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?
Love is telling me today that we need a break. We had some tears and heart to heart talks this afternoon and next week we will have a project week. Everyone will just do what feels fun and relaxing. I think love is willing to let go of plans and personal needs sometimes to care for people’s hearts and build relationship.
Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Angry Parenting
Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds
I think you nailed it – patience and kindness. If I can weave patience and kindness into all my actions and words then everyting is less stressful and more joyful for us all.
Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds’s latest post: The Science of Home Management or In Which I Reveal My Geekiness
Renee, if you don’t mind ‘naming names’ I’d love to know what math curriculum wasn’t working, and what you switched to! Sounds exactly like the scene at our house!
Your words are so true, and so encouraging. Thank you!
Mary Beth’s latest post: good eats for lots of peeps
No problem. We started all our children with Math U See – our oldest daughter has used it for years, very successfully.
Our son, who has reading and sequencing difficulties really struggled with it.
We switched to Teaching Textbooks on the computer and it’s worked wonderfully. Our youngest daughter has had success with both but prefers the interactive nature (and little animated incentives) of Teaching Textbooks.
Renee’s latest post: Listening & Loving
Thanks for this simple reminder. This is all so true! Our kids won’t remember much of the lessons we taught them, but they will remember how much we loved them.
Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Transcripts for Transfer
What a wonderful, wonderful post, Renée. Maybe I should print it out and stick it to my bulletin board! It’s easy to get very complicated and lose sight of “true north” in all the parenting and homeschooling decisions we’re confronted with. Thanks for the reminder!
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Jen @ anothergranolamom
What a nice post — as always. When I had babies and little kids, I dreaded having teenagers. I envisioned fighting, arguing and resistance. I now have two wonderful teenagers, with their share of teenage angst but who are growing into wonderful, caring adults. Now I am dreading the next step — two of my best friends leaving the house.
Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: School Around the House
Yeah. Some of my friends with younger kids really worry about teenage years but I love them. If we’re willing to grow along with our kids, these years can be the best!
Kika@embracingimperfection’s latest post: Angry Parenting
“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.” – Love this Renee!
thank you, thank you, thank you! just what i needed. i’ve been feeling the importance of listening to my children and having our routine/curriculum evolve through that. thanks, renee!
I hear you. A few years ago I thought about what or how I wanted my children to remember this time in their life. And that is what I strive for. You summed it up in your article. I want them to know love and have it surround them in the home. I don’t ever want my children to feel like they have to leave or want to leave. Happy is the word. Maybe that can be my word for the day ( :
Thanks and God Bless!
Kristina Peterson’s latest post: Mini Snow Pile Sledding
just what I needed to read this week! we have been struggling lately to keep to our school schedule and finally I called a break. we have been doing the minimum for the last week or two, and just spending more time together doing chores, crafts, reading. I’m finally starting to really “listen” to what my daughter wants to do rather than just get upset when we don’t get all of our work done for the week because a particular topic (or rather how we are covering that topic) is frustrating her. I’m constantly reminding myself that it matters very little if we cover all of these workbooks if in the end, I lose the chance at a wonderful relationship with my daughter because I want things to be done a certain way.
MIchelle’s latest post: Educating Vegan Children
Yes! Exactly Michelle – it’s about relationship with our children.
Renee’s latest post: Listening & Loving
Oh, your post so spoke to my sad-mother-heart, thank you for such wonderful words of wisdom.
My older 2 daughters have recently withdrawn and I didn’t give them that space they need to work things out. It ended in tears and discouragement. Self-doubt is a thief.
It takes great courage, grace and faith to keep praying, keep listening and keep loving when the someone in the family goes through a transition.
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shelli : mamaofletters
Renee, this has got to be one of the best homeschooling posts you’ve ever written. This is what I’ve been trying to do here, yet you put it into words for me. Love. I LOVE it. I’ve been doing very short, easy reading lessons with my five-year-old because he doesn’t respond to anything longer or more complex. I haven’t stopped altogether because he genuinely seems proud of the fact that he’s learning to read and seems to like it. So I’ve been consciously trying to be extra patient with him, find that middle ground, and not worry about doing anything more formal. Just make it fun. Thank you for the affirmation.
shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Secular Homeschooling Is On The Rise
Ahhh…The great love chapter of the Bible- 1 Corinthians 13. One of the best chapters in the Bible!
Wonderful post! I won’t start “official” homeschooling for another year or so. I have a preschooler and a toddler right now! But I do suziki cello with my three year old (I am learning right along with her on my big cello). Last night I was having her practice and though she usually loves it, it’s a type of playtime for her. But im always having to hold myself back from pushing ahead, and really need to have more patience! Your post was perfect today.
Thank you for this, Renee. So timely. And right up my alley. Yes. Love, respect, and trust. And off we go.
Susan @Homeschool With Love
What a beautiful post. You are so right about listening. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced and brings such great rewards. Having positive expectations is also helpful with homeschooling. I also like to make homeschooling fun for my kids with games and humor. Thanks for the great ideas on love.
Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site
This sounds just like you have read my thoughts:
“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?”
As a first time homeschooler I have struggled a lot this year. Thank you for this wonderful and motivational post. I have decided that no matter what… I need to read some Simple Homeschool EVERY DAY to keep my worrisome mind in the right place. Thanks 🙂
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