Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Year My Kids Started School Without Me

In 23 years of homeschooling, I've tackled the first day of each new school year in various ways, from keeping a clear path to the bathroom for the first three months, to holding a newborn in my arms, to hobbling along with a broken ankle.  But one thing I never imagined doing was kicking off a new school year without myself in the picture!  This is the year that my kids started school without me!

As you probably know, I'm still in South Carolina with my Mom as she lives out her final days on this earth.  The rest of my family is home in Georgia.  The summer disappeared as quickly as back-to-school supplies fly off store shelves, and all around us, kids are packing book bags, boarding school buses, and writing about what they did on their summer vacation.  So, last Monday my youngest five kids at home bravely launched their new school year with the teacher absent!

I was so proud of them for demonstrating diligence, maturity and responsibility in starting the school year without me there, and from all reports, they had a great first day and week!

What did they do on their first day of school??

  • They weighed and measured and compared the results to their stats from last year.  (Luke grew the most at nearly three inches!  Chris wins the award for holding steady at the same height and weight as last year!)

  • They took the traditional first-day-of-school pictures.  (Thank you Hannah!)

  • They read the Proverb of the day together at the breakfast table after eating and included me via Skype!  (Gotta love modern technology!) 

  • They organized their school supplies and books and got situated for a new year.

  • They followed their daily schedules/checklists and did their work. 

No, my kids aren't perfect and the situation isn't ideal.  I'm sure they got sidetracked, wasted time, and didn't do everything the way I would have done it. There are some subjects and projects that are awaiting my return.  But, they are rising to the occasion!  They are progressing with their education without me there, and I'm so proud of them!

How My Kids are Able to Homeschool (Temporarily) Without Me:

1.  God's Grace

I don't want to discount the grace of God in helping all of us navigate a difficult situation. They miss me; I miss them.  We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and they are like sheep without a shepherd.  But God is enabling us to keep going!

2.  Character

No, my kids don't have perfect character and neither do I!  But, I have made the development of godly character a top priority in our home for the past twenty years, and it pays off!  They are demonstrating initiative, diligence, responsibility, determination, and more!

3.  Routine

We have gone through seasons when our days were ultra-scheduled in 30-minute increments and seasons when I was flying by the hem of my skirt. However, the fact is that kids do best with some type of structure and routine, so they know what is expected of them and when. Having a schedule or routine in place helps them know what to do and do it even when you can't be there.

4.  Maturity

This obviously wouldn't have worked at all a number of years ago when I had a lot of very young children. Fortunately, I'm at the point where my children are pretty self-sufficient.  My "baby" just turned 9 and my oldest in school is 17.  So, they are better able to govern themselves. It also helps that my oldest daughter, Tiffany, is home most of the time this year, as she teaches piano students, practices, and prepares for her grad school auditions.

5.  Teamwork

One of my primary goals for our family has been to encourage unity and teamwork. Of course, there were many days when sibling squabbles sent me in search of a bottle of Advil and the phone number for the local school, but I persevered in training and encouraging my children to get along with one another and it has paid off.  Naturally, there are still times when they argue or drive each other crazy!  That's just life!  But, overall, they have learned to not only get along with one another, but to love and value one another, to invest in the lives of younger siblings, and to help one another out.  Therefore, the older kids are all willing to help the younger ones stay on track, find a missing book or DVD, correct a math page, answer a question, listen to a reading assignment, etc.  Encouraging a spirit of cooperation is essential for any home, but especially a home educating family!

6.  Independent Learning

Teaching your children to learn independently will pay huge dividends. The curriculum you use will also make a difference.  I must admit that I love many teaching styles.  I am naturally drawn to literature based programs where I read aloud to my family for hours and then follow up with related projects.  I also love unit studies, where we all study the same subject together and I design interesting projects and assignments for each child appropriate to their specific level.  All of these teaching styles are fun and promote learning and family togetherness -- but they rely heavily on the teacher/mom being available.  When the education is all dependent on Mom, and Mom is sick or has a new baby or is called away to help a family member, the homeschooling family can be in trouble. That is why BJU Press Distance Learning Online has really been a life saver for me with so many demands on my time!  I'm not suggesting that every family needs to use a traditional curriculum or video program, but I do believe that children should be taught to do at least some of their work independently and have a plan for carrying on if Mom is unavailable due to a family crisis or emergency.

7.  Checklists

I have been designing and printing daily checklists for my children for many years.  Teaching your child to work from a checklist is one way you can encourage independent learning and responsibility.  I've included daily disciplines, household chores, school work, silent reading, etc. on my kids' checklists and have at times attached various rewards to each completed item.  (The most popular was when I paid 2 cents for each completed item on their checklist, allowing them to earn a dollar or two a week.)  This really helps to keep them on track and eliminates the popular excuse, "I forgot!"

8.  Life Skill Training

It is a common trap that we all fall into - trying to do it all ourselves; however, children need to do chores (or "character builders" as we like to call them!) and they need to learn basic life skills.  I admit that I haven't been as diligent as I should have been in teaching my kids life skills.  There just aren't enough hours in a day to fit it all in!  They certainly have gaps; but, my kids have proven their abilities to do laundry, cook simple meals, and keep the house clean in my absence!  

Thankfully, all of these elements have kept my family afloat and flourishing during these trying times.  Is your family prepared to start school without you??  

linked up with:

The Character Corner

Far Above Rubies
Growing Home
Raising Arrows
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home
Deep Roots at Home
Raising Mighty Arrows


Happy Busy Mama said...

Love it! I know you are greatly missed, but what a blessing in the midst of these hard days to see the fruit of your labor. I know your return will be appreciated because mama makes all the difference, but all those years of investing and pouring out are reaping a beautiful harvest.

Chris said...

I love your solid ideas here, as well as your humility as you explain how the kids got started independently...Good for them...and for you.
You a re definitely an example for me! I'm beginning my 9th year of HSing and while, overall, we've been successful in many areas, sometimes I feel so wiped out, so inefficient, and so like I'm floundering around. I love these solid tips. I really need them.
I'm impressed with your they're adorable. Great 1st day shots.

Continuing to pray for your Mom and for all of you as well, Elizabeth.
I wish there was something more and something tangible that I could do.

God bless you.

Karissa Wagner said...

It may be hard now, but in the long run, this is such a great time for your kids! When I was 9, my mom was gone for 9 weeks in the middle of the school year, helping with my dying grandfather. There was 4 other kids under me, the youngest being 1. I don't really know how we did it, but somehow we managed to pick up the load and go on - with everything. And looking back, it was one of the greatest times in my life. Not that it wasn't hard - it seemed like a nightmare! But I KNOW that it paid a HUGE part in helping to make all of us really, much more mature and diligent and it's still paying off today. I'm not saying we're perfect at all, and of course, my mom and dad had a hand in that in what they taught us before that all happened, but their time and effort was definitely put through the fire and and we all look back now and can just thank the Lord for what He taught us and how He took care of us. Praying for you and your family! I've not lost a parent, but I've lost all of my grandparents in the last 13 years, so I can feel the grief of your children. The Lord is always with you!!

busymomof10 said...

Thanks so much ladies for your encouraging words!

It is exciting to reap a harvest, especially when much of the sowing was done in tears! Raising and educating a house full of children for the Lord is no easy task! Many times I also floundered, Chris. I would get discouraged and feel like pounding my head against the wall because it felt like much of my instruction went in one ear and out the other! Eventually those seeds earnestly planted and watered with tears were nourished by the Son and started to grow! Praise God!!

My #1 Word of Advice? Persevere!!!

busymomof10 said...


Thank you so much for sharing your testimony and the perspective of not the mother, but the daughter who is juggling all the responsibility and mangaging without her mother for weeks at a time! So grateful for your encouraging words! And I KNOW you are right! :)


Amy said...

This is so encouraging for me to read as a mum of 5. My oldest is 7yrs old followed by a 5yr old (4, 2 & 4mths). This is in the direction I am heading so it is encouraging to hear of another family who has put in the hard yards producing children with abilities to do school without their mum drilling them every moment. As Paul writes to the Philippians 2:12 as you have always obeyed not only in my presence but much more in my absence.. It's such a blessing and so amazing.
The other day I walked down town leaving my 7yr old with instructions to do copywork then write sentences. I returned an hour later to find 4 pages of sentences and he was still sitting at the table working!! Totally amazed!! His dad was home and said he didn't tell him to do anything! He just did it..

Marcy said...

Shows that you have instilled much discipline into your family! We have had to adjust to many distractions over the past few years with my mom's declining health and death. We now have responsibility of caring for my dad. Very hard! I know that the Lord is teaching us all something through this time though. I am sure my children have learned character that they otherwise might not have.

Cheri Fields said...

I was hoping you'd say you got to sleep in while they started work! What a practical way to encourage my own younger set (my oldest is 9) to prepare for real life. I've heard homeschoolers do much better in college because they've already learned how to study on their own. You've taken this to the next level.
Blessings on your family during this testing time. :-)

Gail @ said...

I'm praying for you not only as your children start school without you, but also as you live through a very difficult transition with your mother.
Bless you.

busymomof10 said...

Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement! I really appreciate it so much! :)

Judith Kowles said...

I keep thinking about you and even stopped by your blog a time or two thinking of you away with your mom. This is a wonderful testimony of God's grace. I am praying for you Elizabeth. Thanks for sharing this with me over at WholeHearted Home.

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