When I was first getting ready to start my first "official" year of homeschooling, I can remember how nervous I was. My head was full of questions. I didn't feel very sure of myself. Curriculum choices were overwhelming, and prices seemed daunting! One day, as I spoke to a homeschooling mom at church who had been doing this about ten years, I expressed my worries. Her admonition to me is exactly what I tell moms today who are just starting out:
But what does that look like? How does a new homeschool mom "relax"? It's a huge responsibility to take on the academic education of your child. I must admit that it's taken me all these years to really grasp just what "relax" means. And I suppose I'm still learning, even after over 20 years of homeschooling. I think the family crisis I spoke about in an earlier post (Don't Forget Joy) helped me a lot because, well...I had no choice! I was having to balance so many balls that I knew I had to ease up somewhere, and so I did.
First of all, I felt my teenagers had to be my priority, as far as academics was concerned, so I spent most of my educational time with them. My first grader, well...mostly she needed ME. So she came with me on nearly every hospital visit to the NICU where her baby sister was. Sometimes she brought a book to look at, or workbooks to do, but a lot of the time was just spent experiencing life. She interacted with the nurses, she learned a lot about baby care. She saw her parents deal with high stress. And she knew she was important.
Were there some academic areas that suffered? Certainly, for a season. She still bemoans her handwriting to this day, for example. She was a year "behind" when I started her in Teaching Textbook math books a couple years later. But then in her last year of homeschool, I decided to have her skip TT7 and go right from TT6 to Pre-Algebra. The big test came last year when she entered public high school and took Algebra 1. We were both a bit wary. How would she do? Had I prepared her enough? Her grades were the proof: she passed algebra with a solid A.
So, back to beginning homeschoolers...
With my youngest, who is seven years younger than her sister, I wanted to follow that "relax" advice as much as possible. One reason I love Sonlight Curriculum so much is that it is so literature-rich. It makes it easier to relax when it's already built into your program to snuggle together on the couch reading great and interesting books! Make most of your time together about stories. Stories you read, stories you tell, stories you discover together as you go about your day.
How do you know your child is learning? One thing I've discovered is that with young children, the things they learn that they love will show up in their play! Observe the stories your child plays with his or her dolls or animals or other toys (with my son it was his Matchbox cars!). Pay attention to the pictures being drawn. If you're seeing elements of what you explore together in their play, you can feel confident they are learning.
I'd also done some reading and research into varying "methods" of schooling and decided to work more "Charlotte Mason" and "Montessori" style activities into our day. One of my favorite websites for was (and still is) 1=1=1=1. You'll find MANY resources for teaching littles on her site. Here's one I recently added to my "Preschool Fun" Pinterest board: Free printables with a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood theme!
Two other of my Pinterest boards I invite you to explore if you're just getting started are my "Practical Life Skills" and "Developmental Activities" boards. One caveat! It's SO easy to go overboard and print out and laminate WAY more than you can ever really use. All you really need is a couple activities per day for your child to choose from. Too many choices for young children is stressful and overwhelming for them. And laminating isn't always necessary either. Many things will last just fine for a single child if printed on cardstock. Before adding the expense of laminating, consider how long you'll use the printable, for how many children, and how rough your children are on things.
Finally, another way to relax is to spend these early years educating yourself. Does that mean go to college? No. It means, read stories yourself. Take a look at the sorts of books used by Sonlight Curriculum for example, or other popular literature-based programs and begin putting those books on your reading list. Hit your library and read lots of children's and young adult literature, including biographies, stories, and historical fiction. You'll be amazed by how much you learn...and in the years to come it will help you to keep relaxing about how your children are learning through such methods.
Use this season to brush up on your history and your science. Here are three series that are excellent resources for self-education, all of which you should be able to find in any well-stocked library, though eventually I believe you'll want them as a part of your own home library. They're all written to an audience level of around middle-school age. This means that the information will be in-depth, yet not so academic as to stress you out as you go through the daily challenge of child rearing.
For American History, I can't recommend Joy Hakim's A History of Us enough.
For World History, look for Susan Wise Bower's The Story of the World.
And for an incredible adventure tying history and science together, I absolutely love Joy Hakim's, The Story of Science.
Reading these books will instill in you a love for learning, which your children will observe and "catch". As they see you get excited about learning, they'll come to see that learning never stops. It's not about sitting at a desk and studying for a grade, it's an adventure that never grows old.