13 Weeks Ago: Lessons, Rules, Relationships

13 weeks ago our Little Lady made her grand entrance into our world. She is growing far too fast. She, in combination with the boys, is a sharp reminder of how fast time passes. My baby boy is a month away from his 6th birthday, and Little Lady is already 1/4 of a year old.

This makes my heart sad some days.

I’ve been getting so wrapped up in teaching these kids that I’m wearing myself out. I’m looking for a lesson in everything and constantly trying to do good enough as a mom. I am plagued by this driving force of the “be good enough” and it is exhausting.

This checklist is running in my head all of the time, it is this constant nagging of whether or not I’m teaching them enough. The things I ask myself: Am I teaching them enough history? Are they learning enough math? Respect? Obedience? Responsibility? Discipline? Self care? Are they learning about God? Learning scripture? Praying enough?

Rules, rules, rules. I’m taking my own passion for parenting out of the mix by trying to come up with the perfect mix.

These are good questions, and living life together is the best instructor. Them watching me, relating with me, growing up in an environment full of opportunities for learning, is great. But when it turns into a check list that drains Mom of all her energy, things are a bit “off”.

At LifeChurch.tv, Pastor Craig said “Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” Now, this didn’t sink in for almost a week. I kind of brushed it off, really. Yet, I’m sitting here soaking in how true it is.

The most important thing I can impart to these kids is my support, love and relationship. Sure, I think some structure is good for all of us. But if I can help them grasp that God loves them and wants to know them personally, by having and sharing my own relationship with Him, then that will take them further in life than any lesson I can teach.

If I can also communicate openly with them, answering most of their questions, listening to their dreams and desires and thoughts, and sharing my own with them, I will build a healthy relationship with them. And if they are close to God, and have a healthy relationship with me, then they will be prepared to have healthy relationships with the people they encounter throughout life.

I think, instead of stressing myself out about every single moment being a teaching moment, I’ll cuddle them a little closer, listen a little more, and worry a little less. And I’ll pray a little more, because God doesn’t expect us to do this on our own.

Have you ever worried yourself over whether or not your making the most of the teaching moments?


HSF 7: Once the toes have been cut off

I read a great status update from The Libertarian Homeschooler. This is what they had to say:

“Sometimes people struggle as they try to let go of the idea that a child should know such and so by such and such age. Yes. Curriculum. Scope and sequence. It gives us a sense of control, doesn’t it? Life is safer if you’ve checked off the boxes and done what everyone says you should do. If it all goes off the rails, you were walking lockstep with the culture and so you are not to be blamed.

You are a good parent if you do it the way the culture says you should. Never mind that what the culture is producing is a hot mess. Oh…right. Hot mess. You’re walking lockstep with a culture that worships scope and sequence and curriculum and What Your First Grader Should Know and rote memorization and it is producing hot mess. So much for safety.

Why isn’t this working?

Imagine if we applied this curriculum way of thinking to shoes. At age nine months everyone wears a size nine shoe, regardless of the size of their foot. Everyone must try to succeed in their day-to-day activities–learning to walk, run, carry things, climb–in the size nine shoes. Only children who actually wear a size nine stand a chance, of course. There are very few children who fit into a size nine shoe. Those who have problems will be deemed in need of medication, remediation, or disciplinary action. Some will have the ends of their toes cut off for the sake of the shoes. Some will have their feet bound. Others will have them strapped to their feet because their feet won’t stay in them.

This is schooling. This is what following the curriculum looks like. It works for some, but not most. And it is not done with the needs and capacities of the child in mind. It is done for the ease of the adults who make the shoes and the adults who fit the shoes. It is done to the child, not for the child.

That’s why it doesn’t work. Children are aware that this is being done To them. They resent it. And we end up with a hot mess. And we wonder why.”

I have my own thought to add.

Once the toes have been cut off, and you change up the way things have been done for several years, it is hard. It is hard for the one teaching. It is hard for the one learning. Because it’s like teaching someone how to walk again, but harder. Because, I don’t always have the right words, or I can just reach out and steady him by his britches.

I don’t always know how to motivate someone that is so used to “conforming” that he struggles with the freedom. I don’t always know how to communicate effectively what I’m trying to teach him, because he’s used to 40 minute periods, 10 minute breaks and too much busy work. We have good days and bad days. I believe learning takes place all the time, and I used grocery shopping to teach the little boys to count. But I got this one as an instant addition, and he knows how to count. So, I’m being stretched and challenged to find ways to help him stretch out of the box.

I want his toes to grow back. I want him to find something he is personally passionate about. But I don’t always know where to point him because I didn’t expect him to need so much direction from me. I thought he would think freely, but he’s been taught to need directions. His toes will grow back, and he will find the shoes that fit, and I am beyond thankful to be part of this journey!

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

HSF 6: Deschooling

(I like making Friday my homeschool post day. I was calling it homeschool confessions, but not everything feels like a confession, and the title was messing me up. So, this is now affectionately Homeschool Friday or HSF.)

I’ve been struggling with helping my stepson de-school. You know, the process of breaking free from the influence of peer-culture, and standard expectations. I want him to develop his personal passions, and I want his education to help him pursue those passions.

Just like I want for the biokids.

I have an advantage with the biokids because this “free thinker” thing has been part of how I raised them. Getting the opportunity to homeschool and unleash the “free think” in someone that has been in public school for so long is vastly different than anything I’ve done before.

He needs a lot of guidance and still needs me to tell him what to learn. Now, let me say this: I am not so free from any guidance around here that we aren’t learning some important (in my opinion) subjects. We work hard on math, and language. I include some history in most of our school days, too. We dabble in science.

I have to force the youngest boy to practice his handwriting. This is not a skill he deems necessary, or desired. I don’t let him skip all writing because of his inclination to never write anything, ever.

I just don’t subscribe to an exact scope and sequence for their ages or grade equivalents. I let them learn at their pace. When something really strikes their fancy, they get to study it more in depth. Our 7 year old spent an entire month going through books about animals – birds, reptiles, amphibians, and dinosaurs. He is also very interested in learning more math, so I let him do as much of it as he wants.

The 5 year old wants to read independently, so instead of hovering, I pair him up with a brother and let him read to them. He doesn’t feel like he is depending on me, but they are both able to help him if he gets a word wrong. Since I’ve started this, his reading ability has tripled in just a couple weeks.

Yet, with the 14 year old, I’ve had a hard time pinning down what he really likes, or what he really wants to learn. He asked for some books on tigers/big cats and wolves on the last library trip. I got those, and he has thumbed through them multiple times. I told him to pick a topic and research for 30 minutes, and he spent his time on “odd facts.” (Totally fits him!)

I’ve started asking him to help me teach the younger boys, too. He reads from his history book to them, helps the 5 year old with his reading, and helps the 7 year old with math (when the 7 year old will allow it). I’m right there, I’m not pawning off my job, but as I see how he gives them information, I’m figuring out more about giving him information.

Hopefully, the more he writes about what he wants to write about, and the more he engages in what he wants to engage in, this will become less foreign. Hopefully, next year, instead of wondering if or when we’ll get there, I’ll be writing to tell you that he’s hardcore studying ________ and preparing for/enrolled in some college courses to further his study in that area.

Have you ever faced this type of learning curve? How did you handle it?