I’m on a few homeschooling groups on Facebook. I see this common theme over and over in each and every one of these groups. It starts by stating that their child is 5 years old, they are just starting kindergarten, their child is resisting seated work, or reading isn’t clicking, they can’t spell at all, or they are fighting all the time. They are weeks into homeschooling, their families are watching and critiquing, they want to do this right. They feel like they are failing.
Oh dear mamas. Take a breath. Pour yourself some tea. Let’s have a chat.
I know you have pressure from relatives to make education formal and school-like.
I know you are trying to kill all the birds with one stone.
I know you are researching where your child should be, researching state standards, worried you are failing before you’ve even started, and calling yourself crazy every step of the way.
But deep, deep down, you’re doing this because you feel called. You are aware of your weaknesses, and you’re scare you won’t live up to your calling. I know. I’ve been there.
Consider these words:
1) What you are doing is hard, but it’s important. I know you know this. But I want this to sink in: it’s supposed to be hard. Hard doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. Sometimes it means everything is right. You are at the front lines of a spiritual battle. I’m going to be honest. Satan will do everything that he can to discourage you. You will get a flood of lies daily that you have to fight off with truth. You will get exhausted if you fight all the battles. God does not intend you to fight every battle that comes your way. This will require wisdom.
Wisdom of when to push your kids and when to pull back and watch what happens is paramount. That is goal #1. You need wisdom, and the only way for this to happen is to ask God. Ground yourself in Scripture and prayer, daily. Since this is the #1 most important thing for you to get done each day, expect it to be the #1 goal for the Evil One to foil. Seriously, if you have to choose between you getting your time with God or your child learning spelling that day, choose the time with God. There is no subject in your school that should stand in the way from you getting your daily fill of wisdom from God.
2) Your child is designed to learn. I know it doesn’t feel like that right now, but consider all your child has learned so far. Could you have stopped them from learning how to roll over as a baby? Could you stop them from climbing? Do you do language drills to get him talking? I remember pushing my first child to walk, but with all other children, I put on slippery pajamas on them all day so they wouldn’t crawl so stinkin’ early. Good luck trying to get your child to NOT learn something. They will memorize t.v. commercials without coaching, they will study their baby food without your training. Yes, there are times when you see your child isn’t walking, and it’s time to bring in some specialists. But when your child is 10 months old and they’re not walking, don’t lose sleep. It’ll happen. Your child’s brain is a sponge.
They may not be learning what is on your agenda that day but they are learning. Work with their brains; don’t force it. This will take a lot of reading your child’s signals. One of the beauties of homeschooling is to be able to customize their schooling, but sometimes when we do exactly that the world tells us we are coping out.
The same goes for reading, and school readiness. Do you know the range of my kids reading? My earliest reader was just before she turned 4, and my latest reader was around age 8.
Both age 3 and age 8 are normal. My child who learned to read at 8 is not any stupider than my child who learned to read at age 3. In fact, each of them have their areas of genius. All of us do. There’s not much you can do about it. It’s their design.
Consider several countries that consistently outscore the US in education don’t start school until age 7. Also consider that even compulsory school laws here in the US start at age 7. That is because the science firmly points to the fact that not all kids are ready before then. Science also says that kids learn best at this age through play. Occupational therapists dealing with kids with IEPs in school are shouting this from the rooftops, on deaf ears of the politicians. Educators are angry about things like the push for Common Core because it does not follow the science they know. Their brains need play. If you are letting them play, you are ahead of the game.
What you CAN do is create an environment where learning is constantly happening. Turn off those screens. Bring out books. Have educational toys. Replace entertainment-only toys for toys requiring building and imagination. Bring them alongside all your chores, cooking, cleaning, and train them. Have them shadow you. If they can’t sit down and do a worksheet, then put the worksheet away and do some other learning activity. This isn’t giving up, or giving in. It’s moving forward out of being stuck.
The problem isn’t that your child can’t learn, it’s that he can’t learn on demand yet, or learn like a 10 year old. Make it easy on yourself. Focus on making the home a delightful place for their brain to wander.
3) The longer I homeschool, the more I believe that character training is more important than academic training, and should take a priority. The reason for this, is the character training will pay huge dividends of making academic training a piece of cake. Character training is the foundation to all other learning. Teach them about God. Teach them about kindness. Train them to love, and show them what that looks like.
Pause a moment and consider if you would rather have a child who grows up to love the Lord and love his neighbor, and lives by grace, or would you rather have your child be a top notch surgeon or lawyer who holds no regard for human life, and whose personal life is falling apart? You don’t have to pick between whether or not your child will have a good spiritual life or academic life. But you do have to prioritize. You do not need to smash a lifetime of learning into their kindergarten year.
Character training, teaching them to bring their cares to Jesus will have a more profound impact on their lives and on the world than any other school subject. Therefore, consider Satan to set his sights on making this a low priority in your homeschool as well. Expect your feelings to be manipulated in this area. Expect a lot of false guilt for not getting math done, because you had to have a heart to heart with your child that lasted forever training him not to hit his sister.
Expect the lie that this isn’t what you are supposed to be doing, or that you shouldn’t have to do it. Because that’s what Satan does. He lies.
The truth is that training them to follow God’s ways is exactly what you should be doing. Training them not to hit, scream, disobey is exactly what you should be doing. When this foundation is there, teaching school a few years down the road will be much smoother. Their hearts will be turned to following God, and their curiosity about his world will be intense.
Academics is frosting the first few years of school. Still keep in on your calendar. If your child loves it, then great! Do it! Try to get it done each day. But know your battles, and know the lies that will constantly be thrown your way. Write down on a piece of paper what your goals are for that day, when it comes to training and discipling the hearts of your child, and tape it up in your kitchen. Look at it often, and don’t be baited into every battle with your kids that will be thrown your way.
You are living in a sacred space, with these children of yours. These souls under your care? God cares so deeply for them. Delight in their ideas, pull them on your lap, and tell them stories. Foster their imagination, their creativity, and keep feeding them the academics watching them closely on if they’re full for the day or need some more. Their brains are wired to hunger for knowledge like their stomachs are wired to crave food. Lean hard on wisdom on the Lord for this push/pull issue.
Take a breath. Lean on Him. Keep speaking truth to yourself, and guard yourself from lies. What you are doing is important. Pray for wisdom to see the truth from the lies. Forget everyone else’s standards. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Satan will tell you that isn’t enough. He’s wrong. Jesus will not lead you astray. He will not leave something important out. Fix your eyes there. Dig into the Word, beg for wisdom in prayer. Rest in God’s faithfulness.