What homeschooling is teaching me about parenting.

Today we returned to work from our fifth winter break since beginning our homeschool journey. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where we’ve been and where we’re going on this education journey with the kids, and it occurred to me just how much this one decision has changed our family and, to my surprise, the way I parent. I thought I’d share a few things I’m learning along the way.

You don’t need to be perfect, but you need to give your best. There’s nothing like teaching your kids concrete concepts and your dependence on The Google to show you how often you miss the mark. But! You also see that you, they, and the lessons all recover from missteps so quickly. It’s humbling and freeing to admit you don’t know everything. I do it at least a handful of times each day. The world doesn’t end, I learn a new thing, and we move on. This has definitely rolled over into my parenting in general. I have less to prove, more to learn. It’s pretty freeing.

On the flip side of this…in a culture that is constantly praising the “hot mess”, I recognize that while messing up is okay, giving up is not. These are my kids’ lives and futures, after all. I’m learning to find my balance between giving my best effort for their sake and forgiveness when it doesn’t seem to measure up. We need a bar, but it’s okay if the bar is adjustable by a few inches.

Learning should not have hours or walls. I always tried to make our trips out learning experiences when the kids were younger, but homeschooling took that to a new level. What Branden first referred to as “homeschool mode” became our norm. Learning really looks a lot like conversations and invitations to observe what’s going on around you when you let it.The whole world is a classroom if you allow it to be. Foster a curiosity in your kids and feed it; teach them that the best reasons to discover something have nothing to do with a grade.

You can do ridiculous things and blame science. My son recently acquired both a bearded dragon and a tarantula. Why? Because science. Sometimes we cancel lessons and watch a storm or take a nature “hike”. Why? BECAUSE SCIENCE. Science makes up everything and therefore everything can be a science lesson. The possibilities are basically endless, but if you don’t know where to start: ice cream is totally science.

(Bonus: anything that you cannot reasonably call science could still pretty easily be art. Same rules apply.)

Playing does much more than you realize. A common lament I hear from preschool moms is that their kids don’t want to learn, they just want to play. But mamas, they ARE learning!! Playing at their ages, and even many years beyond, is like a superfood for their development- they are getting soooo much good stuff when they’re left to their imaginations.  Don’t fret that you should be “doing more” in this season. Let those babies play and grab a minute to yourself;  you’ll both be better for it. Which brings me to the next point…

You do need a little me time. The thing about homeschooling is that the kiddos and I are in each others’ grills all day. Baylor and I said the exact same thing at the exact same time at a friend’s house the other day; it was ridiculous. We are together. A lot. I don’t know why it took our 24/7 homeschool lives to knock the guilt off of the time I take for myself, but it did. And that guilt shouldn’t exist for you conventional schooling and/or working mamas, either. Do something nice for yourself once in a while- it’s setting a good example for the kids; reminding them you’re a human who also needs to recharge, and letting you return to them refreshed.

You also need a village. There’s nothing like doing something new to make you realize how important it is to have the support of others who are going through it with you, or have been there before you. I wouldn’t have made it through my first year of homeschooling without my fellow homeschooling mamas. Likewise, I wouldn’t make it through the parenthood without my other parents. Surround yourself with people who are in your season or have gone through your season and let them hold you up when you are sure you aren’t doing any of it right.

Parenting really comes down to teaching. There is a reason babies don’t leave the womb and get handed the keys to their own place. They need us, someone who loves them more than they can know, to guide them and show them how the world works, and how to live in it. A friend and I were discussing the balance between putting your foot down in parenting and giving grace, and I realized that the best way I have learned to balance that was through realizing how much of parenting was really teaching these souls that have been entrusted to me. Looking at hard moments as teaching moments has helped me better assess which side of the soft/hard spectrum I can lean towards, because my ultimate goal is for them to have come out better for whatever it is we just went through.

It’s all a labor of love. Why do I homeschool? Why do we mom? Why any of it? Because we are totally crazy about our little people, that’s why. Whichever path we choose for them, we are doing it out of selfless love. That’s who we are. We lay our lives down for these kiddos in small and big ways every day. Do we love perfectly? No, only One can do that. But we can  and do love so hard. It’s all for them, isn’t it? And they’re worth it.

Homeschool has helped us live a little braver, breathe a little easier, and love a little bigger. What has homeschooling taught you about parenting?

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