Jun 7, 2016

How to Go From a Stressed to a Blessed Homeschool Mom

Do you know what time of year it is?  It's the end of our school year!

Whoo hoo! This is definitely a time for celebration.

This is the end of my 16th year of homeschooling and quite frankly I'm feeling pretty good about it.

My kids are 21, 18, 15, and almost 9.  My two older girls were homeschooled through graduation with the exception of my oldest who spent her Kindergarten year at public school.

I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned along the way. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but just a few things that might help if you're just starting out or maybe you've been homeschooling for a long time and just need to be reminded.

1. Don't to be like the school system.

Just like most homeschoolers, I started out with a school room equipped with desks, chalkboard and a flag.  I tried to mimic the schoolroom atmosphere and schedule.

Not too long after, my kids could be found lying on the floor together doing their schoolwork or they wanted to sit on my lap or right next to me. I soon realized that the room filled with desks quickly became wasted space and that a table and couch were more conducive to our learning environment.

We definitely kept a loose and flexible schedule through the years but when we became sick with chronic Lyme our schedule was at the mercy of our symptoms and doctors appointments.

It's important to make your homeschool work for you and not the other way around.

2. Sometimes you've gotta throw out those workbooks.

Our first year taught me many lessons and had I insisted on what I thought school should be we would have been miserable. Instead, I gave in and actually threw a whole curriculum in a box and put it in the basement.

My daughter did not like to do the workbooks I had bought for her. She would go into extreme melt-down mode every time it was her turn to open up her workbooks and do school. It was overwhelming to her. The brightly colored pages were too much stimulation and distracted her from what she needed to focus on.

Our school day became very stressful so I decided to back off a bit which gave me the clarity of mind to realize that these workbooks were just not for her.

Sometimes, you might have to make changes to your curriculum so that your child can learn. I've done this many times but before long, I learned to purchased what I could use as tools for learning rather than rigid curriculum that could only be used one way.

3. Get to know your kids learning styles and their preferences to structure or relaxed setting.

Each of my children learn differently and so do yours. It would be very helpful to learn this early on. Does your child like structure or do they need a relaxed, loose schedule?  Do they learn best reading, listening, or creating? Do they focus better in the morning or late afternoon.  Do they like to sit at a desk or table or sprawled out on the floor?

Taking the time to learn these things about your child doesn't mean that you have to use only one learning style all the time. It's important to teach them how to learn in a variety of ways, but recognizing the way they learn best and incorporating that can make learning easier and more enjoyable.

4. Mom, you aren't supposed to know everything!

Don't be overwhelmed or feel insecure because you don't know everything you have to teach. You won't know the answer to every question your children ask.

Our best learning experiences happened when I didn't know the answers and we researched and learned together.

Joyful learning comes when we're learning together! 

When we are setting the example of learning and showing excitement about what we're learning it helps our children to get excited about it too.

When my children were younger, they loved to create notebooks about topics that interested them. They would gather books from the library, draw pictures, and have me print out worksheets or purchase embellishments for their notebooks like dollar store stickers.

Their work was valuable so I made sure they had an abundance of plastic sheet covers to protect their pages. This was an incredible learning tool and it wasn't even a part of our curriculum but they learned so much and had fun doing it.

Set the example for your children and show them how much fun learning can be.

Our goal is to teach them to love learning and how to learn so that they will have a skill which will help them for the rest of their lives!

5. Pray about everything.

If you have a special needs learner or you just don't know how to get your child to understand that difficult concept, take a break, it may be for a day, a week or even a year. During this break make sure you pray and ask for wisdom and help. Proceed only when you know how to approach the subject with your child. You may need to find extra resources and slowing down.

You will be surprised at how much easier learning that difficult concept will be once you help your child understand that there's no pressure. Most of us know when our child is manipulating us but sometimes we might think they are and later find out that they were really just very frustrated because they didn't understand.

Sometimes learning difficulties look like misbehavior or anger which they'll use as a way to avoid having to do the work because it's too hard.

Frustrating our children by pushing when they're not ready will take the love of learning right out of them and it will make our job much harder.

Be wise and pray!

6. Always make time for fun and free time- especially in High School.

In our society, many of our children are over-scheduled and burnt out. Homeschoolers are not exempt to this problem. When I first began homeschooling most of the other mom's in my circle were busy but weren't stressed out from an over-scheduled homeschool life. Now, everyone is running here and there and overwhelmed with the demands they've allowed into their lives.

There is nothing wrong with extracurricular activities unless our children don't have free time or if everyone is feeling stressed from the schedule. Young children need time to be bored, that's when they learn to be creative. They need time to play, explore and play make believe.

Our older children, who suddenly find themselves bogged down with a lot of school work, need time to think, to do nothing, to spend meaningful time with friends or to learn to do something they've always wanted to do like learn photography or how to play an instrument.

These things can actually be counted as coursework even though it's something that our child loves and enjoys.

Teach your children to balance work and play.  Give yourself time to just be Mom and give your children time to be children.

7. Remember, this time you have with your children will go by faster then you ever could imagine.  

Don't get so caught up in your schedule or the requirements of school that you lose sight of the joy of raising your children.

Homeschooling can cause burn-out for Mom and child alike. Those rough spots will soon be forgotten as you hand your child their diploma and they become an independent adult.

An easy way to decide if something is important is to ask a few key questions; is this a requirement to graduate or will it matter a year from now?

Most of the time the answer will be no so, slow down, enjoy your children, make memories and have fun learning together.

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