Friday, March 4, 2011

Who's Teaching Whom?

When we started our homeschooling journey six months ago, I knew there would be teaching. I would teach them reading, math, science, and history. I also knew that there would be learning on my part, things like how to teach better, how to homeschool better. I didn't expect the teaching to come from the children.

1. They've taught me that it's ok to make a mess.
I kept the house clean and neat, was able to do all the laundry one day a week, and kept things organized. Then, Zachary was born. One little addition to our family changed so much. We seem to have toys taking over our house. On any given day, I have a load (or two) of laundry to fold and put away. I struggled with this clutter. A lot. I would get stressed and discouraged and upset with myself.

Fast forward sixteen months. I have learned, especially since starting to homeschool, that it's not the end of the world if everything is not just so. Life will go on even if the the books on the kids' shelves are not in order by height. Now, I'm just happy if they're all put back on the shelves! Also, I used to despise play dough. The kiddos would leave tiny bits of it all over the kitchen and mix all the colors together, which drove me crazy! Once we made play dough though, that all changed. Sure, it still makes a mess. Maybe the kids have learned to put it away better or maybe I overlook the chaos that is called my kitchen table. Maybe a little bit of both. Either way, it is one of my favorite activities now.  

2. They've taught me that it's ok to be less than perfect.
Obviously, my children do not have a perfect mother. Need I bring up the butterscotch fudge fiasco or trying to burn down our house by making crayons? Or that I have laundry to fold and am sitting at the computer instead of taking care of it? But I have the desire to be perfect, to do everything perfectly.

I have learned that I honestly don't want everything perfect or rather, that my definition of perfect has changed. Now, when the kids make crafts like snowflakes, I know that they are learning valuable skills and gaining a sense of pride in their abilities. I love seeing their personalities shine through their artwork. I still initially have the desire to "fix" things, but I can easily shrug it off and realize . . . they're already perfect.

3. They've taught me that it's ok to be unconventional.
Years before I became a full-time teacher at home, I got paid to teach other people's children. We had a set schedule every day: school started at 8:15, announcements and pledge came next, Bible class, snack time, recess, and so on. I want structure in our days. Kids need structure. Adults need structure. A typical school day lasts about 2 hours. Then, we will do our special activity depending on the day (craft, baking, experiment.) I used to feel like I was cheating them of valuable skills if something came up and we cut math short or missed reading altogether.

I've learned that we don't have to function like a conventional school. We can sit and read all day. We can spend hours studying one topic. We can incorporate learning into our everyday activities. We can have school time anywhere. Most days, we do have a typical schedule in our school room. But, we don't have to. And I don't feel guilty.

4. They've taught me confidence.
Six months ago, I had insecurities about homeschooling, even a month ago I was voicing my concerns. I still have thoughts like "Jake could be reading better" or "Alyssa could count higher." But, if I look at the kids objectively (instead of like a perfectionist mother), I realize how well they're doing. Alyssa, who's 2, recognizes most of her letters, can write about ten of them, and can draw all her shapes. Jake, who's 5, can read hundreds of words. He can usually figure out words that he doesn't know by answering questions like "What does Y say at the end of a long word?" or knows how to spell words using tips like "K comes before I and E; C before the other three." He can count by 1's, 5's, and 10's (almost by 2's); add and subtract double digits; tell time. If you've read about our George Washinton cupcakes, you know that they're learning life skills as well.

They surprise me with their eagerness and willingness to learn. I have learned that they really are learning. Lots. And I taught them. Maybe I can do this after all.

Again I ask, who's teaching whom? 
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  1. that is great. you are a wonderful person. i have always admired you. and no matter how unperfect you feel, u have a wonderful husband and kids who think you are perfect. i get so excited with chloe. she knows her colors. at first everything was blue. we were watching mickey mouse the other day and she told me that my nephews get the brown and white ice cream and she gets the pink. she is counting and saying her ABCs. keep your chin up girl. praying for encouragement for you everyday.

  2. You are a wonderful daughter, mother and teacher.

  3. I, too, always felt like my students taught me!

  4. Thank you for your kind words, Dawn. That's great about Chloe. It's so fun when they learn new things! I remember when Alyssa learned her colors. It's hard to believe that was a year ago. It goes too fast.

    Mom, I had a wonderful teacher. You're pretty great yourself!

    Mrs. Lipka, you are a fantastic teacher! I always wanted to be like you. :)