Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HMJ: If I Knew Then What I Know Now part 3

The last of the book lessons for the school year were taught on Friday.  Junior year of my last young charge is just about wrapped up!  This week I will begin collecting grades and closing out curriculum.  I like to do a re-cap of the year: what worked/didn't work and what I would like to try to do/or avoid next year.  I find this process of 'recapping' helpful as we seek to become a more productive homeschool with each year that passes (even if next year is our last!)

The sage advice of veteran homeschoolers over the years has certainly helped to influence our own arrangement, but recapping has probably been the most transformational part of our homeschool over the years.  It helps me to focus on what is REAL and poignant for us and not the voices of the masses seeking to sway us to and fro.  It helps me to see what is working for my kids and our family structure as a whole rather than worrying about whether or not I am living up to someone else's idea of what our homeschool should be... which brings me to this week's theme:

If I Knew Then What I Know Now... I Wouldn't Have Worried So Much About What Others Thought and Said

Don't get me wrong.  Sometimes we are running out into rush hour traffic and we need someone to grab us out of harm's way.  However, when it comes to a decision like homeschooling and all it entails, you are not going to get far if you are busy looking at the crowd. Let me create a a bit of a visual here:

Have you ever watched those old game shows?  I have to admit, I don't take them in anymore, but as a kid growing up in the 70s and early 80s, we had some GREAT game shows I LOVED watching faithfully with my family.  One of our favorites was "The Price is Right".  Have you ever noticed: as the stress was on to guess the right price (or at least closer to the mark than the other competitors) the audience would begin shouting out their ideas.  Contestants would begin to sweat as they shot uneasy glances between a "helpful" friend out in the studio seating, then the excited crowd as a whole, and back to the host who was often casting sentiments of doubt mixed with encouragement and finally settling their nervous gaze back to the product they were trying to decide on.  Occasionally this method would win them a place in the next round but often, I felt, the more people they tried to listen to and the longer they let the host cajole, the less accurate they seemed to become.  Rather than concentrating on what they knew to be true and maybe one "helper" in the audience, they darted between too many opinions: some genuinely seeking to help and others who actually caused harm (whether intentional or un-intentional).

I bet you get my analogy by now!

Too Many Voices Just Leads to a Racket
When you share your plan to homeschool (or continue with your set course as each year passes) EVERYONE will have an opinion.  Mom, Dad, Aunt Edna, Grandma Jean, neighbor Betty and even the cashier at the supermarket!  It is amazing how invisible we moms are to the world at large until we declare our resolution to educate our little charges ourselves!

Most of Them Mean Well
Nearly all of these voices really will mean well and you have to keep that first and foremost in mind or there is bound to be a mommy-splotion!  Hear their hearts while keeping their words set apart.  Tell them, "Thank you for your concern" or "I will think about that/look into that" but you don't have to commit to their ideas.  Don't be afraid to admit when you aren't sure about something they ask you and put their minds at ease by suggesting you will "look into that".

Stand Firm In Your Decision 
Life is full of critics.  Whether it is what you are wearing or driving or the neighborhood you decided to buy your house in.  There is no end to the criticism... especially not when you decide to homeschool.  You may be blessed with a large team of supporters... or you might feel rather isolated.  Others may throw out contingency support (providing you follow THEIR idea of how you do this school-at-home thing).  For those biggest critics though, stand firm.  Don't be afraid to lovingly insist, "I'm sorry you don't agree with our decision but this is what we are going to do."

My mother-in-law, and many others, thought we were crazy when we first set to sail in the waters of homeschooling.  However, a year later, after seeing the great progress the kids made, she became one of my greatest local advocates!  Sometimes the nay-sayers will soften when they see the wonder of homeschooling in action!

The Only Two Opinions That Matter...
... are God and your spouse!  I bet you knew I was going to say that!  When God calls you to homeschool it is like anything He invites you to do: His blessings will abound and do you really want to tell God NO?!  That doesn't mean it will go perfectly from day one, but it does assure us we can go to Him for our encouragement and guidance and He will always provide what we need in it's due time!

Hubby, of course, is important to the successful running of any homeschool.  If you feel strongly that God is calling you to homeschool and hubby says "no" or is on the fence, pray for him.  Trust God to move his heart.

I first felt called to homeschool even before my oldest started kindergarten but my husband said "NO".  His reason? "Homeschoolers are weird"!!!  HA!  As time passed, I prayed.  He wasn't even a believer back then!!  But 8 years later God answered those prayers and my husband was all in and actively encouraging me as we set plans in motion.  Yes, my oldest 3 had to spend time in public school in the process, but this time was what opened my husband's eyes to the real value of home education. God also used it to build my confidence that He had equipped me to educate my kids even when I didn't have a degree to do so.  That 8 years was not wasted!

Don't Listen To the Crowd
Remember my opening visual?  Most of those contestants had a friend or family member in the audience.  Some of the more successful game-goers were ONLY listening to this counterpart, NOT the crowd as a whole or the host's sly speech.  As you plan your homeschool and roll through each year, there needs to be a hierarchy you hold firmly to:
  • Pray through choices and listen to God's reply
  • Talk with your spouse as to his expectations and make sure you are both on the same page
You will find great information and encouragement at Conventions, on the Internet and inside of Local Support Groups.  You may even have a family member or friend who is your biggest cheerleader.  Research and collective thoughts ARE helpful, but, no matter how well-intentioned, there is such a thing as TOO much input and we do have to be mindful of those who would steer us away from what is truly best for our homeschool.  Simply put: I have learned that the people who are safe to listen to are those who honor yours and your husband's directives.  It doesn't mean they won't speak other-wisely into decisions, it simply means you don't let their ideas and input usurp the authority of God and pre-ordained decisions between you and hubby... and that they appreciate and respect that.

It Really Doesn't Matter What Others Think
As we have established, there will always be critics.  Yet, I believe it is human nature to worry about how things "look".
  • If we aren't doing workbooks Uncle Joe will notice and think we are neglecting the kids' education.
  • If we go out to the store during the day the judging glances of patrons and workers will assume my children are truant or trouble
  • If the kids don't pass Aunt Sally's pop quiz on the original 13 colonies she will issue an hour-long lecture on the invalidity of my children's education.

I could go on. But it is the hardest simplest thing to do: IGNORE IT.  Believe me, I am the queen of messing this one up. As my kids were growing I felt like I needed to impress my dear retired teacher friend.  If we weren't using her lovingly donated workbooks then I believed she would assume I was not a valid teacher.  I looked over my shoulder every time we went out and those first few years I often kept the kids strictly inside during public school hours for fear a neighbor might call the truancy officer (if there really was one anymore).  Every few months we would try to hold elaborate gatherings and plays to showcase their work just to prove to the masses we really were doing valid work.  Then....

Let Go and Just DO 
... once we began to just DO what each week and month and year had for us without worrying about the crowd, life and education just began to roll forward.  When I started worrying less about whether others would approve of my teaching method or curriculum and instead invested more in what my husband and I knew God was calling us to teach our children and how to teach it... our homeschool truly became a more content place.  We all had fun and learned and grew in confidence.  Before long we became the dear friends in the audience of our favorite game show as we watched others step onto the stage and WIN in choosing to homeschool after just seeing what the experience was doing for us.

It Won't All Be Perfect 
In all of this I am not saying your homeschool will be perfect if you focus on one or two people and ignore the crowd... goodness no!  But confidence will be more frequent and your walk more consistent.

The Racket WILL Die Down
You will never get away from the nay-sayers, remember... there are always critics! However, as time passes and the people around you notice your perseverance and consistency, they will say less (if anything at all).  Like my mother-in-law, they may see the 'proof in the pudding' and become your biggest advocates!

Seriously, you do.  Some days you will feel like a miserable failure!  Sorry, it is true!!  You will think, 'Gee, I should have listened to the others.' You may fear hearing "I told you so".  Squash all of that though.  You know the ole adage: Rome wasn't built in a day!!  There were successes and failures but in the end we can still go and visit millennia old ruins telling an amazing story.  Your children will be blessed by your focus and persistence.  One day you will be handing them their diploma and marveling at the brainy wonder before you, grateful you didn't listen to the crowd!

The If I Knew Then What I Know Now has been a 3-part series with Part 1 explaining its inception as well as what I have learned about curriculum over the years and  Part 2 explores homeschooling styles.  You can follow the links in text to learn more!

What have you learned in the amount of time you have been homeschooling?


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