I've been reading a new book this week that my friend gave me. It's life changing. Literally. It was given to me by another homeschool mom, and it has changed the way I look at schooling, but it has impacted so much more than school.
I study the scriptures differently, we study scriptures together as family differently. It has effected the way I look at teaching the gospel to my kids and they way I feel about and look at myself. I cannot say enough good about this book, I highly recommend reading it. You can find it, as well as Ali's other great books, here: https://www.millennialstandardpress.com/online-store (I cannot wait to read her Millennial Instructor!)
First I want to tell you about how this book has changed the way our family studies the scriptures together. We have tried so many different way to keep our kids engaged, learning, and relatively under control. We have used those comic book like Scripture story books, regular scriptures, taking turns reading, listening to Daddy read, acting out what we read, drawing what we read, building with Legos or blocks what we read. Nothing really worked for long, nothing felt right. In her book Ali talks about principles being unchanging gospel truths. They can be summed up in one sentence, such as "I am a child of God" She talks about finding true principles everywhere in books, not just in scriptures. I decided to start searching the scriptures with the intent to find principles. It really changed the way I read and study. I was no longer re-reading something I'd read 100 times before, I was seeing a message and seeing it re-enforced again and again. I started teaching Benjamin to study scriptures the same way. Then I suggested we do it as a family. Each night someone picks a principle or topic and we all turn to the topical guide or index to find a scripture or story that we feel speaks of that principle. Some aren't in the topical guide, like "I am a child of God" so instead we looked at love, Son, Children, and searched our memories for stories that testified of this precious truth. Benjamin chose to find the scripture in Moses where he is talking to God and then after God leaves Satan comes and tries to get Moses to worship him, but he won't because he knows he is a son of God. Elizabeth told us a story about living in heaven and the great council in Heaven. Glen found a scripture that spoke to him of God's love for us. John found one about teaching children and that led to another scripture I remembered, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." The most beautiful thing is that each night is now a discussion, everyone is engaged and no one is bored. Because we are sharing our own thoughts and ideas scriptures and stories are shared that I wouldn't have thought of or seen the way my children do, I am learning too! I love that Elizabeth can participate because she can pull out her picture book and tell us a story that she thought of when we gave the topic. I feel like we have finally found the way the Lord intended for our family to study His Gospel. It is wonderful that the Lord knows all of His children so well that He can inspire us and teach us what we need for our family, even though it is different from what another family needs.
The other life changing concept I learned from this book in about being converted. I feel like I have truly become converted to the lord. I am no longer a hearer of the word, but a doer also. For me the gospel is not just a Sunday thing, it is so much a part of my life that is is woven into every fiber of my being. Every thought, word and action is based on my testimony that God knows me and that He loves me. Because I have become truly converted I can teach my children by my example. They see me studying the scriptures, not just reading for a few minutes each morning. They see me doing, as I serve others, and they see that everything reminds me of the scriptures and of my Savior, everything is a teaching moment. What really changed my life was seeing that just like I need to be truly converted to Christ, I also need to be truly converted to Homeschooling. Being truly converted to teaching my children is important because there is no longer an out, "If you keep acting up I'll just send you back to public school." Now we solve the problems. Knowing that this choice is right for us and won't change means the way we learn changed, the way we look at life changed, the way we see our family and our eternal salvation changed. Homeschooling used to be about a specific time and subject, but after being converted homeschooling became a part of who I am. Every thought and action is based off of homeschooling. Homeschooling has become a true principle in my life, an unchanging truth, but one that continues to change me as I learn each day.
I am eternally grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who knows me and my family so well that he knows just what we need each day. I know that he inspires me as I teach my children. I can no longer see secular knowledge and spiritual knowledge, I see how connected they are. We learn math, science, literature, Mathew Mark, Luke and John, all with an eye single to the glory of God. I know He lives! I know He loves me! I know the Spirit testifies of the truth of all things!
Four and a half years ago I started out on an unexpected journey. Something Tookish awoke within me and set me on a path I would have never considered of before. Homeschool. I remember when my boys were toddlers, sitting with a few friends and they started talking about homeschool. They both wanted to and I had no interest whatsoever. I loved school, I couldn't wait until my kids went, I just knew they would love it as much as I did.
I won't re-visit my reasons for homeschooling, I have done that in previous posts, but I want to look forward. Over the last 4 1/2 years I have learned so much, I have experimented with different learning styles, schedules, and ways of teaching. I have swung from one side, unschooling or natural learning, to the other side with a hyper scheduled day with 12 different subjects, and back again. I am seeing the Hand of the Lord in teaching me to teach my children. `After last years fiasco trying to cram in everything I wanted them to learn I burned out so fast and the kids went from enjoying school to hating it all and fighting me every step of the way. After a lot of prayer, soul searching, research and a little divine intervention in the form of two new friends I learned we need unschooling. I really prefer the term natural learning, after all, learning is so natural.
I began to see how my kids were learning so much just by living their lives, playing, pursuing interests and asking questions. I began to see missed opportunities because what they were asking to learn didn't fit into my schedule or my idea of what we should be learning. Glen's desire to play the recorder and learn to play the flute slowly died as he met with "no or not right now" at every turn. Elizabeth's desire to learn about volcanoes disappeared before we got around to it because I kept putting it off, she also stopped asking me to help her learn to read or work out of her math book because I was always too busy to take the time to sit down to help her.
I began to see opportunities to learn that I never would have seen before. Hand writing took the form of writing a book, no tears or struggle. Elizabeth planted bean seeds to see if they would grow because I said yes instead of "It's too late in the season for a good crop" She even watered right after because she had learned from watching me that seeds need to be kept moist until they sprout and form a good root system. She brings me scriptures every morning, hungering to learn about them. Glen began to sing, he wants to join Vocal Point some day. Benjamin, who loves and is so good at math, but began to hate it when I made him do it each morning, volunteered to make a prime number game for me, but first he needs to learn what prime numbers are. He is excited about math again.
I am thoroughly convinced that the surest way to make a child hate anything is to force them to do it. If you forced a child to eat chocolate cake very day they would hate it. I know this, I have believed this for years, yet here I was forcing my kids to read, do math, memorize poetry, and a number of other things. Over the summer I have watched their passion for learning rekindle because I am not forcing them to do anything. They are learning about Prime numbers, singing, surface tension and what boats need to stay afloat, how to plant, care for and harvest in the garden, the value of objects and ideas, how to make money, and a million other lessons.
So now it's time to take a deep breath and take the plunge. It's time to give up control and trust my kids to learn without me forcing it. It's time to trust the Lord when he tells me this is the way to do it. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink. I cannot force my kids to learn, but I can help encourage them, introduce them to new ideas, give them opportunities to learn and watch their love for life and passion for learning take them an their own amazing adventure in life.
Homeschool really is the journey of a lifetime. A journey that will last a lifetime because we are never done learning. I can't wait to see where this new journey takes us.
Over the summer the boys decided they wanted to go to public school. I was sad because I loved home schooling them. It was stressful, but I loved it and I wanted to always do it. I wanted to give them the opportunity to go to school and fully expected them to hate it. It turns out they pretty much loved it. They wished it was shorter and they didn't have homework, but still they loved it and they loved their teachers. Every morning I prayed with them and sent them off to school. Every morning it was hard. I wanted them home, but I didn't want to be selfish. I thought it would get easier to send them off to school, but it got harder. I started feeling like they should be home. At first I dismissed it because I thought it was just my desire to have them home, but that feeling of need grew every day until I could hardly bear to have them leave. I wanted to call the school and take them out. I was starting to feel anxiety every time I sent them to school or thought about them going and I didn't feel good again until they came back. Knowing that anxiety is not a feeling Heavenly Father gives I decided I needed to find peace. When I found out what Heavenly Father wanted for my family I knew I would find peace. The problem was that every time I prayed about taking them out I had a bad feeling, I felt like it was wrong. When I thought of keeping them in school I felt like that was wrong too. So after weeks of praying and thinking I finally just asked, "What do you want me to do? I wasn't ready before, but I am ready now. I will do what you want, whatever you want." I felt like they should be home in the mornings to be home schooled and then go to public school for a few hours in the afternoon. As soon as I thought that I fell immense peace and relief. The feelings were so strong that I was able to pinpoint the time of day they should go and when they should get out of school.
So the next day, without them knowing, I went in to talk to the principal and their teachers to get everything worked out. It took a few days and a bit of running around, but I got everything worked out before the end of the week. We were to start Monday. A new week. A new Month. A new start. Having them home has felt right. I know home school is not for everyone, but I know for sure that home school is for us. The children are all happier. They boys play together more, help more, they are more cheerful, less tired. The girls are happier to have their brothers home and I am happier as well. Not the happy of getting a new toy or my own way, but the deep seated, all is well joy. When it comes time for them to leave in the afternoon I feel no sadness or anxiety. I am happy to see them going to school to spend time with their friends, teachers, and learning some fun lessons away from home. I still have the responsibility to teach my children, but now I am ok sharing that responsibility. And now they are home before I know it. Part time gives us the freedom of home school, the lessons of public school, and the girl time we all need. It is our perfect fit.
I know that Heavenly Father knows my family, he knows me, and he knows what is best for us. I know that God guides me as I teach and raise my children because they are his children too. I know that God loves me.