When a new-to-homeschooling mom asks, in a panic, how she will even begin to start homeschooling her children, my advice has always been simple:
Even if you do nothing with your child for the first year but read to them, they will be better off than if they’d been in a traditional school.
Sometimes, I worry that this advice is entirely too simple. But looking back at my early homeschooling years, it is what I wish I would have done. And it is what I’m doing with my youngest set now.
Over at Read-Aloud Revival, Sarah has a podcast interviewing Andrew Pudewa (of Institute for Excellence in Writing fame) about the value of reading aloud to your kids, even the older ones. This interview has basically confirmed everything I’ve ever thought about reading to my kids. It is invaluable. You cannot possibly do too much of it, and letting other things slide while you read to your kids is ok (most of the time!). It has also confirmed a nagging suspicion I have about my own homeschooling: I have made it way more complicated than it needs to be. If you’re interested in the talk by Andrew Pudewa that she refers to at the beginning of the podcast, here is the link: Nurturing Competent Communicators. I have not listened to this yet, but have it scheduled for my next free hour and a half. (Ha!)
In light of these podcasts, I’m thinking I should rephrase what I say to fledgling homescholers:
Especially if you do nothing other than read to your children for their first few school years, they will be better off than if they had attended a traditional school.
So what are we reading out loud right now? Rascal, which was recommended very highly by Auntie Leila over at Like Mother, Like Daughter. The kids are loving it–even my five-year-old. The prose is beautiful, and the story is keeping my oldest son interested. After listening to the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast, I’m inspired to tackle Wind in the Willows again with my kids, taking it slowly and savoring all the descriptions. It might take us a while, but now I know that’s all right.
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Today I loved this quote from theologian Matthew Henry, nestled into his commentary on John. How relevant it is to my many mom friends who are diligently working in the obscurity of their own homes to raise their children!
If the providence of God casts persons of merit into places of obscurity and little note, it must not be thought strange; it was the lot of our Master himself.
As I finish my mini-series for young women preparing for homemaking and motherhood, I want to reiterate that our dreams do not always match God’s plans. One of my dearest friends is a professional nanny, babywearing instructor, and newborn care specialist who hasn’t gotten to be a mom yet, and it hard sometimes to watch her care expertly for other people’s children when I know she will be a wonderful mother to her own. I know so many women for whom motherhood is a touchy subject, and I so do not want to hurt their feelings in these posts or through this blog at all! But just because motherhood isn’t a guarantee doesn’t mean young women can’t be intentional about preparing for having children someday.
I want to leave aspiring sahms with the encouragement to be open about your ambition. Don’t be afraid to tell people (when appropriate) that you aspire to be a stay-at-home mom some day. Perhaps you don’t need to go into detail in a college application or a job interview, but in everyday life, be real about your hopes and dreams. The responses you get will probably be a good representation of the responses you get once you’re a sahm. Some will praise you, but others will question why you’d “waste your intelligence” or “limit yourself” like that. I’ll never forget visiting a friend’s church during college and sitting next to a friendly older woman who asked what I was studying in college and what I wanted to do when I graduated. When I explained that I hoped to be able to stay home and homeschool my kids one day, she asked why I was even bothering with college in the first place if I “only” wanted to be a housewife. The thought that I would train my mind and consider motherhood an intellectually challenging vocation was foreign to her. Some of my most accomplished homeschooling friends don’t have college degrees, so I don’t want to infer that my path is the only way! Rather, my parents and I had thought deeply about my hopes and dreams, and because of that, I was able to share why my English degree was certainly not an irrational waste, even though the only English literature I’m currently teaching is of the A.A. Milne variety. So own your ambition, and start preparing your responses now—you will be defending your choices for the rest of your life, to people who will question you from every side. You can be a cheerful and winsome representative for the lifestyle even before you’re an active sahm.
Seasoned moms, what are you glad that you did or wish you had done to prepare for staying home full-time with your children? If you’re not in that stage yet, do you have any other questions for myself, Anna, or our community of readers?
I’ve shared that I’ve been talking recently to young women who aspire to be in my shoes a decade from now. While most of our readers are already in this life stage, I thought it would be helpful to share the advice I’ve given to young women who are not here yet. Today and tomorrow, I have a few brief thoughts on preparation to be a stay-at-home mom.
- Be around kids. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to love everything about children to be a sahm. Many sahms I know actually don’t enjoy children in the abstract; their choice to stay home with their own stems from their convictions on motherhood, not because they’d be a kindergarten teacher in an alternate life. If, like me, you love children and naturally have a way with them, you are probably already doing what I recommend—babysitting, volunteering in the church nursery, helping teach preschool Sunday School. If you know you’re not a kid person, it’s still good practice to be around little kids and understand them better. You may never be the church’s go-to babysitter, but you can still practice. Even spending a day with a young mom can be an eye-opening experience. I recently took one of my younger friends to the grocery store with us. She said she never realized how much more time it took with kids in tow!
- The benefits of practicing on other people’s kids are manifold. You will be a more confident mother of a colicky newborn if you have already changed a multitude of diapers and rocked many other crying babies to sleep. If you’ve spent time around toddlers having temper tantrums, you’ll realize your own baby’s shrill-to-you cries are not, in fact, the loudest screams in the history of the world. If you’ve observed many different families, you’ll see how various parenting philosophies play out, and you’ll already have some tried-and-true ideas about discipline, routines, bedtimes, tv use, toys, and activities. Experience is not essential, but it certainly made the adjustment to motherhood easier for me!
What experiences were most helpful in preparing your expectations for motherhood?