I’m excited to announce that this blog site will now have two authors! My sweet friend, Valerie, has graciously agreed to contribute her thoughts and advice. She has been a wonderful, godly influence in my life and has been my go-to for homeschooling advice. While my experience lies in teaching eighth grade and below, Valerie has also navigated high school and beyond. I look forward to reading her posts!
I have homeschooled for eight years now. Every single one of them, without fail, has begun the same way. We have yet to actually crack the books this year. But though my children are getting older, I’m seriously not expecting things to be any different this go round.
The day begins with the zombie shuffling and moaning towards the table. There will be stupid arguments. Yes, those exist. You can’t tell me that arguing over who gets to look at the back of the cereal box or fussing that someone is looking out the same window as you are valid reasons to complain. Next comes absolute disgruntlement over whatever food is placed before them or the drinks in their cups. You get the picture. Children that were ALL SUMMER LONG up before dawn, screaming throughout the house with giddy excitement can now suddenly not remember how to hold a spoon properly.
They know it’s coming. They’ve seen Mom (or Dad) carefully preparing for this day. Books have been bought. Supplies ready. Pencils all sharpy-like. Maybe a little blackboard even, with a smiley-face, welcoming them back to school. Whatever your little attempts to get your crew all eager and ready to learn. Be prepared, oh homeschool parent. If they are older than five, they aren’t buying into your happy juice. They are actually, for really, screaming on the inside. Clutching at their fleeting summer as if by sheer attitude alone, they can turn this around and gain a bit more of the easy life.
So what should you do on day 1?
- Just let this day be easy. Step up to the plate, armed with the knowledge that it isn’t you. Don’t take it personal. Don’t be angry with your spawn. Don’t have any high expectations for either yourself or them. I repeat- do NOT expect much. If you are a comparing parent, just know: public school doesn’t either. I know- I attended many of them.
- Celebrate in some way. Pancakes for breakfast or a trip to Krispy Kreme. Ice cream for supper. A trip to a park, museum, or the library. Get crafty and make something. Whatever you and your bunch find exciting.
- Take pictures! This one is a fun tradition for many homeschoolers. They can hold up little signs, stating what grade they’re in. If you’re like many of us and your child is all over the board, just write down their ages instead. Or they can just stand there with no sign at all. Whatever. Make it your own. Every year, you can take a new pic and compare. Nothing professional, just fun.
- Look at their stuff with them. Let them thumb through their new books, write their names on their notebooks, play around with the new markers. Let them feel the ownership of it all.
- Go over your expectations for the year with them. Tell them your hopes/goals. You can talk about field trip opportunities, books to read together or on their own, projects you hope to accomplish. Make it something to look forward to- hopeful things. Ask them what they hope to do/learn this year or what they want to be when they grow up. You can have them write down their dreams if you want or draw a picture.
- And finally, take charge. Gently. With love. Tell them how much you love them, how you believe in them, and how excited you are to be their teacher. Also include expectations for behavior, consequences for refusing to do work or for poor work done in haste. Sometimes writing reminders on a chart on the wall or in notebooks can help if you need to reinforce this later. Don’t forget to talk about why school is important. If you are a believing family, pray for and with your children for the coming year.
You can choose to accomplish a few small tasks if you’d like, but remember, don’t expect to completely jump into the school year and have them knock out a bunch of assignments. You’ll just be banging your head against a wall. I promise you will all be miserable. Adults need time to adjust to major life changes. So do kids. Take time to enjoy this first day. Tomorrow will thank you for it.
“But are your children being socialized?” It’s the absolute #1 question I am asked when strangers find out we homeschool. Of course, of course. They’ve got neighborhood friends, church friends, friends from co-op/ music lessons. They’re so socialized, they can’t get over themselves. But what about their mommy? What about that adult that is running around ragged, trying to cram them full of knowledge and fun and lots of love? Is SHE being socialized?
If someone were to ask me what the hardest part of homeschooling is for me, it would definitely be this. Loneliness. It’s something that can be experienced by any person in any walk of life from anywhere in the world. And if you think that being a stay-at-home mommy, surrounded by tiny persons can’t possibly feel it, think again. There is a huge difference between being with like-minded mommy friends and being with my babies. I love them to pieces & wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world, but they cannot possibly meet every need for human interaction I could possibly have. And they shouldn’t! What a burden to have to bear for them. They need me to have friends about as much as I do.
Our personal situation is compacted even more when you throw in that we have moved a TON. New neighborhoods, churches, co-ops, etc. Starting over and over again can be so hard. Children somehow bond immediately with other children, but it’s not always so with adults. So what’s a mommy to do?
Here are some great ideas.
- Pray. Pray that your relationship to God meets the deepest desire of your heart. No human relationship will ever fill the void in you like God can. He created you to love him, and He will bring the joy you long for. Pray also that He will send people into your life to be friends.
- Go out there and meet people! Attend the “Mommy’s Night Out” programs, talk to people at church, co-op, the park, wherever! Exchange names and numbers with your kids’ new bestest friend ever that she JUST met five minutes ago and plan (and follow through!) with meeting up again. Sign your kids up for an activity where you know you can also hang out- baseball, gymnastics, cheerleading, soccer
- Invite people to do things with you! Have them over at your home, meet at a park, catch a movie together, whatever- all with or without kiddos.
- Call up an old friend. Don’t just text. That’s too impersonal when you’re feeling blue and want actual human contact.
- Do stuff- attend a MOPS group (mothers of preschoolers), join a book club, volunteer at your child’s coop, take an art or cooking class.
- Get a part-time job.
These are just a few ideas. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t stay home and wallow in the loneliness. We mommies tend to sacrifice a lot for our little ones in order to meet their needs. This shouldn’t be one of those things we neglect. Life is hard. We need each other.
What are some ways that you combat loneliness?
After I wrote “My Incredibly Strong, Submissive Momma“, a friend of mine stated that it was missing something. I should have talked more about what submitting to my own husband is actually like. The Bible gives us guidelines for our lives, but isn’t always specific about how to live them out. If you haven’t yet read the blog post mentioned above, please do that first. Then please read on, knowing that my heart’s intent is to share with you, in the hopes that it will help you understand a little better the beauty that lies in a wife’s submission in marriage.
So what does submission to my own husband look like? It’s an all-around attitude of the heart, expressed through my outward actions, showing the respect I have for him and his leadership in our family. It is an attitude that I have to regularly pray for. It does not always come easy (though he is a pretty cool guy). It shows up in how I communicate with my husband, how I talk about him to others, and how I support him. I am not perfect, nor do I always 100% follow everything I’m about to discuss. I do pray and ask God for wisdom. I pray for him to change heart attitudes- both mine and my spouse’s.
Communication– In the past, when I was hurt or slighted, I used to respond with anger, sarcasm, and mean little jabs to “get back” at my husband. I would complain about things he was not doing rather than ask for his help. A huge part of being a submissive wife is wrapped up in how I speak to my husband, especially in moments of stress. Speaking respectfully to him involves carefully guarding my heart against the desire to lash out. Instead, I speak honestly and gently. I share my feelings in love and overlook minor offenses. I try to be better at listening and less concerned with what I am about to say next. When I ask for help, I try to do so humbly. I have to admit, though, that this is a HARD area for me. Reacting without putting my guard up opens me up to being hurt, which I have never liked. I have to pray (sometimes during arguments) that I will display a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). Many times, when we have disagreements that lead me to be angry towards him, I often have to take a time out to cool off and pray some more so that I can return and continue to treat him with the respect that God would have me display.
Right- “Hey, I think we need to fix that window today. I’d like to go buy some paint for it. What do you think? You want to tackle that with me?”
Wrong- “That window has needed fixing and painting since we moved in. Why don’t you ever do anything about it? You’re always so lazy!”
Right- “I feel hurt that you said you’d rather go with Bob to the game instead of me. I thought we talked about going, just the two of us,”.
Wrong- “Thanks a lot for inviting Bob to go to that game. I guess I don’t mean anything to you at all. I’ll just sit at home and clean all day. Like usual,”.
Talking About Him To Others– There are times when we need to vent. We are not perfect people, and neither are our husbands. Sometimes we also need advice on how to handle situations with our spouses. Vent to God first. Talk with him about problem areas before you talk to anyone else. Second, talk to your husband. When we speak to others about our husbands, even when discussing problems, it should be in as respectful a manner as possible. Do not discuss things with others that would demean him in their eyes. Remember- when the argument is over and you are no longer angry, his reputation will remain sullied in their minds. Especially around close friends of his and family, guard your talk about your spouse. When speaking to your children, be very, very careful to never talk in such a way to cause them to think badly of their father. Instead, we should encourage right attitudes about our husband to others, even during times of stress. You are your husband’s closest family and his helpmate. Don’t betray him to others in moments of conflict. Seeking counseling and talking out problems in healthy ways is good. Just be sure your intentions are to fix things, not “get back” at him when he is not there to defend himself. Proverbs 31:11-12 says: “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” If you struggle in this, ask your husband for forgiveness. Seek to restore his trust in you by guarding your future talk about him. Seek to repair relationships between your husband and others by asking for their forgiveness as well.
Right- “Your daddy is sleeping on the couch because he worked so hard all week long. He’s very tired. Let’s be quiet around him,”.
Wrong- “There’s your daddy again. I guess I have to do all the work around here by myself. Don’t wake him up, kids. You know how fussy he gets,”.
Right- “Jennifer, I think we’re going to have to start going to counseling soon. Bob is so stressed out at work that he’s bringing it home and getting angry at me and the kids. I think he needs someone to talk to to help him work through how to process all that anger, but it isn’t me. He’s shutting down whenever I try to talk to him,”.
Wrong- “Jennifer, Bob is so mean lately. All he does is yell and stomp around like a big baby. You should’ve seen him the other night. He was a bear! I wish I could just shake him and knock some sense in his head. Someone needs to,”.
Sex- This is a subject of great contention in many marriages. Men typically desire to have sex more often than their wives. It’s just how they’re wired. Being a submissive wife means being concerned that this need of his is met. When he expresses a desire to be intimate, unless you are physically unable to, don’t turn him away! This wounds a man more than any negative words you could say. Saying “no” cuts to his heart. It’s as if you are saying you do not love him. After a few rejections, some men will stop asking to have intimate time, relying on searching their wives out for “cues” that it would be okay to pursue them. It leaves men sad and sometimes bitter, and is a surefire way of driving a wedge between what could have been a happy marriage. Mrs. Duggar (19 Kids and Counting) said that anyone can fold your husband’s socks. Only a wife can meet this need. It is so true. Being available to our husbands and saying “yes”, even when you don’t feel like it, is a huge way of showing love to them. Wives should also pursue their husbands sometimes, not place all of the burden of when to have sex on their husbands. If this is an area that you struggle in, you are definitely not alone. Pray and ask God to give you a desire for your husband. Seek counseling if you have been abused in the past, if this is now causing you to struggle in this area.
Disagreements- No husband and wife agrees on things all the time. When there is a disagreement, a submissive wife should still respond with respect and gentleness. I state my opinion and try to remain open to the idea that my way is not always right or the only way. I listen to him. We discuss. When it comes to actually making a decision, my husband is the head of our home. He is responsible to God for the decisions he makes. I trust that God will take care of us, whether or not my spouse is in the right.
These are just a few areas in my own marriage that I wrestle with and strive to be a submissive wife. Why care so much about this? Mainly, because God does. He’s very clear in telling us His perfect plan for us to live in harmony in marriage. Because He loves us, He designed that we work together, with the husband leading and the wife following and helping. It brings peace, love, and contentment. A home that is a refuge for us all. A happy family. A house full of laughter and imperfect people, all trying our best to just live life together. An example to our children for their future marriages. And to the world, a loving marriage models how Jesus loves his church. See below for more on that amazing connection by John Piper.
****If you are currently struggling in your own marriage, know that you’re not alone! There was a time when my spouse and I had a complete shutdown of healthy communication. We had constant arguments, injured hearts and spirits, and angry words we can never take back. We didn’t like each other at all. By God’s grace, our marriage was saved when I thought it was broken beyond repair. If you are in that boat right now, PRAY. Pray for wisdom and softened hearts for you both. God can and does change hearts. Pray that you can talk about it with one another. Seek Godly counseling, if need be, especially if there is sinful behavior needing to be addressed. And seek to be a submissive wife as God would have you to be, whether or not your husband is responding in the way he should.
The way we think about things is super important. Our thoughts dictate our decisions and actions. If you believed that cats were super evil little monsters sent from Hades, for example, (I don’t- no. Just sometimes.) you won’t leave one alone with your teeny baby. If you think that sneezing into your elbow will keep everyone around you from catching your cold, you’re more apt to actually do that. Unlike your husband that thinks you’re bonkers and should just use your hands like normal people.
That being said, there are many different methods out there for homeschooling, along with the thinking that lies behind them. It’s good to know where you feel most comfortable. Then, you can explore teaching resources and curriculum that most closely align with what you like. I’m going to give a very brief, as unbiased as I can make it overview of the major methods, along with links to further study-up on any you find interesting.
Eclectic/Relaxed– Most homeschooling families fall into this category. These are the parents that like a variety of materials and workbooks, choosing whatever they feel best meets the needs of their child rather than a one-size-fits-all, ready-made curriculum. They may follow a routine, but it probably won’t have times written beside each subject to be covered. This family will concentrate on meeting educational goals rather than being super-strict on exactly what gets studied when. To make sure they are staying on target, parents may study-up on what their local school system or respected book on homeschooling suggests should be accomplished per grade level. They will probably also periodically have the children tested to make sure they are covering all that they need to learn. Some use mornings for basic school subjects needing to be covered, leaving afternoons for things like library or field trips, art classes, music lessons, etc.
Classical- This approach stresses teaching children how to learn. The Trivium is an understanding of the different stages that children go through throughout their education, based on their stages of development. Subjects are taught in such a way that compliments these different stages. The Grammar Stage (k-5th) concentrates on giving little ones a lot of information to soak in. Memorization of facts is stressed. The next stage is called the Logic or Dialectic Stage (6th-8th). Here, critical thinking and reasoning are encouraged. There are serious discussions and in-depth studies, using the information gathered during the Grammar Stage. Finally, the Rhetoric Stage (9th-12th) deals with communicating the child’s thoughts. Arguing of theories, writing papers, and research are important in this age group. Many classical parents keep a well-established routine. Some join classical groups that meet to encourage oral reports, memorization, and the study of Latin. There is also a branch off of this called Classical Christian Education, which is just what it sounds like: classical with everything taught from a Christian worldview.
When I was growing up, my family was at church every time the doors were open. For twenty-nine years of my life, unless I was deathly ill, I never missed a service. My attendance became closely linked, in my mind, with my good standing with God. Yes, I was a true follower of Jesus. And I knew the Bible said we are not to neglect to meet together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). But somehow, I wrong-headedly assumed that because I outwardly was attending church, God was more pleased with me or loved me more because of it and that, if I were to stop attending, I would somehow be forfeiting my immortal soul. I was not consciously aware of these thoughts/feelings at the time, but they were there, just bubbling at the surface.
And then there were two babies. Two adorable, cooey, wonderful babies. My husband and I moved to Illinois when the oldest was two and the youngest a ripe old age of five months. We had just been hired as pastor and family of a little church that had NO NURSERY. Every time my husband stood behind the pulpit (for real, every stinking time), one of those little angelic faces would decide to reclaim the attention of the entire congregation. I would have to duck out the back door as delicately as possible. Now, if you’ve ever had the sheer pleasure of maneuvering the monstrosity of a baby carrier past a teeny row of seats in church before (one-handed, mind you, because the other is holding fast to said fuss head of a child) you will know that there is no way to do this quickly or easily. Suddenly, it feels like a spotlight has been beamed on your little crowd, all eyes glued to your direction until finally, mercifully, you manage to slip out the back door.
Though most people attending told me they didn’t even hear the kids or that the sound of their young voices was beautiful, there was one lady that told me about how their little ones were perfect angels growing up. She would lay a blanket on the floor at her feet, and the little dears wouldn’t make a peep. Why couldn’t I control mine? Funny how one negative voice can so quickly drown out a sea of positives.
Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, we would repeat this charade. No longer was I actually attending a worship service. Things had become more like a marathon to get tiny people more beautifully dressed than they normally were just for me to sit alone in a small room and sulk. And cry. And take it out on my kids. I fussed at them for not behaving. I refused to read books to them. Or play. Or pretty much pay any attention to them out of spite. It wasn’t just embarrassment or frustration that drove me to behave so badly, though. It was the fear and resulting shame that I had displeased God by not listening to my husband’s sermons.
And one day, by the grace of God (and some wisdom from my mother), I realized that I was totally in the wrong about the whole ordeal. Who on earth would expect a two year old and a five month old to sit still through an hour or more of a service in total silence? They were babies! Sweet, adorable, beautiful babies. And my job right then, at that moment in time, was to be their mother. It was not my fault there was no nursery. It was not their fault for being babies. God was not angry with me for taking care of them and meeting their needs. I was to merely do the best I could, given the situation.
What a breath of fresh air! It was like scales fell from my eyes. I finally saw clearly how wrong-headed I had been. I scooped up my babies and apologized to them and to God for the horrible attitude I had had toward them and for shaming them for “bad” behavior. I refused from that day on to ever be embarrassed of them again. I let mean-hearted comments towards me and mine roll off and listened to the encouraging ones. I loved the mess out of those babies.
During those long years of solitude among babies, I read my Bible and prayed alone. I had theological discussions with my husband. I learned to lean on God’s grace for my salvation like I never had before. And I learned to let go of some serious flaws in my thinking that God knew needed to be chipped away. What I once saw as a horribly embarrassing, frustrating time in life, I now see as God’s goodness towards me.
We now attend a church where kind, servant-hearted people love on my babies and let me attend worship services as well. But if you find yourself in a situation similar to my own, for whatever reason (no nursery, don’t trust the nursery that’s there, have a child you are training and disciplining, have a special needs child you are afraid to leave in someone else’s care or appropriate care for him isn’t offered, or you believe in family integrated worship, etc), know that you are not alone. God has made you Mommy or Daddy over your little one for this particular moment in time. Worship services may not be relaxing for you like they are for the elderly gentleman behind you. They may be severely frustrating or in spurts of attendance like my experience. but God’s grace is sufficient. Just do the best job you can. Love those babies. Be kind. Trust God. And breathe.
Oh my. If my littles didn’t pitch in every morning and take care of their responsibilities, I would be drowning. I seriously look forward to sipping my coffee while listening to the sound of the vacuum cleaner running and smile, knowing it’s not me having to do it. But are chores good for kids? Are they all that important, or does it just give Mommy a free ride? And how do you go about teaching kids to do them in the first place? Isn’t it just easier to do it well yourself instead of having a sloppily done job?
When I was new to the Mommy gig, I believed that I should serve my children in everything. Out of love, mind you. And yes, it IS loving to be servant-hearted toward one another. And when the children are really, really little, there isn’t a whole lot they can contribute. So year after year, I did everything. I ran myself ragged with all the household responsibilities that come with raising little bitties. For those of you still in the land of babies with no big kiddos to pitch in, hang in there. Those years were cute but tough. I may have more children than you, but I have older ones, which makes it far, far easier. You will get through this, and then you too, my friend, will be able to sip your coffee in sweet peace.
One day, about when we added our fourth child, I realized that I was severely drowning. I was not requiring them to lift a finger outside of their school work. It was making me irritable towards everyone. I had tried to handle it all on my own. God knows I did. I wanted to be everything to everybody. I did NOT want my children to have to serve me. They’re kids, right? Let them be kids!
But then I watched the Duggars. Such a sweet family. Not perfect, no, but only Jesus is. And there’s something so wonderful about seeing the way a huger family than mine struggles and deals with life that puts my own problems more into perspective. I learned so much from Mrs. Duggar. One thing she stressed is the need to involve the children in the household duties. In their family, every child capable of grasping objects helps.
So why is it something we should teach to our little ones? #1-Because we mommies need them to help out. I love and like my children. I like them a whole lot more when they’re helping out! It actually gives me warm fuzzies towards them to see them busily taking care of things. And I’m no longer drowning, which makes our house prettier, makes us ready to welcome any visitors that may come, and frees me up to be able to parent them better (and wife better and be by myself better, etc). And #2- because the children need the responsibility! It actually makes them think more about others to have to serve their family. It makes them less selfish, more careful with the messes they make, and (get this) feel like they are NEEDED. We all want to feel needed- even children. My little Carey (age 4 at the time) once told me, “I’m glad I have chores, Momma. That way, I know I’m part of the family,”. Totally not making that one up. If there was any doubt in this momma’s heart of the value of chores for children before, it was totally wiped away at that.
So- how do you go about teaching these things without losing your mind? Because, if we’re honest, kids are sloppy. And they have to be taught every single teeny thing. Holding a broom and dustpan does not come naturally to a child. They will dangle the broom around one-handed, slinging mess to the outer corners of the room if left on their own. It’s happened. Mrs. Duggar suggested a book that their family used to get started teaching responsibilities to the young kids. It really helped us out. It comes with little see-through sleeves that clip on to a child’s clothing. You print out the chores onto cards (using words or pictures) and place them inside the sleeve for the child to go through. No matter where that little one roams, his chores are right there with him, reminding him what he needs to complete. He turns in the sleeve to his mother when he’s all done! For the older child, simply creating a chore chart and posting it is enough. This book, listed below, gives recommendations of chores per age category.
We no longer use the little chore sleeves. It was super helpful at first, especially since the whole idea of children having responsibilities was brand new to us all. Now we simply use a chore chart and I assign only two duties to my very littlest, which are easy to remember for them.
When first introducing chores to children, it is super, super important that you tell them why they are being asked to do them. All young children want to help and please their parents. But chores, as anything done in repetition, get old. Having a reason behind why chores are being done ensures the child will understand what is being asked of him and keeps you all going. I explained to my children that mommy needed help. I couldn’t do it all on my own. I needed my children to serve me as I serve them. We help each other out of love because we’re a family. I have had to say this every few weeks for YEARS. Any time a little one wants to complain, I have to remind him or her of the why. Because it’s important.
After the why conversation, then I teach the chores required to each child. It does take a while. It takes patience and understanding and trying things out until they get it right. Stick with it, though. Once they grasp how to do things, your load will start to get easier!! I usually choose to teach new chores in the summer or winter breaks from school. That way, we can concentrate on those tasks without having to rush to handle other responsibilities. Once the child demonstrates the ability to complete a chore, I then supervise for a while to make sure it’s still being done right and reteach if it’s not.
Lastly, I walk around the house and inspect chores to make sure every child has completed them well. It’s important not to skip this step. Children that realize their parent doesn’t check up on them will sometimes start to be sloppy in their work or “forget” to do them at all. I do not check up on them every day- I do it sporadically so that they do not know when an inspection will take place. Chores left undone or done sloppily when the child says they completed them have to be done all over again. I’m pretty mean about this one. If I see fuzz on the rug (you know, in the amount that I am sure means a section got missed), the entire floor has to be re-vacuumed. If toys have been jumbled into one bin instead of being separated into different ones like I asked, I’ve dumped them all onto the floor again to be resorted. But you know what strictness in doing a good job gets you? It makes sure the job is done right the next time. Do take into consideration the age of the child completing the task to determine how perfect it should be. I ask that my older children fold shirts just so, but my five year old can hand in off-center washcloths. Because that’s the best she can do. If you are a bit anal about things like I am, you will have to lower your expectations a bit when the children are helping. But the benefits of their help far outweigh having sloppy towels.
Most of the time, my children are cooperative and sweet about it all. They love me and know what they’re doing helps me out a whole lot. I remind them of that constantly and try to thank them for their completed jobs. Our family provides a small allowance at the end of the week for each child with chores. You do not have to compensate yours if you do not wish to, but I do remind mine that this is why they have an allowance. Any time there has been complaining or an attempt to shrug off the responsibilities, however, I have pointed to the list of my own chores at the bottom of their chart. “Stinky chores” I call them. For fussing about their own, they have to add one of mine to their daily list. I usually request that the offending child scrub a toilet. Three toilets is the farthest it’s ever gotten. Sometimes, I actually look forward to someone complaining!
Here is our current chore chart. It changes once or twice a year for us just to keep life from being boring. Feel free to make one for your own family according to their ages and abilities and your own needs. We normally do these chores every morning after breakfast. It takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on how much dawdling and goofing off happens along with it. In the afternoons after school, they fold a couple loads of laundry and then put their own clothes away. It takes them about 5-10 minutes. For us, there is no free time until all schoolwork AND chores are complete