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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
A Wise Woman Builds Her Home
Deep Roots at Home
Raising Mighty Arrows