I am experiencing a rare moment…all three of my children are in bed at the same time. It has taken a while for one of them to settle, the other is teething and the other was exhausted BUT they are asleep, the pots have been washed, my dad’s birthday cake is baking in the oven and all is quiet. My husband is at prayer meeting and after a ten minute heart racing battle with a BIG spider, i am sat with a cuppa! I ought to be wrapping birthday and mother’s day gifts and making cards but i figured i could do that whilst children are awake. What i can’t do during their awake moments is sit and type so here i am.
I said recently that i was going to start writing about my experiences as a mother who educates her children at home. I don’t really know where to begin and i can most definitely say i don’t have all the answers…in fact i have no answers to be honest. It all feels daunting and scary sometimes; this huge responsibility to educate your children ready for the world. Yet at other times it all feels so natural and wonderful and i forget about all the thoughts that plague my mind after having a conversation with someone who just doesn’t understand why we wouldn’t just send them to school.
The thing is, we know that this is right for us. Yes, we could list reasons why we don’t want to send our children to school but this focuses much on the negative. I personally have nothing against teachers or teaching staff. I have family members who work in the education system and are passionate about working with children. I always wanted to be a teacher. Schools in and of themselves are not something i shun or deem as detrimental. I went to school and i turned out just fine. We do, however, have questions about whether the education system is actually functioning at its best. The curriculum content currently shouts rebellion at the truth of God’s word and the system, we believe, leaves many children behind due to the pressure placed on themselves, as well as staff. Staff are stressed, children are stressed and all the while passion and love for teaching and learning gets squashed. In my opinion, the system is broken, along with other systems such as the care industry. What once used to be systems dedicated to bringing out the best in others and equipping others for life, has now sadly become run like a business. I speak for myself, not the Church. I represent nobody else’s stand on this other than my own and my husband’s. I have nothing against parents who send their children to school. I have nothing against those who work in school. But we simply cannot put our children in a system that tries to slot them into a particular box and strips them of their confidence if they indeed do not fit into that box. This all sounds very negative, which is why i want to share with you the reasons why we do want to educate our children at home.
We chose to have children because we love family. I recently wrote in a card to my husband the reminder i had not so long ago about something i said before our children came along. My mum asked me what my ideal job would be after a particularly stressful day at work. I replied that my ideal ‘job’ was to be a mum. I always knew whilst at university training to be a full time youth worker that i might leave and find a brilliant job working with young people but my heart was really to be a mum. I desired to be a wife and mum more than anything else and i would give up a degree and a job in a flash for that. As i sat and watched my family in front of me playing together recently i knew i had to tell my husband that this is what makes me happy. This life is all i ever wanted and more. I have never been happier than being in this place right now. Yes, life gets ‘interesting’ and busy and crazy most of the time, but i wouldn’t change it. I never saw myself doing ‘the school run’ and i could never explain why. I am sure many would say i have a case of being one of those mums who simply cannot let go of her children. That’s fair enough, but it isn’t the truth. I am well aware that our three blessings are actually God’s and that our job is to equip them to ‘go’ into the world and live dependent on God and not on us. Our eldest is most definitely that which her name prophecies; she is a pioneer and one day will travel the world for sure. That is perfectly ok with us. I can only imagine it will be hard to see her and the others move on one day but i know that is our role-to watch them go, not to go and do it for them. These children are not for keeping and so we feel it is our responsibility to help shape them as whole, rounded, God loving people to be able to go and be who God intends them to be. We are to see what their character, calling and gifting is and we are to help direct that for God’s glory. We believe the best place for this to happen is at home with parents who love God.
Our daily life is one big lesson. We don’t want to compartmentalize our faith and education. God is in everything we do, say and think. When we learn, we learn from the perspective of being in relationship with God. Our children see they way we live and that needs to be as a whole picture. We cannot separate God from any area of our life. When we struggle we ask God for help. When we enjoy something we thank God for it. When we spend our money we thank Him for provision and trust He will continue to provide. When we play with others we learn about love and kindness. When we help others we learn about compassion and generosity. Such life lessons are so important and we don’t want to lose focus of such important life/moral/faith issues by focusing too much on mathematical ability or whether or not we can write a poem. Yes, academic education is important and should not be ignored but let us not lose focus of more weightier issues like love and kindness and mercy. Ultimately our children will stand before God and their salvation is what counts more on that day then our spelling tests.
Generally myself and my husband have always used ‘normal’ daily activities as opportunities to teach our children in a relaxed, informal, non pressured way. When we bake we talk about the numbers involved in weighing the ingredients. We count steps, we count ducks at the park, we identify the colours of butterflies or flowers, we point out the letters found in our children’s names…the list goes on. I know this is all very basic in terms of learning and perhaps slotting algebra into daily conversations may prove less natural but as it stands our children have learnt and are still learning much without any ‘schooling’ effort involved whatsoever. Yes, there are times hen we do sit down specifically to complete a certain activity or learn about a particular subject but we want our home to be fun and full of life. We life to have adventures and explore. We like to pretend we are living in the land of ice and snow and spot as many arctic animals we can. We enjoy cutting and sticking pictures of transport and organising them into categories. We have fun acting out stories and dancing to songs about God. We love to collect nature treasures and learn about why it rains. We like doing jigsaws and making gloop. We love to dig and plant potatoes. This all comes at no real effort currently. It would be wonderful if it would stay that way forever-i am certain it wont as they get older-but my point remains that we are not a family that like to have lots of screen time. The children are better behaved and much happier when active. They are easily bored and like to be engaged. Whilst this can be tiring sometimes when you would like nothing more than a DVD day, it stands us in good stead for the future; they are actually training us to be purposeful and disciplined with our time.
I love the idea of home educating. I am excited about it. We are going to have lots of adventures. No i wont be able to get a full time job and earn my own pennies but you know what, i don’t care one bit. All the things a parent would normally do while children are at school can just be done with the children. We want our children to know how to food shop, how to cook, how to wash clothes and pots. My eldest makes me laugh because she gets concerned about keeping her white pants away from her dark coloured trousers when she changes into her pajamas at night. She understands that when you wash clothes you keep lights and darks separate. Sometimes i think how awful it is that she worries over ‘silly’ things but how wonderful too that they will grow to know how to run a house, how to manage finances, how to cook and how to tidy up after themselves. Life skills are like treasure these days. We desire to teach them about real life and so they can most definitely do the activities associated with what parents have to run around doing after the school run!
Our children are 4, 2 and six months so technically they are not even old enough for school yet but because we learn in a lot of the things we do, it has been a natural progression to begin being more specific about what we do. Our eldest just loves books, she has been able to recognize her name for a while and shows interest in knowing exactly what each word says. This has naturally led to us looking at how to teach her to read, which we would have done even if she were to attend school next September anyway. Our boy is beginning to match up colours and likes to copy his sister count so we focus on that when the opportunity arises. We don’t want to focus too much on setting certain days where we learn and days where we don’t because we want life to incorporate fun and active learning all the time, although we will need to set specific times for focused learning at a desk so to speak for some things. We just don’t want education to be a pressure for them. We want it to be relaxed, within some organisational parameters for my own sanity as by nature i like to be organised. We
I like to keep some of the work they do but i try not to focus too much on worksheets or physical evidence. I take photographs and my hope is that i will get better at uploading them onto the computer and organising them into folders as evidence of their learning so i can see how they are progressing. I also like to set themes for each month so that i have something to look to for inspiration for each day or week. For instance, November was focused on our senses and fire safety because of Bonfire Night, December was about gingerbread and the nativity and we are currently looking at Spring and Easter in March (i shall give you my monthly themes in the next blog just incase you are a parent looking for ideas that are different to spending a morning playing with the trains AGAIN). We are not strict with our themes and some months we barely do anything because the child’s interests take a different direction or like with us in January, the flu virus hit our house. But having the themes make it a little easier when you are not so sure what to do ‘tomorrow’ or next Tuesday because daddy is working overtime.
I have already started to mention some of my practical helps such as the monthly themes but i hope to look at my practical handy helps next time. It is good for me to remind myself of what is good, what works for us and hopefully it might help others. I hope this has been useful in showing you a bit of where our hearts and heads are at with this process. Again, by no means do we have any answers but i hope you can tel we are enjoying this so far. I hope it hasn’t been too muddled for you to follow and i hope i haven’t waffled too much about unnecessary things! I was recently challenged by God i believe to be of benefit to others. I know i am a busy mum and so i cannot necessarily give my time to some of the more up-front and time consuming activities involved with church life but i can share what i have and right now this is it!