I am part of a couple of Facebook groups for Classical Conversations families where we share many good ideas, but there are also frustrations vented by those beginning their homeschool journey. I have seen everything from parents saying they were giving it x-number of weeks and then putting their children in public school, to moms of 4-year-olds frustrated that their children won’t sit still for three hours to do memory work for Foundations. Take a deep breath, parents. It will not always go according to plan, but I can assure you, it is all worth it…if you keep pressing on!
Here is some advice from me, a mom who has been there. Please take it cum grano salis—with a grain of salt—and remember that every child and family is a little different. What worked for us can be tweaked to fit your family’s unique needs.
1. Familiarize your young child with the memory work, but don’t force it
If you try to make your child learn all the memory work at a young age, one of you will likely be burned out by the end of Foundations, and the other may hate learning. If your student starts Foundations at age 4, they will go through each cycle two or three times. What fun would it be the second and third time through if he or she knows everything already? Picture the memory work as a spiral. Each time you go through the cycle, the spiral, like your child’s knowledge, grows and is strengthened.
2. Be committed and accountable
Homeschooling is hard, but like marriage, breastfeeding or birthing a baby, it is worth the commitment. Don’t just give yourself a couple of weeks, but give it a couple of years or more. And, as Ecclesiastes 4:12b states, “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” This is a reason I love Classical Conversations: I can share with others the burdens I feel. We can pray for each other, commiserate together, and uphold each other in the commitment to homeschool.
3. Trust God and spend time with Him
God takes care of us. Never underestimate how He can work in your life through time spent in prayer and reading His word! Teaching your children and guiding them in Scripture is important, but make sure you are also praying and growing in your own relationship with God.
4. Do the important things first
Your child needs to learn to read, write, and do math. Those things generally ought to be done deliberately with curriculum and goals. Other knowledge will come with time, but those first few years, concentrate on the major things and develop their thinking abilities. At the same time, it is equally important to talk to your child about God and ask questions. Analyze things together; when you are talking in the car, ask them things like “why does McDonald’s always have those arches?” or “what does this song mean?” My girls have learned valuable critical-thinking skills just by questioning things.
5. Discover your students’ learning style and accommodate it
This year I am using a checklist for each of my girls because they like checking off that they have done their subjects. We also love using the songs on CC Connected and Classical Conversations’ Memory Work audio CDs. My girls also enjoy doing some of their work on little white boards with dry erase markers. These preferences may vary widely for your family or even from child to child. Some children may enjoy practicing memory work while they run laps around the dining room table, others might get their work done best while hiding out in a fort they built, or any method in between. The ways you can homeschool are as boundless as the unique personalities of each child. If they are learning and growing, there is no “wrong way” to do school!
6. Observe your progress—not someone else’s
Don’t worry about putting in the same number of hours as public-school students—they spend a lot of that time being managed and transitioned. Don’t compare your children to others; we homeschool because we want a specialized education for our students. Don’t even compare yourself to other homeschool parents (I know, it is very hard to avoid!). Keep your eyes focused on what God has for your family and the individual goals that you and your spouse have prayerfully set for each child.
Hang in there
Homeschooling is a hard journey, but so worth it! If you would like to be part of a community of helpful, supportive, fellow homeschoolers to guide you along the way, consider joining a Classical Conversations community near you!
This article has been adapted by Sarah Iddings from “Things Not to Do with Your Firstborn When Starting Foundations” by Kathy Sheppard.