(Here’s our preschooler, acting out Peter Rabbit…)
It’s Preschool-Sign-up Season in our town and young parents are trying to figure out the best educational option for their children. Recently, several young mothers have asked me to tell them the basics about homeschooling. When we sit down to chat and I reflect on my experiences as a homeschooling mother, I realize that the most important things for the preschool years are not distinct to homeschooling, but are applicable to every mother. (However, I can testify from personal experience that these 3 concepts are hugely beneficial to homeschooling, specifically.)
So, in my opinion, here are 3 of the most important things for a mother to do – especially when she’s considering homeschooling:
- Most importantly, instead of getting distracted by workbooks, projects, and curriculum for your child, invest as much time and energy in your personal growth as a woman, wife, and mother.
Develop your relationship with God. Dig into Scripture whenever you can: study it, meditate on it, memorize it, sing it, listen to it, and surround yourself with friends who love it. Learn to pray alone and with friends. Your life is not your own; learn what it means to walk daily with the Lord.
This is also the season to read and study about Christian womanhood and to learn how to love your husband and nurture your children. I always suggest that young women read as much as they can from Sally Clarkson. Listen to her podcasts, subscribe to her blog, and let her encouragement soak into your heart. Regarding a child’s development and education, I also suggest reading material by Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori. Both women offer extremely valuable insights about the nature of childhood and our significant calling as mothers.
Examine your daily rituals and figure out where you need to grow: Do you need to learn more about nutrition and cooking? Do you need to learn more about finances and design a budget? Do you need to develop faithful and beneficial friendships? Do you need to learn how to manage your time? Do you need to find an exercise habit that works well for your schedule and benefits your body? This is the time to open your eyes, make a plan, and learn. (If homeschooling is in your future, believe me, every ounce of skill and good habit that you’ve established will smooth the road ahead. Even if you do not formally “homeschool”, you’ll be infinitely stronger for having these practical skills on hand.)
Ask God to heal you where you are hurting and to mature you where you are weak. Perhaps God would bless you by addressing sin now that would otherwise have caused you to waste many years in regret. Ask Him! He loves you and will sanctify you perfectly. God alone can perfectly equip you for the days ahead.
2. Secondly, invest in your relationship with your children by building a joyful home, introducing them to their Maker, and developing their character. These things are far more important than academics. The way I look at it, if you have faithfully built a happy home and have developed good character in your children, your entire family – including you – will thrive in every area of life.
We want our children to have strong, godly character for many reasons. First, because it glorifies God. Secondly, because it will bring our children true happiness and favor. Third, because it makes our home joyful and peaceful. Fourth, because it sets our children up for goodness regardless of circumstances. For example, I often consider the depth of character my children would need if they suddenly have to attend the local public school. What if they are behind academically? What if they are ahead? What if they are socially rejected? What if they are socially idolized? Regardless of how they fare academically or socially, I want my children to have the character that allows them to adjust to changes gracefully, to sit in their desks and work diligently, to respect their teachers, and to be kind to the other students.
These types of things are in the forefront of my mind as I make decisions for our homeschool experience. Worksheets, checklists, lessons, and tests take a backseat to the character that is being developed day by day. Don’t get me wrong, worksheets and lessons are often the ground on which their character is developed, but my eye is always on the outcome of character beyond the correct answers or successful performance. (Resource plug: in these early years, I’ve found most of my inspiration for activities from my friend Carisa’s site 1+1+1=1.)
3. Finally, regardless of what current academic trends and publishing companies promote, learn what children truly need and focus on that. I believe that children need these few things to thrive: love, discipline, healthy sleep, healthy food, plenty of outdoor play, and consistent exposure to beauty – including nature, literature, music, and art. If you make this golden list your preschool curriculum, you and your children will do well.
If you take these 3 suggestions to heart, you will have established a strong foundation and built life-giving habits that are necessary for a happy homeschool.
(A Peter Rabbit lunch… complete with parsley for anyone feeling “rather sick”.)
These are the things I talk about when friends ask about homeschooling and young parents are making their first decisions about education. I recommend that they consider how they’ll be able to pursue these ideals this semester… this year. It’s always great if they can find the places where they agree with their husbands and proceed from there. Then, we all face next year’s decisions when that time comes, knowing that we and our families will be stronger and happier for the year we invested so wisely.
If you are in the process of making decisions about your child’s education, I hope for your best! Most of all, do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything. Then, the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind (and your children!) in Christ Jesus.