my usual way…
First sharing that Well…homeschooling is NOT for everyone (which I truly believe with all my heart).
And also that I really DO enjoy teaching my own children, and that even before I taught my own, I taught other people’s kids, and it’s something that I am passionate about, and it’s how God wired me.
And that I also absolutely do not possess the patience and know-how to do it either, but I’m constantly learning as I go.
And yes, there are some real challenges when it comes to juggling homeschooling and home-life.
And so on.
But as we were talking I kind of thought to myself.
Wow. One thing is true.
Life right now--with a 6 month old, a 3 year old, a 4 year old, and a 6 year old–is a little nuts.
My plate is *just* reallllly full at the moment.
But you know what I’ve realized? It’s not because of homeschooling.
After all, I only have one school-aged child, and so even if she went someplace else for her education, I’d still be left with craziness here at home. Because that’s what a 6 month old boy+3 year old boy+4 year old boy equals. Craziness.
Yes, even this sweet 6 month old.
He’s already got that look in his eyes. He is ALL boy, and he just wants to play and squeal and get into everything. (you know, that age where they can army-crawl across the room at lightening speeds when they spot the teeny-tiniest speck of whatever just so they can put it in their mouth to test it?!)
This kid is right there.
And oi, I yell way too much at the 3 and 4 year old. But I am learning how to adjust to life with these boys. I really am. And to loosen up a little.My husband is always telling me to just let some things go. Stop micromanaging the boys. Just let them be…let them fight and work through it…let them run in circles around the kitchen and dining room, they need to burn off steam. Let them wrestle and scream–boys are just loud.
Oh my. I am trying. I promise.
But here, in the midst of this crazy boy-world, I’m schooling this little girl who is SO a mini-me.
When it comes to school, she’s a total nerd, just like her mama. She’s a bit of a perfectionist (something I am trying so hard to overcome myself and I so do not want her to struggle with), and it’s almost humorous to see what a control freak she is with her supplies. She loves pencils and stickers and fresh crayons and sharpened colored pencils. Like me, she loves to organize, but she also makes ridiculously huge messes every.single.day. because she loves to create.
She is naturally curious and loves to learn new things, to discover…and often gets totally lost in the process of learning something new. She wants to let her mind wander and her imagination soar without having someone rein her in because time is up. She gets distracted and sidetracked and asks more questions (really good questions, too) in a day than I can answer.
And if I may just gush a moment more…when her little brothers sometimes ask her in the morning if she can come play with them, she can often be heard telling them emphatically,”NO! I’m doing school–and I WANT to do school right now, so I can’t play with you. Sorry.”
Daily, she eagerly asks, “what’s next, Mom?” and usually wants to keep going long after I planned on being done for the day. She gets so engrossed, and because I also love learning and have a hard time saying no, there are many days that we work together quietly, straight through the little boys’ quiet time, reading just a few more chapters, or doing some artwork or another.
She is basically a teacher’s dream.
she isn’t my only child.
She’s only one of them. And my little boys–they are so needy right now. I mean, come on–I have a nursing infant who forces me to come to these hard stops throughout the day. I am at his mercy, plain and simple.
And the little busy boys, as I call them–those two are wild things. Wild things that I feed all.day.long. I mean, they are seriously eating us out of house and home already–it’s just unreal (what on earth will we do when they are teenagers?!?). But they need so many other things too–little playmobil guys need to be placed back on their motorcycles, and lego ships need fixed, and “can you help me load my nerf gun, Mom, cuz I can’t do it by myself?”
But like the mom at the gym, very often, people ask me, “what do your little ones do when you’re having school with your older one?”
This is sort of a funny question for a homeschool parent because it’s asked through the lens of a traditional non-home school mindset. People are imagining a classroom setting (a school inserted into a home) and wondering what on earth you, as the teacher, DO with the baby, and two preschoolers, who are running around your classroom while you are trying to educate a first grader.
People fully recognize the neediness of young children, and it just seems so all-consuming that they cannot imagine how someone would fit a 6 hour school day into all of that.
(hint: we don’t!)
My friend Becca is quick to explain to people that although the decision to homeschool greatly impacts all parts of home and family life, school itself (the formal part of it, anyhow) takes up a very small part of each day–2-3 hours at most during the younger elementary years. That’s if anyone was really timing it, from start to finish (which we usually aren’t).
I like to tell people that being a homeschool mom is just an extension of being a stay-at-home-mom.
And any stay at home mom of multiple children knows that you simply cannot attend to and play with your little ones every minute of every day. You have many other duties around the house that need your attention, so very early on, your little kids learn to do what all kids do: they play!
(I once shared the quote “Play is the work of childhood” with my four year old, and ever since, he loves to tell people that playing is his JOB).
But it’s true.
They learn through play. Not through endless watching of television, but through play.
Playing together– that wondrous benefit of having multiple children! …building forts and castles from couch cushions, up in their room building elaborate train-worlds with their wooden tracks, making amazing lego creations, each one more inventive than the last. And weather permitting, our favorite: learning through outdoor play–in the yard, the woods, the streams, the mud and the weeds.
So I answer–my little boys play, the same as any SAHM’s non-school age children do.
While I work with my daughter, on and off from just after breakfast until about lunchtime, they are typically off doing their own thing.
Of course they interrupt. They drift in and out, depending on what we are doing. If I am reading aloud, they are RIGHT.THERE. because they don’t want to miss it. If we are doing science, they want to be a part of that, especially any experiments.
And why not?
I am tickled pink to hear my three year old telling his dad about the geysers on Triton (Neptune’s largest moon) because he got to do the diet-coke-and-mentos experiment with us earlier in the day, and was utterly wowed by it.
Maybe it’s just me, but when the preschoolers are enjoying the learning process just as much as their school-aged sibling, I think that’s so cool!
Many times, as I sit at the dining room table, with books open, in the middle of a 20 minute math lesson, my little boys are sitting nearby, or under the table (one of their favorite places) half-listening.
They’ll pipe up now and then with a comment or question or a request for mom’s attention.
Occasionally, their presence in the room really does become a distraction, or their interruptions too numerous, and I have been known to lose my patience and shoo them into some other room of the house to “go play someplace else!”
But let’s be honest, they are 6 months, 3 and 4. And little ducks like to be near mama duck.
So why fight it? I am not trying to bring a school into my home.
Home education is so much more natural and organic than a traditional school setting. It is such a freeing and invigorating way to learn.
This isn’t just a biased homeschooling mom’s opinion. I taught in public schools for nearly 10 years, so this is something I can say with conviction.
Home education can be a very natural extension of home life. Nothing about it is artificial, except what we bring in from the traditional school setting or mindset. Occasionally I will actually find myself looking for busy work to give to my daughter…and I catch myself and think–wait a minute! Why would I need to do that after all that we have learned and accomplished together this morning? Why waste her time? Is it to make myself feel better, giving her a little bit of schoolish work? Some boring skill-practice-sheet tagged on at the end of all the rich and meaningful real-life experiences we’ve had today?
That’s still the public school teacher in me–and she’s not quite dead.
My home-school may not be as quiet and structured and by-the-books as my old classroom was, and it certainly lacks bells and schedules and worksheets and endless paperwork, but so far, I’m happy with what I’m seeing from my new classroom. And my kids are happily thriving here.
Turns out, it’s really WONDERFUL to be free of all that, and to just embrace life with my kids–all of them, school age or not. To just live and learn together. To work hard, yes, but also to take long, leisurely breaks together. There is such a feeling of togetherness that homeschooling brings, and oh, what together-joy has been ours so far on this journey!
To take our time exploring and discovering together, out in the woods, or looking through a book. To listen to them share and giggle over our daily tea time and smile at one another and love one another so richly. To truly enjoy what each little person, and each age brings to our little “class”…yes, even the baby. What tender, light-hearted, and downright hilarious ideas and comments are provided by my younger children each day as I “do school” with my older one. I shudder at how quiet and boring (and how school-like) our classroom would be without them. They enrich our experience beyond measure. And they, themselves, are enriched by taking part in it.
There are many reasons why homeschooling may or may not be for you. But please, fellow mama, never fear starting it (or trying it?) because you have other busy, needy, young ones at home.
Instead, prayerfully consider it, keep an open heart, and allow the Lord to lead your family where He wants.
Because you may be surprised to find, if you tried it, that homeschooling does not look a whole lot different from what you are already doing now as a loving, committed, stay-at-home-mom.
Does it demand a bit more? Of course. More patience. More dedication. More juggling. Yes, yes, and yes. And like me, you’ll find your well runs empty, over and over and over again. You will try and fail. You’ll lose your temper and your patience–many times. But the good news is that our Lord is waiting to fill you right back up with that living water of life, and to bless your journey of togetherness with HIS presence and His joy unspeakable!
And who knows what you would miss if you never took a risk, right?
I am praying for you today, you amazing mama!
WhereEVER you are in your journey of parenting, remember that where He guides, He always provides.
Have a wonderful day today, serving and loving your children.