Question # 4 of the upcoming home school answers book reads:
“What is a homeschooling challenge that God has delivered you through, and do you have anything to share with another family who may be facing the same challenge?”
Here is my answer:
Our biggest challenge so far has been dealing with the age differences and the very different needs of our two children. They are 9 1/2 years apart.
About half way through her fourth grade year, school at home changed dramatically for my daughter. I was about 20 weeks pregnant and already having real contractions. We went from spending every morning reading and doing some other meaningful work to really not doing much at all. When her brother was born in April of that year, things got worse before they got better. He was what Dr. Sears calls a high needs baby. He demanded my constant attention. I knew he was dealing with physical discomfort but we had a tremendous struggle figuring out what the issues were. Some were discovered (12 ear infections, reflux) and some are still in question. All of his problems left me with very little time or energy to work with my daughter.
I kept thinking that things would get better soon and we can get back to doing some “real learning.” He is 3 now, his physical struggles have calmed down some, and we’ve recovered some sanity around our house. But things still aren’t the same.
I mentioned their age difference as being a difficulty. Most families who have a 12 year old and a 3 year old also have at least one child somewhere in between, often more than one. That means that if mom has to work with one of the older children, then the other child can play with the little one for a while. That is a privilege we don’t have. That makes it very difficult to have any kind of routine and for me to work with her as much as I would like to. We’ve tried some of the great tricks for keeping baby busy, but honestly, he’s just not interested in most of them. It’s just a matter of watching for an opportunity and doing what we can with a moment here, a moment there.
So, what is God teaching me in all of this? Well, several things, actually. Here are some of them:
- He’s showing me first hand that there is no need to lose focus on what my priorities are. Right now I have a little boy who is growing up at what seems like lightning speed. I refuse to wish these years away or to brush him away so we can get back to the books. Yes, my daughter needs to be educated, but does it have to look like everyone around me? No. I don’t have to sacrifice what my son needs in order to give my daughter what she needs. If I was trying to “do school” like the majority of the people I know, I would have to sacrifice one or the other. But because I know that learning happens in all of life, I don’t feel strapped to the text books. I can see that my daughter is learning even without a strict schedule and a pile of lessons.
- God is reminding me that His grace is sufficient. I can give each child what I have to give, and because of God’s grace, it is enough. In God’s economy, 1+1 doesn’t equal 2. When I give God what I have, he gives me what I need. There’s a double reward here. When I’m faithful to follow his lead and do what he asks, not only do I see results I couldn’t have imagined, but I get to see my faith grow along the way. Every time I see God work in my life in a way I could not have done on my own, my faith grows stronger, and I’m more able to walk with him next time.
- God taught my head years ago, and is now teaching my heart, that education has nothing to do with school. Because school is the way that most of us know, it’s difficult to trust another way of learning. But the truth is, school is artificial and truly only provides a glimpse of what real learning could be. I can’t say I haven’t been nervous, wondering if my daughter is “doing enough” but for the most part, I feel confident that God is teaching her what she will need for her life, not just her diploma.
- I’ve always loved being home but God has shown me even more in these last years what a blessing it is to be home and not over scheduled. Because of the age difference, there aren’t a lot of outside activities that we can get involved in. That has us at home most of the time. At first I resented it, but after praying about it I came to see it as a blessing. I’m seeing the beauty in having un-rushed days with my children. I really don’t yell at them and I think the reason is that I’m not over scheduled. We’re not rushing from one activity to another, and then trying to figure out how to get dinner cooked and the clothes washed. I’ve got enough margin in my day that we are almost never in a hurry. I love the time my kids get together. If we were involved in activities outside the home several times a week, it would change that whole dynamic. I know there will come a day when we’re more active, but for now, I’m cherishing the time that my kids have to get to know each other and to form and unbreakable bond. I may not have chosen this for us, but as usual, God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we would have chosen.
After three years of “school” not being what I think it should be, God is showing me that “education” is a lot more than school, and that He will provide.
Would you like to see the same questions answered by 9 other seasoned home school moms?
Sign up for my mailing list (the red button on the upper right) and I’ll let you know when the book is ready. It will be very soon, and it will be free.