"Courage, my heart! Go on little by little, for many littles will make a great whole." Spurgeon
So you know those school days where you are juggling math problems and grammar and the dogs keep barking at the people zooming by and then the toilet goes and doesn't just overflow, but blows its seal? Yeah, that is how our school day looked today. And it isn't even noon yet.
I admire all the beautiful schedules and plans listed on all of those homeschool blogs, and there are days I try to emulate them. Who in their right mind wouldn't want to have things laid out so beautifully and pin-worthy? What kind of homeschool mom would I be if I didn't try?
But, as was already established, for whatever (lots of!) reasons, our lives are not neat. And I really believe, that for the most part, neither is anyone else's. We may have seasons of ease, seasons where the dogs never chew on favorite toys while we are trying to learn division and the lessons just flow and the toilets all behave. Our first year of homeschool-our inauguration year-it was full of that. And even, our next year, first grade- was full of field trips and hands on fun and lessons and moments of "I can't believe how much fun, how easy, how beautiful this all is!"
I didn't have to spend hours planning and reviewing all to have the toilet (or whatever) conspire against all that work.
And, I didn't need to drink nearly as much coffee.
But for the most part, I think many of us homeschoolers are faced with battles of unexpected challenges from illness to unemployment to unsupportive family and even, yes, toilets on the fritz. And this is what I've learned so far in this year of challenges about homeschooling during these moments-
- We don't have to do it all today. My kids don't need to learn every concept in every subject perfectly today. We just need to keep moving forward, keep taking the next step. Some days our pace will sprint, some days we may just mosey, but as we all learned from the Hare and the Tortoise-it isn't the speed that counts, it is the persistence.
- It is okay that what we complete isn't perfection, that isn't the goal anyways. My kindergartener's drawing of the water cycle doesn't need to be something worthy of hanging in the Louvre (or posting on social media), it just needs to demonstrate that she is understanding the concept and to have a place of honor on our refridgerator will do.
- When all else fails- do math and reading. So the day is shot, the toilet is going to be renamed "Old Faithful" and the dogs tracked in every piece of mud from the back yard to my kitchen and the doctor's office is calling to say an MRI needs to be scheduled ASAP? No problem. A few math worksheets (yes, dreaded worksheets but they get the job done) and some great reading books on hand will never steer us wrong. Tomorrow, or next week, we can tackle the awesome project or hands on math learning or the dramatized reading of Hamlet (or Green Eggs and Ham depending on my kiddos), but my littles will stay on track with their reading and math. What so many awesome veteran homeschool mamas have shared with me is essentially " everything else they will learn again and again, but math and reading-those are gold".
- Make your home a learning haven. Puzzles and building supplies and art supplies and books and books and-you guessed it-books. This doesn't have to break the bank. The dollar stores sell so many games and puzzles and art supplies, thrift stores and library book sales sell books for sometimes ten cents (ten cents!) -and don't forget about the library. What a better place to take the kids where peer pressure is reminding them to "shhh!" Ensuring our environment is full of learning tools makes sure that, even if I am mopping up mud or talking with doctors, my kids are learning in some way.
- Remember that our kids learn in all different ways. Playing with friends at the park, helping to replace the seal on "Old Faithful", making a new recipe for a party, and even (gasp) selected shows on TV. It doesn't look the same for us as it will for you. It doesn't even look the same for my son as it does for my daughter or in third grade as it was in first. Embrace the variety, don't fight it. Life will be less of a struggle to survive and more like the struggle that births a butterfly; hard but in the end beautiful and strong.
- Surround yourself with truth. Don't spend more time looking at what others are doing and comparing that with what you are not doing. God has a plan for each of us as individuals and as families. Keep that truth up front and center-not the pictures of so-and-so's daughter who can ballet dance while she is playing the flute and reciting Shakespeare. Trust that if your daughter needs to do those things, you will get there. (Remember, lesson 1)
- My final lesson from this year is-pray. Believe that God hears your prayers and knows your heart for your kids. He will direct your steps. I can't tell you how many times a person has said a one sentence statement that has revolutionized the way I teach math for my son or reading for my daughter. Or how, after sharing with a group the struggles I was having teaching a math concept, they prayed for me. Shortly after I had a *genius* idea of how to teach it that my son understood the first time. Prayer connects me with God (Who loves me and knows what I need and loves my kids and knows what they need) and it connects me with others (who can be angels sent to help). If you read nothing else on this wordy list of lessons, read this: PRAY.
Don't worry if this list of lessons I've learned this year troubles you. If your hourly schedule and your scheduled field trips with beautifully organized reports that follow are your pride and joy- I get it. They were mine, too. I cherish those memories, and I look forward to our next season of those moments. Perhaps, you are in a good season, where the "fig trees are blossoming and the vines are yielding fruit". If that is the case, then by all means enjoy it. Don't worry about my wonky toilet or my list of thoughts , just enjoy the fact that, right now, is a spring season. Soak.it.in. And hopefully you will never have to think back to this crazy post with too many references to my bathroom fixtures.
But, maybe you are in a season where this all sounds about right. You understand what it feels like to face the life you have while bombarded with all of those perfectly poised posts. You might wonder (as I do) if you are doing the best for your kids, and I want to say, "Yes, dear Mama, you are."
So maybe today was filled with too much toilet water (any amount is too much toilet water!) and the lesson wasn't as smooth as you expected it to be. Perhaps you realized today that you might need to watch a few YouTube videos on long division before trying to explain it again or maybe that project you thought would elicit cheers and chants of"You are awesome, mom!" only produced groans and volunteers that offer to clean up that toilet water instead. Maybe you aren't sure if this homeschool stuff is what you are cut out for.
But, take heart!
Remember that today you are teaching your child many somethings that are very valuable.
You are showing them that they matter.
That everyday is a gift, even when (especially when!?) it is wrapped in the unexpected.
That you care about how they are doing, whether it is in math or in their hearts.
That every step forward is progress even if it is small.
You are teaching them how to not just survive during these hard seasons of life (hard seasons that they will have to know how to navigate on their own someday), but how to thrive and Who to turn to when the harder seasons come.
And that, dear Mama, is priceless.
Keep up the good work.