Education, both ways

I’ve been homeschooling various of my children for a long long time. 

I guess you could say that from the moment I became a mom, twenty four or so years ago, I’ve been educating the kids one way or another. And I’ve been learning a lot myself– maybe not as much as I should have, but I have been learning. 

Lately, I have been learning that I still have a lot to learn.

I love the planning part of homeschooling– choosing books, hunting them down, finding the best deal, coming up with a curriculum, designing a schedule. It’s in the execution of the plan where things start to fall apart– so much of the time, I’m just overwhelmed by life. I’ve spent a lot of time ill or juggling a newborn or trying to cope with very little sleep. I haven’t always gotten through the books or forced us to plod through the curriculum. Some of the books remain on the shelves, as pristine as the day they came in the mail.

The half-hearted schooling that we barely scraped through last year has, oddly enough, proved to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of a forced march through phonics, the boys had time to play, to goof off, and, in their own time, to come to realize that words and numbers are IMPORTANT. You see, it’s hard to play video games if you can’t read. People spell words over your head to keep you from understanding what they’re saying. Signs and books and watches are a foreign land and you’re shut out of the knowledge that they possess.

The boys learned firsthand that knowledge is power, and they didn’t much like it that they didn’t have this power for themselves.

So the Ninja skipped past our infrequent phonics worksheets and taught himself to read. The Tank gathered up a handful of letters for himself and started figuring out numbers. Each of them decided that they wanted to learn and went out to find out for themselves how things worked.

It’s made them more patient and more interested in learning than their older brothers ever were. I wish I’d had the leisure and ability back them to just let the boys develop at their own pace instead of pushing them into public school. I did the best that I could at the time, but they bear the scars of my mistakes.

I’m learning, too, that the things we do are taken to heart by our children even when we think they’re not making an impression. The Tank is hard to read books to– he wanders off, he starts playing with toys, he gets bored, he whines. It makes it sometimes feel like it’s not worth it. Yesterday, though, we were picking up groceries, just he and I, and as we walked out through the parking lot he told me (out of nowhere): “I love you, Mom. You’re really good at reading books. I like stories.”

I’d read to him that afternoon, in a rare moment, because I realized that I was losing my temper with the boys while trying to clean their room. I was getting increasingly frustrated with their glacially slow progress in putting away the contents of the costume box, and I was just about to scream at them both. I had a moment of inspiration, though. Instead of yelling at them about the capes and masks and bead necklaces, I picked up a library book (Emma’s Lamb, by KIm Lewis), sat down on the bottom bunk of their bed, and just read them a story. 

It calmed me down enough that I was able to plow through the rest of the cleaning without any shouting. And I guess it lodged in the Tank’s mind, even though he wandered away and didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the cute book. 

I still have a lot to learn about parenting and homeschooling and everything else. But I learned yesterday that keeping my temper has many more rewards than just sparing me a sore throat.

Humbling. But important.





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