Written by contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY
Lately, I’ve found myself at another homeschooling crossroads.
After finding a good groove for the elementary years I have a daughter transitioning to young adulthood. Change – ack! I also have a son with unique (and different from his older sister) learning needs and younger daughter whose needs I don’t want to neglect while focusing on her older brother and sister.
The homeschooling journey isn’t necessarily easy, is it?
We doubt, we worry, we wonder…
Am I doing this right? Am I messing up my kids? Are we learning enough? What should we be learning? How do I find the right curriculum?
Lately, I’ve been learning to trust in one answer to all those questions.
If it sounds too Kumbaya-ish, stick with me for a little bit here. Let’s talk beyond lessons and schedules. Curriculum and resources.
These tools, useful as they are, are not the foundation. They’re just the pieces (necessary I might add) laid on top of the foundation.
The foundation is love and it needs to be the root of everything I do.
Without love the things we are hoping to teach our children are like noise. One person has described it as a “resounding gong or clanging cymbal.”
When love is the foundation everything else will flow from that.
Teaching my children what they need to know, choosing the right resources, instilling habits and practices of learning – it all starts with love.
Here are some qualities of love, when applied to our homeschool, that bring joy and freedom to our days of learning together.
Love is patient.
Love is waiting for your children – littles to young adults – to unfold, to bloom, in their own time.
When they are little it means giving them time to be children.
It means allowing them space to figure themselves out during those teen years.
It means not rushing through activities, educational or otherwise, so you can get onto the next thing.
Love is kind.
When the kids were younger we had one rule – be kind. There wasn’t a long list of “do not” because really kindness covers most all of it.
Applied to homeschooling – in my interactions with my children am I being kind?
Yes, there are things we need to “enforce” – habits and disciplines we are teaching (remember we teach more by example than our words). These can be taught and done in kindness.
Love doesn’t compare.
Don’t compare your child to someone else. Don’t compare you to someone else. Celebrate and appreciate the unique person your child is.
We each have special talents and strengths as well as weaknesses. Remember that as your child struggles with a particular subject. And then apply point one – patience.
This is such a huge key to homeschooling with joy. Practicing this discipline has freed me from so many “how will I know I’m doing the right thing, using the right curriculum, etc” type questions.
Children will let us know what they need. Our job is to listen.
My children have let me know, loud and clear, when certain resources and routines are not working for them.
I’m not talking about the verbal moaning children sometimes do when we ask them to make their beds or do their handwriting practice. Our home is not immune to this. I do my own moaning from time to time (ok, everyday) about some jobs I’m just not motivated to do.
But when our kids repeatedly struggle with tears, frustration, or discouragement, about some aspect of family life or homeschool – I need to tune in and listen. They are communicating there is a problem.
Let me illustrate.
Math practice is just one of the daily disciplines in our home, kind of like making your bed.
We started this practice with each child around age seven or so and I was quite involved at that stage. We did it together.
As my kids got used to that routine it became an independent practice. By the way, this is an effective way to establish any kind of habit or routine – do it together until your child can do it on their own.
I had chosen a certain math curriculum and it worked well for our oldest daugther. I assumed my other children could use it fine.
My son however kept having a “bad attitude” about math. Complaining and resisting this routine part of our day. He was experiencing daily tears and frustration about a subject, that, I believe, should not be painful for young children.
His feelings and attitude were not the problem – they indicated what he couldn’t express verbally – the curriculum did not work well for him.
So we switched to something else. The tears and “bad attitude” went away.
We need to be detectives – “listening” to body language, behavior, and attitudes.
We need to listen to our children, not just their words, they will tell us if something isn’t working.
You really don’t need to know it all. What you do need is love.
Love listens and this will drive you to search for the answers when something isn’t working. In this way you will find the right curriculum and resources.
Love doesn’t compare and this allows your children (and you) to flourish and grow into amazing people. In this way you will know you’re teaching the right stuff and learning enough because it’s tailored to the unique needs of your child.
Love is patient and kind. In this atmosphere we realize our schedules and routines are simply tools to bring peace to our homes, to help us build relationship.
What do you think are the most important qualities of love, as applied to homeschooling?