Sunday, July 2, 2017

Our First year of Homeschooling and a couple things I've learned.

When approaching the school year in September and jumping into our first year of homeschooling, I was a mess of emotions. I was overwhelmed, insecure and filled with doubt but I was also feeling powerfully ambitious, hopeful, excited and in love with the idea of the adventure we would embark on as a family. I had goals and dreams of how I envisioned this year going and they were quickly squashed when the days started rolling by and I learned so much more in those months than I thought possible. Here are a couple things that I have taken away from our first year of learning at home.

-  A Simpler approach made a happier home 
We started the year on an amazing routine, or so I thought. The boys were up early (as always) and ready to learn and I took full advantage. We rocked out grammar and math lessons before 9am and the rest of the day was filled with free learning and exploration. As the days went on, the morning routine that I was loving and used to, started to be daunting and frustrating and not so exciting. I learned quickly that it was okay to relax and not rush or force a learning moment if my kids weren't ready. We would get to it if they were ready and if they would rather play in their costumes and build forts out of couch cushions, we did that. Keeping things simple became more exciting. We started to take advantage of their amazing questions of curiosity and interest, like "how does a microwave work? How old are the trees in our yard? Who was the first person to invent the television? What would happen if..... xyz?" I was able to learn with my kids as we researched and sought out answers to their questions. We were all so much happier to learn about what we wanted to learn about versus what was "required"  "Inspire NOT require" was our new favorite motto.

-Focusing on what we DID do and not what we didn't
I am a total goal setter. I started the morning at the gym and would make a list in my head of all the things I wanted to try and accomplish, whether on my own or with the boys schooling/day schedule. It occurred to me that if I made a list of all that I hoped to do and didn't actually get to any of it, I felt doomed and hopeless- because more often than not, our day would have been turned upside down because life happens and with little kids, a business to run and a home to manage, it's sometimes impossible to get anything done! BUT what I started doing instead was write down all the things we DID do and talked about and learned about, whether it was a podcast we listened to and discussed, a scripture we read quickly to start our day, a meal we made together, a new word we discovered, a new place we went to, a new book we cracked open. There are so many things that we do everyday that are amazing and these are the things that we must treasure up and appreciate- these are the things that my children are learning from and growing from- It's LIFE!

- I can still work and keep my home clean with the help of my kids
This is something that was really daunting for me, I would ask Marshall all the time, "How am I going to do this- How on earth will I be able to keep it all together?" Marshall is always so kind to say, "Take one day at a time, You can only do so much in a day, do what you can and prioritize your time" I always appreciated his wisdom in moments like this because it can be overwhelming. I am someone who likes things organized and tidy- I literally can't see straight if my home is trashed or things are our of order. We live in a smaller space and have made it so much more functional for our lifestyle and it has been very helpful.  The boys have taken on more responsibility for themselves, their things or each other. I tell them about our day, the chores that need to be done and how they can help me with them and also about my work schedule and how they can be helpful and independent while I am working. These boys loved and looked forward to me working- this gave them a break from school time and they were able to rest and reset their minds and bodies, it was almost like a recess for them. They also loved little jobs that I needed help with around the house. Even Oliver would throw the laundry down the chute, grab his laundry and put it in a pile, while his brothers would race to grab theirs and make their piles bigger and taller. The boys would take turns washing the windows and mirrors, or pick up the toys quickly and in their spots so we can always find them when we want them. "Everything has a place" I always say. The boys know that this is how we live. We have established some awesome family roles and habits that helps make our home run smoothly.

-  I  love having my kids home all day with me
I know, you might think I am crazy- But I LOVE having my kids near me. In fact, I need them close. I love that I can snuggle them up when they are feeling down, that they can come to me when they are needing help, that I can read to all of them for as long as I want, that we can learn together about ANYTHING and that I can teach them with love and respect that they deserve. My mind is at ease knowing that they are near and that they are all together. It is actually sometimes more overwhelming when we are not all together. Maybe it is because they are still little or that I still feel so new to this mom thing, that the idea of sending my kids somewhere else is totally out of this world to me, but I enjoy my kids crazy antics (most the time) and also feel really grateful that I am able to redirect them when needed and to teach them right from wrong from as a loving mother who knows them and how they need to be loved.

- Don't necessarily need a group to socialize- just good friends
I love the idea of play groups and learning groups, I think there are so many wonderful benefits for moms and kids, but at this point in my life and the ages of my kids, it always seemed crazy to commit to these groups. Whether it was my business schedule, doctors appointments, nap times, meal times or quiet times, I just couldn't bring us ALL to another planned date activity. It would stress me out and make me feel guilty for not getting out more. But instead, we have made amazing relationships with the friends that we see regularly and I have strengthened my friendships with these women more so in being able to serve one another. The boys and I look forward to playing and getting together with their friends and are able to pick up where they left off. It makes my life easier than having to stress about a new location, how many other kids there will be and if I will lose one of my own and if I can handle all my kids being different ages and being pregnant on top of it all if there would be an emergency. Being a mom is HARD!

-All my kids learn differently
I mean, DUH! Have you met my kids? They are all so incredibly and beautifully different. I LOVE that they are. Ezra has always been the perfect little pupil. He is open and willing to learn at any moment and any time. He asks amazingly thoughtful questions and listens intently for a response and applies it immediately to his life. Eli can be found laying upside down on the couch, jumping off cushions and chomping on snacks BUT Eli is a sponge. He is constantly moving but always listening. He has surprised me the most this year. I focused most of my teaching towards Ezra knowing that Eli would learn just by being around and this is exactly what happened and in the most awesome way.
This is my favorite example. We had just finished "Farmer Boy" By Laura Ingalls Wilder,I brought the boys with me to pick up some pizza and gave them both a quarter. As I was driving, I heard Eli (4)say to Ezra (6), "I have a quarter and you have a quarter, that's .50 cents..... if we put out money together, we can buy a pig! We can buy a GIRLl pig! That's an investment!"
I thought I was going to die! I had no idea how intently Eli was paying attention to the book as we read/ listened along- He was learning about money management and investments and he is FOUR! It was this moment that I knew homeschooling through a simple approach, classic literature and family time is the best way for my children to learn and learning together through life is making the best of their education and knowledge of the world around them.

-Learning is happening constantly
As I mentioned so much already, homeschooling has become so much of our lives now that we hardly even think about it as much as we did before we started. I have relaxed in my approach to teaching from a curriculum, but instead use it as a guide, a tool and resource to our questions of interests and curiosity. My kids are young enough to always have a question and as constant as those questions may seem, between Marshall and I, we strive to answer all of them to the best of our ability or direct them to consider what they think the answer could be and how we can learn about it. There is SO much to learn, no matter what age!

- Family relationships and connections
This has been my most favorite discovery of our homeschooling experience. Marshall and I have had no other choice but to counsel together and discuss the needs of our home, children and each other to make things work. We are constantly communicating on anything that comes up with the boys and working together. I will text Marshall at work with a question that we can't answer, or a problem that I am having while "momming" and he is ready with a response that is usually totally inspired. I think about the amount of trust that he puts in me to teach our children during the day and it makes me love him so much more. Marshall and I have grown together in a lot of ways through homeschooling because we've had to. "A house divided cannot stand" So much truth to that! Also, the relationships that the boys have made with each other have been adorable to witness and say so much about the time that they spend together. We have established a home of respect and kindness (not always perfect- but they know right from wrong) rules and manners. They are learning what is appropriate behavior and recognize when things just don't seem right. I love to hear them talk and play together as they work things out on their own. They are doing great even when things get hard and heated. I pray that we can all continue on this path that we have started to pave.

- Routine and schedule makes life tremendously easier
YES! WE LOVE ROUTINE! We have a pretty solid routine in our home and I swear it mostly revolves around nap time/quiet time. I need the boys to be on a schedule as I have a business schedule to run. We all know what happens at certain times of the day and the boys are accustomed to relying on this routine. We all know that after lunch there is quiet time. This time is usually spent with the boys either looking at books, playing together quietly downstairs, listening to audio books or podcasts or doing crafts. Ezra has even planned out what he will do during quiet time because he looks forward to uninterrupted time where is brain can speak and create. I LOVE that this is something that we have done forever. We are all SO much happier on our daily routine.

-We are in this together.
We absolutely are in this together. We all individually have a role to fill in our family and in our home. Our purposes are unique and different from each others and we all have something major to contribute to our everyday lessons. I could not do any of this without Marshall's support, patience, wisdom and direction . As a family we are figuring it out together. What we do in our home may not work in yours. We will fail and we will pick up and move on. We will have many successes and many set backs but we are all learning as we go. This will be how we grow as a family and I am looking forward to where our journey takes us. I hope that we can learn from home for as long as the boys are willing to learn here. I am learning so much from my children and of life's joys that I never want it to end! I feel we are so fortunate to be a part of this positive impact that is happening in the lives of each other.

Some of our favorite things we discovered this year:

-Butterflies- Life cycles- Metamorphosis
- Animals/Insects- uniqueness and purposes- And how we are unique and of purpose
-Habitats- we made our own diorama
- History- All things Ancient Egyptian (we love ancient Egytian history) But also biblical accounts, Noah's arc, Moses parting the Red Sea, Abraham and Issac
-Greeks and their Gods. (mythology) So interesting. Ezra loved this!
- Favorite books: Little house in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Bambi (MOST FAVORITE) James and the Giant Peach, Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, Indian in the Cupboard and lots of Hardy Boys books (Read with Dad) and Paddington.
- We learned about famous composers, Issac Waats and his incredible rhyming skills and brilliant mind. Johann Sebastian Bach, Handel and Beethoven
- Shakespeare! And we created (attempted) our own plays with costume and backdrops.
- We focused on a value a month and did little activities and games throughout the month to remind us of the value, whether it was honesty, loyalty and dependability, friendliness or service.. we practiced!
- Money management and entrepreneurship. Ezra likes to work and earn money and came up with an idea to do it on his own!

- We ended the year with a lunch date and Perkins where the boys practiced their manner  (They were AMAZING) and speaking clearly and directly to the server. They ordered for themselves and said please and thank yous. I was impressed they were ready to do this!

There are so many more things that we discovered and covered this year but these are what are popping out the most. It has been a blast!