For the Moms

Should I Homeschool My Kids?

Ah, what a question! If you’ve landed here, you’ve considered homeschooling to some extent and I’m so glad you’ve popped by. Today I’m sharing with you the story of my dear friend, Tiffany. By God’s kindness I ran into her at a Chick Fil A during our first winter living in the Midwest. I could pick her southern accent out from across the restaurant - I felt a sense of kindred spirits almost immediately. Today she is a dear and treasured friend, who feels more like family. Her daily pursuit of Christ is a constant encouragement to me. She shares how, as a former teacher, she learned to embrace the idea of homeschooling as the Lord led - and let go of the pressures a lot of us often ask ourselves. I think you will be encouraged!


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Hi, I’m Tiffany..

and I have a hybrid home! Seriously, when Lily first messaged me with the name and inspiration behind this lovely space I thought, ‘Nailed it!’ It’s me. It’s most of the mamas I know trying to live this life well.

My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years and we have three kids. Once upon a time, I was a teacher. I taught 1st and 3rd grades in a public school stateside and on a military base overseas. My husband and I both attended public schools growing up and believed we could educate and disciple our children by allowing them to do the same. If I’m being totally honest, we felt like parochial schools and homeschooling sheltered children too much and we’d have to be in a really bad school system to entertain either idea. Oh boy! “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

Fast forward a few years and we started the journey of public school with our children. My son attended a preschool, then our public half-day kindergarten, and then first grade. I loved it, he loved it—we were feeling great in our schooling decision. Second grade was…different. There were red flags with his attitude, behavior, spiritual growth, peers, teacher, and academic performance. He would come home almost every afternoon and have a complete meltdown. He was a hot mess and it made me sad and miserable. Looking back now I can say that I was losing his heart! There just wasn’t enough time after school and activities to nurture and train him. We were all struggling—it was definitely affecting our entire family. 

The worst part was I felt stuck. How could I carve out more time with him when we had made the decision to send him to public school? It was all or nothing right? I was NOT like my wonderful, creative, super-smart friend with endless patience who homeschooled her boys while going for hikes in the sun and snow!

Of course, the Lord was orchestrating His perfect plan. A couple of years earlier I met Lily at Chick-Fil-A. We were both Southern girls living in the Midwest and we both had three small kids. Oh, and we look a little bit like sisters. She homeschooled and I didn’t. We exchanged numbers that day and now she is a dear friend. 

Half way through my son’s second grade year when my concerns were really coming to the surface, we had a playdate with Lily and her crew. I shared my heart and she challenged me to continue to pray and listen to that still small voice. She said if you don’t have peace about registering your kids for full-time public school next year, don’t do it yet. We talked about the option of homeschooling and she made me realize that there was not one specific way to do it. I didn’t have to be all in or all out. 

I mean, folks, that’s pretty basic advice, right? However, I was completely blinded to other possibilities; partly because of my fears, but also because I just didn’t think it was possible to overcome all of the hurdles. How would I know where to start without the school curriculum I’d been given when I taught? How would my extroverted son be able to interact with peers on a regular basis if he wasn’t in school? Would our school dissuade me? What would we do if it was a total flop and he needed go back to school? Even if we made it a full year homeschooling, how would be able to ease back in without any trouble? Would this be too disruptive for him and for our family?

For every thought and fear, I was sure that God was affirming the decision to homeschool my son, but not my daughter. I felt a peace about sending her for the half-day kindergarten program in our district. My youngest was just turning three and not in school yet. My husband, who had not previously wanted to entertain the idea of homeschooling, was completely on board. Our principal encouraged me to do it and said the school would support us if my son still wanted to come for some classes. We also joined a co-op with friends, when we were initially told it was full and we needed to look elsewhere. 

So how did it go? What was it like for the former school teacher and mama who was used to sending her kids to school to be thrust into the world of homeschooling? Well, it was overwhelming and also the absolute best thing. I chose to obey the Lord’s calling and He showed up daily in big and small ways. More of Jesus! That is what we needed—that is what we received! I read 2 Corinthians 12:9 with an all new appreciation, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 

At times we butted heads and struggled because I had to be mom and teacher. Once or twice, I may have said, “I have a master’s degree in education.” The hard façade that built up over the previous year melted away. Multiple friends and his even Sunday School teacher commented that they noticed him softening. My son, who had commented the previous year that he wasn’t sure God was real, said that he wished his school friends could go to his co-op so they could learn that God was in everything. 

We spent a year really slowing down and focusing on the things that interested him. Plenty of lazy mornings at home in our pajamas. We read a lot. We snuggled on the couch and got lost in Farmer Boy and Om-Kas-Toe. He mastered the US map and presidents, as well his multiplication tables. His little sister was still around and demanding requiring attention—but he got way more one-on-one time than he’d received since his younger siblings were born. His love tank was full.

I love the promise in Deuteronomy 7:9, “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Perhaps one of the most beautiful things to come out of last year is the peace in my heart that God is indeed a promise keeper. His love for my children is far greater and more perfect than my own. We pray with and for them, teach them about God’s amazing love in sending Jesus, and teach them about the reality and pain of sin. We stand in the gap and pray with hope that they will have hearts for Jesus. Spending more time with my son gave me more time to see the work God was doing. I do not have to fear every act of disobedience! I’m parenting their hearts, not their actions. Proverbs 4:23, “Guard you heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Oh, and my son still sinned plenty even in a homeschool “bubble.” 

He is now back at school in 4th grade and doing great. He no longer has meltdowns after school! His teacher emailed me recently and said that he is making excellent choices at school, both academically and socially. We have little heart-to-hearts several nights a week while he is snuggled in bed. Sometimes it’s just a chat about video games, but other times we have talked about things kids have said and done at school that he didn’t agree with or understand. By God’s grace, I am able to listen and talk and pray with him without a paralyzing fear of our culture or his future. 

Another beautiful thing to come from last year is the opportunity to encourage other moms within our public school community and empower them to do what is best for their kids as well. I have had several phone conversations and coffee chats. For one friend that has meant pulling her son out as well to homeschool him in 3rd grade. For another friend that has meant speaking up and being a stronger advocate for her daughter within the school system.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” I do not know what the future holds for our kids’ education, but I am more confident than ever before that as my husband and I lean into Him, God will lead us and give us the means to get through each year. We will pray each year leading up to registration time and follow God’s call for the next year.

I struggle with that first step of faith. I’d rather not even try than fail! Oh, but friends, I choke on tears as I think about God’s goodness to my family in the last year. My prayer for you is peace in the decisions you’re making for your children’s education and courage to step out on faith if God is calling you to something new.

An Open Letter to Homeschool Moms During the Month of February

Dear fellow homeschool mamas,

I see you.  You’re looking at this 2018 calendar wondering how on earth is it only February 1st.  Have we REALLY got another 3 ½ months left of this??  

There is this funny thing that happens to some of us during the month of February - sometimes called the winter slump.  School seems impossible.  Raising kids, out the window.  The cold weather looms and all of your curriculum choices are horrible; you can’t believe you ever attempted this math book let alone tried to teach more than one kid!  Who ever thought of this crazy idea to homeschool anyway.  Surely it wasn’t your idea.  So long schedules; goodbye productivity.  You’re ready to wave that white flag high in the air and send all of your kids to public school for the remainder of the year.  That’ll teach em!  

But before you keep trodding down that path - or maybe before you even start… here are a few things others have taught me and I’ve found to be true myself.

  1. Don’t make any rash decisions about your curriculum for the month of February.

  2. Do not make any major change decisions about the following school year during the month of February.

  3. Take a break from school if needed and come back full steam ahead in March.

  4. Go back and re-read all the reasons why you’ve chosen to homeschool and make a list of all the goals you HAVE attained, both relationally and academically.  I bet there are more wins than it feels at this exact moment.

  5. Bake some cookies.  Brownies.  Loaves of banana bread.  A lot of them.  Every day, if necessary.  They drastically change the mood of most situations, as do hot chocolate and breakfast outings to Chick Fil A.  

  6. Find your tribe and stick together; meet up with friends at the local museum.  Have friends over for lunch.  Sign up for all the things at your local library, but whatever you do, don’t stay secluded!

  7. If you are not one of those mamas that goes through a February slump - find one that does and love on her extra big!

So ladies, be encouraged that February is a short month.  28 days, in fact.  With a little help from those adorable Pinterest Valentine’s Day math printables and a few extra play dates, you can do this!  Am I right??

 

 

 

Those Early Years - Part 2

As mentioned last week, there is just all the grace and flexibility in the world to let those little years stay filled with wonder and discovery.  The way we approach “school” during the four-five years involve a lot of hands-on, everyday life with a seasonal stack of “extras” that might include cut and paste, sorting, tracing, early handwriting, etc.  If it gets by us one day, or a week, there is no stress.  If there is extra interest and excitement to do more in one day, then we do more.  But for the most part, I follow their pace.

*for one of my children’s Pre-K Year I did intentionally try and have him complete one or two school related tasks a day.  The only purpose of this was to instill in him the habit of listening to my teaching and understanding that there are set expectations for school; it had very little to do with academics.  

*We are also part of a co-op that starts at age 4; We don’t do much with review until their second year, but they retain so much of it anyways!  Review time is always incorporated as a family and largely led by books we check out that pertain to the material.  

Here we go!  

Favorite Curriculum & Websites

**again, used loosely.  I print things off monthly and keep a big stack in a folder for each age and pull out as desired.  

1+1+1

This Reading Mama

Read Aloud Revival

 We love Zaner Bloser for beginning handwriting and their 1st book is a great start.  That could be a post in and of itself - reading and writing and when to start.  

 

Favorite Toys for Pre-K:

Dollar Tree Buys:

Corn and beans in a tray or small bin

Pom Poms to sort, put in and out of containers, etc.

Pipe Cleaners with letter beads

**I made a ton of busy bags one time for my first born; but was reminded that boys are just a little different when it comes to quiet time play and almost everything I made was either destroyed or reconstructed to be something else, so I let that one go...  

 

 

 

 

Those Early Years - Part 1

Once upon a time I had a baby.  Who turned into a sentence speaking 18 month old that turned into a 3 year old reader who then started computing multiplication in his head around 4, reading through the Bible around 5 and completed his first boxed set of novels just before 6.  His drive and focus was amazing and sometimes overwhelming.  He was so busy - he never slept.  In fact I’ve just now surrendered my 7 year battle of trying to get him to sleep more :)  He is who he is.  I also have a precious almost 6 year old who cannot get his b's and d's sorted out to save his life.  He sees everything in shapes and colors, what it could be instead of what it actually is.  He spends most of his time creating and dreaming, living outside of any sort of proverbial box and it's amazing and wonderful.  He's taught me a lot about slowing down and savoring.  My 3rd born is a unique and incredible mix of the two, who keeps us laughing/crying on a daily basis.

But I remember approaching those preschool years with my firstborn and feeling a lot of pressure to dive into homeschooling - because we could.  He was ready.  I was ready, I thought.  And we’d just spent the past four years playing, puzzling, reading, field tripping, walking and talking and doing all the things.  And really, I found schooling, curriculum shopping, all the extra reading and researching so much fun.  There is so much to look at and choose from and such great resources available right at your fingertips; Unit studies, coloring packs, busy bags galore.  All the seasonal crafts you can think of are just right there!  The eagerness and excitement of starting something new and setting up “school” just seemed fun.  

I am thankful we started when we did, and how we did and the things we chose to do.  But in my few years of parenting, and then diving into it again with my second born, I am just so thankful for the freedom homeschool affords; and if I could impart any wisdom or have the opportunity to encourage any new mamas out there with preschoolers and kindergarteners on their hands...this would be my list of top ten things to remember….

-DO play.  For me, that sounded dreadful.  What on earth had I been doing the past four years?  I was played out.  But every study under the sun shows the benefits of early play - even into ages 6, 7, 8 and 9.  Let those littles create, dream up and think to their hearts content.  **for those busier bodies that go from one thing to the next, structured play and sticking to a loose schedule is so helpful!

- DON’T over plan.  They are just so young!  Know your personality type - but also know the personality types of your kids.  I am a planner to my core, but not all of my kids thrive at the same pace or in the same box that I do.  Leave them space to explore at their own pace, even if it looks so much different than yours.

- Less. Is. More.  Our natural inclination is to give our kids the best this world has to offer; All the electives, all the classes, all the sports, all the books and experiences.  Academically speaking, children don’t need unit studies and tidy curriculum packages at this age.  They need structure and they need to know what to expect but ditch the busy work and extracurriculars to let them be.  

-Ditch the electronics.  If your house is anything like mine, there is a magical thing that happens when an electronic device come out: peace. And. quiet.  Mama gets a break.  Free babysitting.  But these are such precious years to instill self control and wise decision making; if you give a child the choice between playing/reading on a tablet or building with blocks or legos, they will of course gravitate towards the tablet!  But as educational as those apps claim to be, nothing...noth-ing… compares to the hands-on play time at such a young age.  

***I want to be clear here, life happens in seasons.  And if you find yourself in a season needing those moments of quiet or needing a break, I am with you and understand.  We are in a season where some days I’m couch ridden or just do not have the capacity to move a muscle - give yourself grace.  Use what is available to maintain peace and sanity in your home until you find yourself a little more capable.  

-Enjoy the slower mornings, and choose to focus on character and responsibility more than academics; my eldest thrived on the structure of a schedule.  Some mornings he was dressed, fed, read to, played with, and finished his morning snack by 7a.m.  Which kind of set me on a trajectory of jumping right to it every morning - but mamas, be encouraged that those slower mornings matter.  Taking time to instill helpful habits, starting with the Word, snuggling up for a great book or exploring nature on a morning walk - they all matter more than getting in that reading or phonics lesson.  

-Read.  Read.  And then read some more.  The end :)  

-If something isn’t working, give it some time - if it’s still not working, switch!   Sometimes we feel really bound by deciding on something that we stick it out even if it’s making "school" time miserable; Because we have to check it off the list, duh.  But it’s just not worth it.  I bet one of your goals in home educating is to tailor your child’s education to what works for them - so just keep in mind that if it isn’t working, you’re in charge and can change it!

-Let them lead.  If they are driven, let them keep going.  If they are laid back, let them be laid back.  If art and creativity consumes their day, follow them along and see what can be discovered together.  If reading lessons are going great but suddenly there is push back, it’s ok to back off.  I once read somewhere that as far “ahead” as kids can be at a young age, and as far “behind” as they can be at a young age - by the age of 10 most children meet around the same spot academically.  

-PRAY.  Our God is the God of creativity - He delights in discovery.  He adores relationship.  He is the giver of all wisdom - and He genuinely cares about your heart to homeschool.  Before you dive into curriculum and scheduling, spend some time praying over what would be a best fit for your week, month, year.  Ask Him to give you insight to your kids, open your eyes to their unique giftings and areas He wants you to focus on.  After all, He is the one who made them :)

So I guess I only had 9, not 10.  

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will be a list of my favorite preschool and kindergarten blogs, printables, curricula and toys!