August marks the beginning of another school year for those of us brave souls who have been honored with parenthood. Whether you send your child to school or school them at home, you are more than likely inundated with many lists of things that need to be done or purchased in the next couple of weeks. Just the other day, I went three times to the store to get some school supplies and our little Ella, who is Atypical Autistic, said to me, “Mommie, school is so much funner when you get new school supplies.” I have to giggle because like any homeschooling family I know that within a matter of a month that excitement will be long gone.
We are going on our 24th year as a homeschooling family and we have been missionaries for nearly three decades. Recently, I have been asked on several occasions what sorts of curriculum I use, and how I prepare for a new school year, etcetera. As a matter of fact, having been asked all sorts of questions over the last couple of weeks I found myself thinking, “Those are the same exact questions I was asking well over twenty years ago!” Hence, I felt the desire to share some of the things I do to prepare and keep my sanity as a homeschooling, missionary wife and mother.
First of all, I have to say that we have not only schooled our own children but we have schooled other missionary children throughout the years as well. As a matter of fact, I was blessed to graduate our Pastor’s son in Mexico last summer. They are a lovely missionary family, whose schooling options were limited as well.
In our over 29 years of marriage we have on occasion sent a child or two into school for a brief season. However, the vast majority of our educational experience as a family has been on the home school front. As any homeschooling family will tell you, you have to be flexible.
Let me share some of the things I do to prepare for a new school year.
1. GOALS~ Write down 4 or 5 goals for each child for the coming year. Be reasonable and take in consideration all of those life moments that challenge flexibility. (especially for perfectionists such as myself)
Example: Two years ago, because Ella is Atypical Autistic, my only goal for her was to learn to read the first 6 SSRW readers. We were told she would never read, so this was a huge undertaking. She was reading within three months of active practice, that being her second year of actual school.
The goals for my son, Noah, who was 6 for most of the year, was simply working on his level of focus and beginning. If you have sons and daughters, you WILL notice the learning differences and time it takes for finishing tasks and staying focused. He far excelled those simple goals and was doing minor maths ans reading short vowel words.
School is about instilling a love of learning into your child
For Destiny, my 7th grader, I had higher goals obviously, but then again we had to adjust. During those infamous “tween” years where adolescent hormones are all astir, you need to be flexible. We have three adult daughters, none of whom have had the kind of hormonal sways that she has had. We would go from one minute of anger and frustration to a sudden outburst of tears in a daily basis. This is a challenge, especially for me as an older mom now, because I am going through my own hormonal changes. So other than keeping her on track, and trying to get her out of bed before 9am daily, I was determined to set a higher reading goal for her, to keep her away from electronic distractions, and for her to be responsible for her own goal setting and time management. After reading a fun and helpful book called, Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leaman, I was thrilled to find some refreshing new thoughts on consequences. I highly recommend it.
Then I had my high schooler, Eden, a PK living in Mexico who I was finishing schooling by remote. I am still working on her transcripts and if she gets all of her grades to me she will be able to graduate by the end of September. By the time the children are at this age they should be self starters and staying on task. They can also help with the younger children and be learning life skills as well.
Everything we teach our children will become a habit and we want to have the best habits be the godly ones
2. SCHEDULE~ I call this the 4-5ths Rule ~ I schedule only 4 days of school per week. I do schedule 36 full 5 day weeks which equals the required 180 days of school, however, instead of actually scheduling school on Friday, I save that as a make-up day or a day for testing and field trips. For the actual school work load, I break it down and weave into the other four days. It really is not that much extra work, and having Friday for catch up has been helpful for projects and the work we do as a missionaries. We have run a food distribution program on Fridays for the poor and we like the children to be involved with the mission work, so school on Fridays is not feasible.
3. MONDAYS~ I never schedule anything extra on a Monday. Mondays have always been a day to stay home and fully focus on the school day. There will be emergencies that arise as well all know, however, doctor and dental appointments and even visiting with friends or church activities on Mondays seem to bring too much rush into the beginning of the week. This means having to say “no” often enough, but I find the time is used better for us this way.
4. CALENDARS~ I do not put dates into my work load calendar. I schedule the 36 weeks as I mentioned above, all in pencil with no dates. Far too often, an emergency will arise and then days will slip past and you will end up feeling guilty because of the schedule firmly marked in pen. School is not about schedules, school is about instilling a love of learning into your child. If you end up rushing through school because of a sense of guilt for what was missed during any serious life event, you will inevitability instill more negative things into your child than a love of learning. I know, I have made that mistake before. (see point 5 on Plan B below)
Remember the goal is not to fill your child with useless facts but rather to instill a love of learning
5. PLAN B~ Have a Plan B ready. This could be a few large totes of reading material if you become too ill to work. It could be an art project set aside ready to begin or it could be an accountability partner ready to help you in your time of need.
6. ART~ I keep a box of play dough and art supplies nearby. If the children become to restless with a lesson, we then stop for a few minutes and do some art. We have scheduled art projects, but with little ones and their God-given, wigglability, I find that after 30 minutes of reading or writing it is often time to pull out some finger paints.
7. BIBLE~ Schedule Bible first, with memory work daily. Everything we teach our children will become a habit and we want to have the best habits be the godly ones. Encourage them to help schedule your devotional times. I have always been blessed when my little ones put together a puppet show with their furry animals as actors for biblical figures.
8. ACCOUNTABILITY~ Have a home school covering and an accountability family. Join the HSLDA if you live in America. Just do it, it is the right thing to do and you will not regret it. I love my HS covering.
9. LIFESTYLE~ Remember the goal is not to fill your child with useless facts but rather to instill a love of learning. If you as their teacher, can give your child this tremendous gift, they will continue on the path of becoming a willing learner for the rest of their lives. I have seen this in my older daughters, who are active readers and learners in spite of all my shortcomings as their teacher. My older girls inspire me to read more, learn more and become more involved with the world around me. We so thoroughly enjoy our times together just chatting about books, and literature, history, politics and religion. I have wonderful friends in my older girls, and thoroughly look forward to this stage with my wee ones.
10. READ~ Turn off that TV and read! Read to them, read with them, let them read to you (which by the way can I be truly honest for one moment? I truly dislike that part of schooling. I have helped many children learn to read, including my own and it never gets better until they finally get it. The dragging out of the syllables, the waiting, the stuttering through the pronunciation, it is simply dreadful. However, the pain of it all does not compare with the joys of hearing your child (especially your special needs child who you were told would never read) finally read you those first simple sentences in those silly little readers. The look in their eyes of pure joy and satisfaction for their own accomplishment. It is beautiful, bittersweet… bitter in the beginning and sweet in the sequel)
My daughter Lauren and I thoroughly enjoyed reading some wonderful English literature together last summer before she went back into missions for the year.
At times this year I have considered putting my children into school. I am getting older and my plate of proverbial responsibilities is fuller than full. However, each time I seem to struggle with this, the news shouts of another school shooting, another senseless travesty, another area in which God is removed from the agenda and it simply breaks my heart. So I go to the Lord in prayer and renew afresh a commitment I made so many years ago that my family comes first and foremost. Besides, I truly cherish every minute I have with my little ones because I know too well now the pain of them moving off and away.
Stasia is mother to six beautiful children and wife to a dedicated, loving husband. They have served as a family together on the mission field on four continents for nearly 29 years. Stasia’s passion is to share in true colors the grace of God in her life. If this article has blessed you in any small way, please consider showing your support by subscribing to this website.