I’ve been homeschooling now for almost six years. This has been the hardest job I’ve ever had. (Certainly harder than teaching sophomores at a high school. Or the time I shelved books in a library. Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park. Or, well, you get the idea.) And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder. For example, six years ago, I only had a kindergartner. Now I’ve got a fifth-grader, two third-graders, a first-grader, and a preschooler. (Not to mention a toddler and another in the womb.) But the good news is, it’s all worth it.
Well, to celebrate six almost down and about twenty-five more years to go, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.
10 Things I Wish I Knew Six Years Ago
- Get up before the children do.
Yep, you just need to do it. You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it. I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes… If you can do this, your day is set. Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible. For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed. Prudence, mama.
But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:
“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**
**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting. She’s hilarious.
- It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.
I will never be a crafty mother. I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts. If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it. Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas. This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family. I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.
- Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.
This one’s absurd. Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a public prison, er, I mean in a public school? How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself? Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath. (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.) The point is, our children are learning. And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.
- Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.
This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others. With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day. If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life. She’s really intense, but insightful.
- Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.
I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five. I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read. And now, I’ve spent the last three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself. (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it. Amen.)
- Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.
I hate math. And guess what? When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it. But my husband loves math, so last year, he took it over. (I will love him forever for it.) In our household, math starts at 7am. Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well. If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively. Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom? Or, budget for and hire a tutor? Enroll in an online program?
- Eat breakfast like a prison camp.
In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together. We eat peanut butter toast every single morning. We’ve done it for years. There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect. And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast. (On the weekend, there is a reprieve. Saturday is oatmeal. Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.) You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.
- Learn to say no.
You want to destroy your family life? Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together. As a culture, we are far too busy. Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons. This is ridiculous. Pick one. And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night. This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families. And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.
- Are you going crazy?
From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out. As I have a small house, this gets tricky. I mostly prefer to hide in the bathroom, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, unless I take a bath. This year has been the Year of the Bath. I bought myself some lavender epsom salt. It smells nicely. I also prefer to take a martini and my book in there with me too. What do you do to get away? Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon. And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband. Life is too short to do otherwise.
- Lastly, think of all you’ve learned!
Yes, I finally have a fifth grade education. Whenever I feel poorly about my job as a mother and educator, I console myself with the thought that at least my children know more now than I ever did at their age.
If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.
Anyone have other thoughts or ideas? I’d enjoy hearing about them.