Monday, November 18, 2013

Homeschooling and Comparisons

This is the first post where I get into the nitty gritty of home schooling.  I'm not much of an advice giver, but you guys have asked (very nicely) and so I'll do my best to share with you what I've learned.

Let me begin with a few disclaimers.  I have only boys.  I know NOTHING about schooling girls.  I have a feeling it's a whole different ballgame.  I have a feeling I wouldn't be saying things like "a whole different ballgame" if I didn't have all boys.  So if you have a house full of girls, you might write an entirely different post.  But I do think some of these principles will apply to whomever you might have in your household.

Second, I'm not an expert in the area of home schooling, not by a long shot.  All I have is my own experience and research. 

And last, the way that we've home schooled hasn't been tested and proved.  My oldest son is 11 and I'm hoping and praying just like the rest of you that my boys will have what they need to make it in this great big world. 

  We began homeschooling in 2007.  Graham was five.  We had just moved to Minnesota and I didn't know a soul who home schooled.  It was lonely, and Graham (bless him) may have been one of the hardest kids ever to start with.  The boy had such an -- um, unique learning style.  He didn't like writing, which kind of makes subjects like handwriting difficult, or math since you have to do things like write your name on the top of the paper and be able to write that 1 + 1 = 2, or art since you have to do things like draw and paint.  And to top it all off, phonics wasn't clicking with him all too well either.  All the while, my friends' kids were excelling in whatever school they were in and I was feeling like a great big failure and feeling like it was all my fault.  On the days that I was tired and fed up with it, we fought, and I would lose my temper with him, and all those idealistic images of home schooling FLEW out the window.  Snuggling up and reading books were a disaster because the other three kiddos (who were 4, 2, and 1 at that time) didn't much care for snuggling up.  They much preferred to make loud noises, run around and irritate each other while I was reading.  Graham didn't like any part of school and I felt like he was getting further behind with each new day.  STRESS.  I remember it so clearly.

I'm giving you the background because I know starting can be HARD.  It's hard to not compare yourself and your kid to what everyone else is doing.  And sometimes home-school moms are overly competitive.  We all want to brag that our kids love to read, are obedient, and work diligently to get their school work done . . . all the while we are memorizing Scripture.  It's never been that pretty in my house.  We have days like that, and sometimes seasons like that.  But then one of us plays the sinner, and it's all over.  We struggle through some days and soar through others.  We celebrate the good days and apologize for what went wrong during the bad ones.  Home schooling is just like life.  It is an instrument that God uses to refine us.

The first part of this is written all to give you this great pearl of wisdom, or which you probably know.

Don't compare your situation or kids with others' situations and kids.

This one is hard, because I know you will.  It's impossible not to.  I still do it.  Too much.  But I've experienced enough success and failure to know that it's worthless, all the comparisons.  But I'm asking you to try.  Kids are all so different.  So different.  And they will achieve things at different paces, especially when they are young.  That is o.k.!  Some of my boys are ahead of where I need them to be.  Some struggle with keeping up with what we assign them. They're different.  Some kids are more patient.  Some are more motivated.  Some are good at writing.  Some are good at math.  Some are good at reading.  And that poor first child.  We want them to be perfect at everything because that makes us feel good about ourselves.  You've heard moms talking about their kids.  Can you believe Johnny is only two and knows all his letters and sounds?  My Jenny devours books.  She's always reading.  Joe was asked to play on the all-star team.  We hear these things, and though we want to be happy for them, we have a hard time because we feel like a failure.  And as a home schooler, there is no school or teacher to blame.  There is only me, myself, and I.  And I've let the pressure get the better of me more times than I'd like to admit.

With time, I've become more comfortable with the idea of resting in God when it comes to my kids and what they will become.  I've always been comfortable with the sovereignty of God when it comes to things that are more spiritual, but when it comes to something like school . . . well, those things are up to ME!  I must get tasks done with sheer will power and hard work.  These are so intertwined.  There are some areas in school that can be accomplished with hard work, and others that you must simply wait for.  Waiting is hard.  Waiting for your child to learn to read, or waiting for them to finally hold that pencil correctly in their hands, or waiting for a bad attitude to be overcome.  Waiting and trusting in God that he has your child's best (which may or not be success) in mind is something that requires faith.  God gave your children to YOU.  You are the expert on them.  You can only push them so hard to be who they aren't.  Love them.  Teach them.  Pray for them.  Nurture them.  These are the things you are called to do.

For my next post, I'll get to that ever-popluar question, "What do you do with those little kids while you are schooling?"


Blairish said...

I will definitely NOT be missing the next post.

Thank you for this one.

Hope Helms said...

Loving this!

TJ Wilson said...

"With time, I've become more comfortable with the idea of resting in God when it comes to my kids and what they will become." Sarah - I see this so clearly in you. What amazing moms we can become if we really take this to heart.

thethomfamlee said...

Encouragement for the soul! Thanks Sarah!

Krista Sanders said...

Great stuff, friend. Every struggle you mentioned- I could have written too. Thanks for sharing.