Hello friends! It’s time for another FRIDAY FEATURE guest post! Today I have JoLynn Graubart sharing a bit about how to thrive in your homeschool and she shares some great insight as a newbie homeschooler. Keep reading to read her tips!
A homeschool thriving guide: newbie to newbie.
Okay, so while I’m not exactly a brand-new newbie to this homeschooling thing in the same way that so many of you are in this 2020 AD, Year of the Crazy, I am one breath away from the starting line, and boy do I remember what that feels like.
I am also one of the most unlikely homeschool moms you will ever come across. My husband and I didn’t just go to public school, we were model students. I’m talking student council, honors society, athlete type students. We thrived there, and we weren’t even a little bit sorry about it.
By the time my oldest was five, she was also thriving there. But “there” at the time was half-day lessons in a classroom of eight students where a precious teacher knew both my child and the definition of Sensory Processing Disorder. By the spring of that year I started to feel the tension between wanting to let my girl experience “real school,” and knowing her as a person in the way only a mother can. I knew the periods of quiet that she needed, the freedom to move her body that she needed, the space to externally process all of the big feelings… that she needed. Her needs lined up with homeschooling – not full day public school (not even the school bus). And that was that.
I can hardly believe that we’ve been living this homeschool life for three full years, and having the privilege of hindsight, I can tell you that homeschooling was the best thing we’ve ever done as parents. But you don’t have the benefit of hindsight right now, do you? What you have are all the big scary feelings, all of the voices in your head, maybe the neighbors, your parents… One huge difference between is that we made this jump completely of our own volition. We got to take our time, and think it through, and I can imagine that some of you feel like you’re about to be pushed out of a helicopter into a free-fall (Surprise! There’s no parachute!) with like 20 mins notice and zero training.
But I have a secret for you: the free-fall is part of the deal.
It is the part that keeps you dependent on your instincts as a mother (or father) as you study your kids and fight for them to not only pass some sort of requirement checklist or final big assessment (because it’s required by the state), but to raise kids who truly know and love themselves, and who LOVE learning from their head to their toes, and know how to do it.
After only three short years the voices have shut the heck up for the most part. I’m no longer terrified of things like “socialization.” And that’s because I can see the outworking of this lifestyle of learning, the gift that it is to me as a mother, and to my children as we discover together who they truly are, what they love, and how their brains are wired.
This is not a survival guide.
So this is not a “survival” guide, because something beautiful and vital about homeschooling is lost when it is whittled down to mere survival. I’m sure at this point some of you are like, “Lady, please. We just need to keep our head above water until this is over.” But if you’re anything like me that was how you walked into this Coronapocalypse in February, and about two months in things shifted to, “Whoa. There is so much GIFT available to our family in this season.”
See? You have been training for this.
Things to remember.
I’ve got 8 quick keys to help you enjoy this New Thing that’s happening to you whether you’re jumping in with a big old grin on your face or being pushed over the edge (or it’s some kind of weird combination of the two).
Disclaimer: these are mindset shifts not to-do lists so put down your pen friends, take a deep breath, and listen up:
- Your kids are already people: This may seem obvious, but parents tend to act like this isn’t true. Especially parents who love their kids (see me raising my hand?). It’s easy to think that if we just put the right things into a child that we will magically get the right things out. You know, like good grades and good behavior. But Charlotte Mason (look her up newbies. She will be your Yoda.) said that children are “born persons.” This means that each child comes complete with a certain set of strengths and weaknesses, desires and goals, and propensities for failure. Each child is not a blank slate. Read that again. They are not a lump of clay to be molded. They are more like precious gems waiting to be extracted from the earth. So instead of trying to make them into something, drop your expectations and visions of their future, and pick up a chisel. What makes this child like what she likes? What makes her dislike what she dislikes? Who is this tiny human gift that unfolds a little bit more in front of me each day? This slight change in perspective will make homeschooling way less frustrating, and more like the treasure hunt that your children deserve.
- Don’t be afraid to turn around and go the other way: This is as basic as the “stop and ask for directions” principle. You can’t mess this homeschooling thing up, if you can always change your mind. The math you’re using isn’t working out? Back to the drawing board. Do a little research. Ask your kid good questions about what they’re struggling with, and truly listen to their answer. Get a tutor. Remember that you are learning about them, as they are learning. You are building the plane as you fly it. That is not a disadvantage. It is the beautiful opportunity to adjust and readjust as necessary. Don’t get caught up in getting to some allusive destination of perfection because guess what? It’s kind of like when your three month old was sleeping great, and then they abruptly stopped because they grew and had different needs. Part of working with growing, changing, living humans is that they’re always changing. Don’t hate it. Expect it. And then embrace it.
- Start early. Stop often: This could be a preference thing, but I have found that getting my girls’ brains moving bright and early makes a huge difference in what we’re able to accomplish. If I wait until they’re knee deep in pillow forts it is nearly impossible for me to redirect them. So we eat breakfast. I throw on a worship song to signal that it’s go-time, and we get to it. But that doesn’t mean we work from 8am to 3pm. Not only is that developmentally inappropriate, it’s completely unnecessary when you’ve only got a handful of students who are getting your one-on-one attention. We do our work in small chunks, separated by things like snacks or hand-busy-ing activities to keep them focused when I’m reading. If your child looks like smoke is about to come out of their ears, they are literally incapable of learning at that moment (it’s science, not opinion).
- Take a brain break – jump on the trampoline for 5 minutes, have them run laps around the house, go for a quick walk, and then get back to it when everyone is feeling fresh.
- Moms are students too: You thought you were the teacher, right? Think again, Mama. Not only are you making a careful study of your own student throughout the day, but you are modeling for them what it means to be a lifelong learner. Find something you’re passionate about, and dig in. Let them see you reading or researching. Let them see you trying something new. Even better? Let them see you fail at it! And I know you’ve already passed second grade, but guess what? You’ll learn something new every single day alongside your kids if you let yourself. You are not the expert (gasp!). Let them know that! Don’t know something? Look it up together. They will learn that people KEEP learning. There is no final grade to pass or place to arrive at. Because learning in it’s truest form is living at its best. You don’t outgrow it or you stop growing, and who wants to do that?!
- Get the Heck Outside (aka Recess > Pinterest): I know that public school has conditioned you (and maybe your children) to have construction paper creations pre-planned for every hallmark holiday under the sun. I promise you, you (and they) won’t miss it. Don’t hurt yourself. I may be making some enemies with this one, but I swear that your child will learn more building a teepee in the woods on a whim, or searching for mushrooms, or building fairy houses in the meadow, then making a cutesy paper mache pumpkin to give to grandma. Give them experiences and adventure. Give them the world and their place in it. The chance to test their strength and skills in the great outdoors is so vital to childhood, and it’s heartbreaking that it’s no longer that norm. Don’t believe me? Go read the book “Last Child in the Woods.” It will change your mind.
- Laugh: there is scientific evidence that learning happens best when children are relaxed. It’s sort of like the “put your child to sleep thing.” You can’t make a kid sleep, but you can make the room dark and cozy and have a sound machine, bedtime routine, etc… The same thing applies here. I mean sure – definitely have some “it’s time to learn” cues like a song to bring them to the table and a rhythm to your days, but the key to creating an atmosphere where your child is able to learn is to actually enjoy one another! Laugh. Dance in the kitchen. Be super ridiculous as often as humanly possible. Someone is being a sassy-pants during copywork? Make them laugh. People are frazzled about what you’re asking of them? Take a dance break, and do the crazy chicken. It will work, I swear. Plus you’ll like each other a lot more by the end of the day, which counts for everything.
- Work distribution is key: Sweet mama, you are not adding a teacher hat on top of all of your other responsibilities. Because guess what? Everyone is home with you! Which means everyone from the preschoolers to the highschoolers get to join in on the home MAKING. You now have ample time to work on all those really annoying habits that make you feel like you spend all day picking things up and putting things down for other people. Life skills are crucial to raising successful humans. And that is your goal, right? Our kids can learn how to cook their own food, pick up after themselves, and help one another, and it’s crucial that we give them opportunity to do it. Not only will that create the kind of balance that makes you a happy mama, but it will instill confidence in them like you wouldn’t believe.
Some practical tips.
Okay, and for the practical people in the back:
- Handicrafts = anything that keeps little hands busy. Don’t over-complicate it. Coloring is a handicraft. Playdoh counts. Beading is great. Everything from playing with special blocks to embroidery falls into this category.
- Audiobooks are your friend. Long car ride? Audiobook. Copywork? Audiobook. Cleaning their playroom? Audiobook. Check out free apps that link to your local library like Libby, or use Audible’s free monthly credits.
- Read books together for FUN. A great place to start for age appropriate family read-alouds, and also the “why” behind this practice is www.readaloudrevival.com with Sarah McKenzie (she is a dream!!)
- Don’t just google Charlotte Mason (I mean, yes do that), but also read her actual words in the six volume set (available on Amazon). They are basically the elixir of life to this weary mama’s homeschool world.
Whether you look back on this emergency year as a beautiful change of scenery for your family that you’ll always remember, or it becomes the very beginning of a learning lifestyle at home with your children – you already have everything you need to give your kids the world. AND they are capable of more than you could ever have guessed. Just wait until you see.
Enjoy the ride, Mama.
About the author.
Hi everyone!! I’m JoLynn, and I’m so happy to share with you guys today! I am probably one of the most unlikely homeschooling mamas you’ve ever met, mostly because homeschooling is nothing like I imagined it. No wonder I couldn’t picture it! I live on a couple of acres in the South Jersey Pine Barrens with my husband and two girls. After three years of homeschooling, I have fallen hard for all things Charlotte Mason, and live for spontaneous outdoor adventures (the beach is LIFE), reading good books (together and alone), and actually enjoying these spunky little humans that I live with. You can find me @jo.plantinghope where I write about what Jesus is doing in my life (can’t seem to help it) while I attempt to figure out homesteading, love on my chicken friends (and now baby ducks!), boundary-coach my children, and write children’s fiction for fun. I’m big on honesty, and couldn’t imagine living without like-minded women who show up when your house and life and brain aren’t Instagram ready. You know the kind who clean out your microwave while you’re putting the baby down for a nap just because they love you? They’re my people. So nice to meet you!
You can read more at JoLynn’s blog HERE.
Thank you so much for sharing these tips JoLynn! If you’re interested in participating in my FEATURE FRIDAY posts, please send me an email or a DM on Instagram. Have a great weekend my friends and thanks for reading!
And, check out my latest adventure with my kids – a canoe and camp trip!