What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Homeschool Mom Self

Recently I have had a few conversations with younger mothers who are eager to embark on their homeschool journey. These chats have reminded me of all the things I wish someone had told me when I was considering homeschool in those preschool years. Since this is on my mind, I thought I would share here on the blog in the hopes this advice helps out some other mom who wants to make the most of the early childhood years! Before you go out and buy some expensive preschool curriculum or fill your child’s days with endless workbook pages, read on…

Tip Number 1:

My number one tip to you as you consider learning at home in the early years (up to age 6), is this:

RELAX!

Seriously. Just take a deep breath. It is easy to get caught up in the current cultural ideas of early academics. But the research does not back up the push to get kids reading, writing and doing math drills at a young age. The best thing you can do with your young children is to enjoy them being little and not worry about skills that will be easier to teach/learn later when they are more developmentally and behaviorally ready. Instead of stressing about curriculum, why don’t you spend some time researching different homeschool styles and philosophies. Take the opportunity to educate yourself and consider what sort of educational philosophy most resonates with you.

Tip Number 2:

But, you may ask, what can I do to add some intentional learning and structure to our days without going overboard? My first advice is to read aloud. A lot. Every day, multiple times a day, sit down and read a picture book to your child. Read the best books you can get your hands on. Get a library card and go as often as you can. Borrow audio books off Hoopla or Overdrive, and listen to them in the car. Look at AmblesideOnline Year 0 book lists for some great suggestions. Sign up for the free book lists from Read Aloud Revival for seasonal picture book ideas and family read alouds (not all for preschoolers, but still a good resource.) Or get your hands on a copy of the book Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, which has a great book list, as well as inspiration for reading with your children!

Tip Number 3:

Other than reading all the time, go outside as much as possible. Take advantage of the good weather whenever you can and get outside. If it is cold, bundle up and go for a nature walk to see if you can spot migrating birds or find interesting seed pods or look at beautiful frost flowers. If it is hot, turn on the sprinkler or fill up the kiddy pool and get wet. If it is rainy, put on your boots and go splash in the puddles. Go to any scenic parks and nature centers you can find locally, not just playgrounds. Notice animals, birds, leaves, rocks, sticks, bugs, clouds, flowers, etc. Get dirty.

Tip Number 5:

For indoor play, look up sensory activities to experience together. Sand, water beads, “clean mud,” plain old water, pouring beans/rice, play dough, cloud dough, etc. (Google and Pinterest are your friend here!) Listen to beautiful music. Sing children’s songs (I have a list of good ones here —> 100 Songs to Sing with Children.) Look at beautiful art. Your library should have some books with collections of art prints to flip through. Let them paint, draw, color, stamp, and paint some more. Teach basic household chores like folding washcloths, matching socks, wiping the table, sweeping the floor with a little broom and dustpan, setting the table, and washing produce.

I’ll say it again…

Most importantly, I want to reiterate my first point. Relax. Enjoy this precious time with your young child. Embrace the wonder and curiosity that he or she naturally has right now. Don’t sweat the academics. There will be time for that later. Slow down. Don’t rush. They will grow up so fast, even though I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. Trust me…you won’t regret holding off on those workbooks and curricula, momma. Just love on your kiddos. It will be okay.

Further Reading and Resources:

The Homegrown Preschooler is a book that comes highly recommended and has lots of ideas for learning in the early years.

A helpful blog post by one of my favorite homeschool mentors, Brandy Vencel: Looking Back: What I Wish I’d Know About Homeschooling in the Early Years

Another of my virtual homeschool mentors, Mystie Winkler, also wrote on the topic of the classical kindergarten: Dear Mom who wants to give her 5-year-old a classical education

Sarah MacKenzie of Read Aloud Revival’s blog post on the early years: 6 Ways to Early Years You Won’t Regret

Day 29: Together #write31days2018

I’m a day behind again (or still), so I’m just writing as if I’m not.

Today was my son’s birthday, and we spent the whole day doing some of his favorite things together for fun. Going to the library, hiking at the park, buying new shoes, making his cake and pizza for dinner. We had a really great day. And I am so tired. It was all simple, nothing extravagant or expensive. (Well, the shoes seemed expensive, but my son needed two pairs and my daughter also needed a pair!)

Just us. Together.

This is pretty normal life for us. As a homeschooling family, we spend a lot of time doing things as a family. When the kids were younger, it often felt hard to be alone with them, but now that my kids are old enough to enjoy playing and reading and drawing together, it is becoming so sweet. I love watching them become the people God intends them to be, even though that includes a lot of tiring, repetitive training.

Chew with your mouth closed.

Please stop whining and use your normal voice.

How do you ask for something nicely?

Don’t stand on the couch.

You get the picture. Parts of parenting are simply mundane and wearying. Some days I do just want to be alone and have a little peace and quiet. But at the same time, I am sincerely thankful that we get so much time together. I think that when my kids are grown, they are going to be some of my very best friends. And I will always be able to look back on these memories we made together and know it was time well spent.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes and Write 31 Days blogging challenges. Find all my posts in this series under the tag “write31days2018.”

Day 22: Help #write31days2018

I think in our current culture, we as American’s are not always willing to admit when we need help with things, at least I see that in moms. We want to appear to have it all together and to be capable of caring for our families and other responsibilities on our own. 

But this is not historically how mothers have done things. (The exception, perhaps, was in the extreme frontier days when pioneer women often went months without seeing their neighbors and had no contact with the families they left back east but occasional letters.)  In times gone by, women helped each other with childcare, household chores and outdoor work. They washed clothes together at the stream. They brought in the harvest and put up canned goods together. They trained their older daughters to look after the younger children while the women did work that needed free hands. 

Sadly, we have lost this type of close community help as our lives have become more automated and fast-paced. We have the semblance of community online, but we lack real hands-on help in our daily lives. We would not say that our ancestors were weak in giving help to and taking help from other women in their communities, would we? No. I think, rather, we should say that it is strong and brave to admit that we sometimes need each other, that we need help. And we need to be used by God to help others also. 

In what area of life could you use some “in the flesh” help today? How could you help a member of your local community this week? Let us pray for God to bring friends and mentors who can support us. Let us pray for God to bring us people we can serve. Let us pray for true community. Then be open to being the one to start building it as the Lord leads.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes and Write 31 Days blogging challenges. Find all my posts in this series under the tag “write31days2018.”

Day 16: Pray #write31days2018

Not a day goes by that I don’t pray several times for help from God. Most of the time, it’s a quick prayer in the midst of sibling conflict between my two children. But in the morning, I usually do  have time for more focussed, less desperate prayers.

However, I have found that those short send-ups for patience, wisdom and grace in moments of desperation are still meaningful. I am learning these days that I cannot control my children or the outcome of my parenting. I can only do what I think is best at the time and pray for the Lord’s will to be done in their lives. The Lord alone knows what is best for them, and I need Him desperately in these days. I am not the potter. I am here to nurture my children and to teach them all I can about making godly choices. But I am not able to determine the path they will go. This is a humbling, and in many ways frightening, realization.

So I pray. A lot. I pray that I will faithfully mother these precious souls. I pray that they will see Christ in me, even through my many flaws and failures. And I pray with gratitude that my God is big enough to draw them to Himself no matter how much I may mess up in the day to day.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes and Write 31 Days blogging challenges. Find all my posts in this series under the tag “write31days2018.”

Day 15: When #write31days2018

In the early days of motherhood, I quickly realized how lost I was in the duties of housekeeping and homemaking. I had had all sorts of free time before having children, and I didn’t realize how much I would need to organize my days once children entered the picture. It was a steep learning curve, but I eventually got a handle on some sort of routine. I at least knew when I needed to do certain tasks to keep the house running somewhat smoothly.

Now that my children are entering more independent elementary and preschool ages, I find myself with a little more time again. I am enjoying getting back to pursuing more of my creative interests, like reading and writing. This week I decided to get back to practicing the piano a little. I starting using the Duolingo app to practice my Spanish vocabulary again, too. I have been getting my knitting out every day this week. I am also thinking about when I can add some time to draw in my sketchbook and nature journal.

If you are a new mother or in a stage with lots of littles underfoot, I don’t write all this to make you feel badly. I do, after all, only have the two children! I write to encourage you that someday, you will have time again to do those things that make you uniquely you. And I write to challenge you a little to find a few minutes (really, just 5 minutes a day!) when you can do one thing that makes your soul come alive. There will be a day when you can spend more time on your interests again, but even now, amidst all the diapers and laundry and feeding little mouths, don’t forget that you are a person, too!

This post is part of the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes and Write 31 Days blogging challenges. Find all my posts in this series under the tag “write31days2018.”