Coleen Paratore, author of 26 Big Things Little Hands Can Do, recalls this story about a day when her son was four years old. She was driving when suddenly snowflakes began to fall all around, settling on the windshield, clinging to the grass. She looked in the rearview mirror and saw her son's small face filled with delight. Coleen said, "Dylan, look, snow! How do you spell snow?"
Coleen watched all the excitement drain from his face and his little body deflate. In exasperation, he said, "Mom, you don't SPELL snow, you ENJOY it!"
We can sometimes be too interested in turning every moment into a teaching session that we forget to just enjoy ourselves on this marvelous journey. Let me share three easy-er ways to create joy as well as scholars.
It Is Easy-er to Mentor than Master
I taught my son how to cook. You might not think that is amazing, but you haven't been to supper at my house.
At age seven, my son asked me to teach him to cook. In fact, he announced to me then that one of his aspirations for his life was to be a chef (along with a builder and a business owner).
So, about 3:30 every afternoon, he showed up in the kitchen and we cooked together. Time passed, and his skills grew. At age 14, he won The Golden Rolling Pin, the first place prize in our annual Men's Bake-Off. He bought cookbooks with extra money, he watched the Food Network, and he experimented with seasonings. At age 16, he kicked me out of the kitchen. (He's in college now, and I'm back in the kitchen to everyone's dismay, especially mine.)
Homeschooling is like that. I'm just a mom. When I survey my skills and abilities, I come up short. I'm not focused enough, disciplined enough, or prepared enough. I have many learning gaps and subjects I have not mastered.
But somehow, by God's amazing grace, my children are mastering concepts, ideas, and spiritual truths that have taken my entire life to understand. It is easier to be a mentor to a child than to think we must master each and every subject matter before we can hope to teach it. It is a strange phenomenon that we, as ordinary mothers, can have extraordinary results in our children. We can learn together, grow together, experiment together, and remember together. We can inspire them and excite them to reach further than we can take them.
It is Easy-er to Pull than to Push
In the study of simple machines, we learn one of the laws of motion. If you want to get a box up on a high ledge, an inclined plane can make the job much easier than lifting. With the box at the bottom of the ramp, you have two options; push or pull. When you attempt to push a box up a ramp, you have to overcome the weight of the box and the resistance of gravity by force. However, if you tie a rope around the box and pull, you can haul it up with little effort.
What is the difference? When you pull, you are enlisted the help of another simple machine (a lever) which provides the power it needs to move.
This law of motion works in schooling as well. Instead of trying to push the daughter into the next chapter in her math text, pull her in. Create interest and go before her.
What if the next chapter is on fractions? How would your son react if you got out the measuring cups and announced that you were going to make homemade pizza for math...and lunch! When the pizza is done, you can cut it into ½, ¼, and then 1/8.
My youngest daughter has difficulty getting started in the morning. I pull her into her school day by starting with her favorite activity, a science experiment. Then it's an easy transition to the rest of her schoolwork.
With a little imagination, you can lead your children into a host of experiences that will motivate, inspire, and pull them up the ramp of learning new things.
It is Easy-er to Trust than to Tense
I went to college to be a teacher. I attended many classes on the way children learn, the development of the brain, and methods assured to cement certain concepts within. But, I've learned much more about teaching by teaching. Most of what I know about children, I've learned from children, not from classes and textbooks. I've read scores of books on homeschooling (and I hope to write one in the near future), but most of what I know I've learned from my kids.
To me, a complete, well-rounded education comes from experiences, from making mistakes and royal blunders, from crises and triumphs. God may not have His scope and sequence in chart form so I can check it off every day, but I can trust that He has one. I can trust that God is the Master Teacher and that we are right on track, fixed on His promises, walking in His ways.
I DO use curriculum and textbooks, but I do not trust in them. I DO define goals for my children, but I commit them to the Lord and do not despair if we get off track of MY plans.
My son didn't read until he was in fifth grade. When he was in ninth grade, he was many years behind grade level and I was told to prepare him for the work world because he wasn't college material. Instead, my son graduated from high school a year early, was accepted into college, received an academic scholarship, earned 42 credits in his freshman year of college while working 30 hours a week, and received over a 3.5 GPA! This is not bragging (well, it is a little) but more, it shows the mighty hand of an all-powerful, all-sufficient, all-gracious God in Heaven who knew exactly what He was doing with my late bloomer!
Once in a while, we need to give a concept to God and let Him spin it around for us. God can inspire us to mentor our children instead of feeling like we have nothing to offer them if we are not masters ourselves. He can enable us to entice them to learning new concepts instead of forcing them to sit their tails in a chair and get cranking. And He can secure us in His wonderful promises and awesome will and make us a part of His purpose for our children. When we realize that it is possible to find easy-er ways to home educate our children, we will soon be experiencing the joy of the journey.
Lori M. Henry is married to a very supportive husband and is mom to three terrific teenagers. She has homeschooled her children since kindergarten and graduated her eldest in May 2004. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education and has taught in many settings from public and private school classrooms, to homeschool co-ops, to one-on-one instruction at home. You can reach Lori at email@example.com.