Best Who Ever Lived... or Something Close
“You’re going to be the best homeschool mom who ever lived,” I whispered to myself in my mirror as I prepared for the first day of school at home with my 9-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old. I had sharpened all the pencils, organized all the supplies, and prepped all the curriculum. I had bought learning tools and had an adorable art station set up. All books were lined perfectly on the shelf, ready to be scoured by inquisitive little minds. I had the entire day planned for our first day. What could possibly go wrong?
Lessons started at 8 am and by 9 am I was in my closet, crying into a box of Cheez-Its, wondering why on earth all teachers don’t make six figures! I had mentioned many times to friends over the years prior, that I was not cut out to be a homeschool mom. And if you had been a fly on the wall for our first day, you would have agreed with me. Paint flew, books were scattered, everyone cried, and bad attitudes filled the room (mostly my own). I think even the dog regretted my decision to keep everyone home this school year. But 2020 had forced me to re-evaluate what is best for my kids and my family. We decided that in this year of great uncertainty, I would homeschool my oldest, Riggs, while the other two toddlers played underfoot. My husband and I agreed we would try it out until January, and then we would see where to go from there. I dove in headfirst and did my research. I asked questions to close friends that are veteran homeschool moms, joined support groups, and picked the brains of all the educators in our family. I had not realized how much trust I had previously placed in my state’s educational system to adequately equip my child for life in society. That was, until I was neck deep in the pool of choosing educational curriculum. I quickly learned that there is classical style, unschooling, Charlotte Mason, open-and-go and so many more methods to choose from. There are thousands of workbooks and textbooks. How are you to know which is correct?
When I was just about to call it quits and hoist myself out from drowning in the curriculum pool, a close friend gently spoke these encouragements to me. “There is no right and there is no wrong in homeschooling. You know your children better than anyone and you will be their best teacher. You will figure out what works as you go along. It is not always going to be easy. However, your investment of time and energy into your children’s future WIIL BE WORTH IT. Homeschooling is not just about continuing education and checking accomplishments of reading, writing and math off a master checklist; you are also modeling good character traits for them to see and pick up. You are teaching them HOW to learn and fostering a love for learning! You are showing them that knowledge is valuable. You are building confidence in their abilities, encouraging them in their struggles, and helping to grow your children into men and women of integrity, responsibility, and of good morals. You will see your children in a new light. You will watch them learn and you will learn right along with them. If you are qualified to raise your child, then you are qualified to teach your child. You CAN do this.”
Talk about the pep talk of the century!
So, on that first day, after the paint had been scrubbed from the tile grout, the books had been re-shelved, the attitudes adjusted with the help of a little ice cream, and the dog had been calmed back down; I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I decided I would start over the next day with a refreshed (and heavily caffeinated) spirit and continue in my endeavor to be “the best homeschool mom who ever lived.”
I can’t say that much has changed over the year in the chaotic, mess-making department of homeschooling. The messes never seem to end, and I cannot for the life of me, find the janitor around here! But my focus over the year has changed. Instead of noticing the crayon marks on the kitchen table, I notice that my daughter’s sweet hand is now holding her crayon correctly as she writes her ABC’s. Instead of being frustrated that my oldest son does not joyfully want to do his math work, I focus on the new vocabulary words that he is always sneaking into conversation with his dad at the dinner table. I don’t mind picking up every magnetic tile off of the floor over and over again. Because I now notice that my youngest son uses great fine motor dexterity when building with them in his highchair. He loves to present his masterpieces and beams with pride when I “ooh and ahh” over his handiwork. We don’t get to every assignment on my list. We absolutely don’t work for 8 hours a day. We don’t complete every project we set out to do. We don’t always start at exactly 8 am, and some days we ALL need a few extra sunshine breaks. But, so far in this school year we have made snow volcanos, used a microscope to view an onion’s nucleus, grown live yogurt cultures in a petri dish, made George Washington’s favorite breakfast, and sculpted Puebloan pottery. We have woven Native American baskets, made cell models out of Play-Doh, learned how to read different types of maps, memorized the bones of the body, read countless chapter books together, practiced our handwriting, written creative short stories, and conquered multi-digit multiplication and division. I have found that it is a delicate balance of pause and play, structure, and flexibility.
In my striving to be “the best homeschool mom who ever lived,” I realized that there is no “best homeschool mom who ever lived.” I am simply a mom who cares deeply about her children and is passionate about their education. There is a sweet grace that blankets all my failures, flaws and teacher flops as we walk through this new season of learning together as a family. The year 2020 undoubtedly caused frustration and struggles in education all over the globe. But blooming in the cracks of the devastation are parents who became teachers, and teachers that have beautifully risen to the challenge, adapting in ways never imagined. And blossoming right alongside are a generation of resilient, productive, and intelligent children who are ready to discover more about the world around them.