Not My Battle


For many years, I’ve kept this little note tucked in the clipboard that I use for my son’s lesson plans.

I needed this note because teaching Josh has been a long-term proposition. He picks up some things slowly and other things not at all. We’ve been doing educational activities together for years; at times, especially at first, I got very discouraged because I was used to the steady learning pace of my older, “typical” children. This verse has always been a good reminder for me and helped me keep at it no matter how I felt.

Today was Josh’s last day of school in the eyes of the state because he turned 18 this semester. I was in Target yesterday and saw “Graduation 2011” paper plates and cups on clearance; it gave me a funny feeling because that would be Josh’s class. We decided not to make a big deal of his graduation because then he would think he never had to “do school” with me again. His sister said he’d probably think it was another birthday party. I don’t know about that (although he would definitely be expecting presents).  🙂

I don’t want him to think he’ll never sit down and work with me again. He has a lot to learn, and people with Down syndrome have a learning curve that’s always going up (albeit slowly) throughout their lives. What they couldn’t pick up at age 10 might be absorbed at age 20 or 30. That’s why we’re not looking at today as the end of his education.

That said, teaching him will become more informal. He’s finally gotten good at asking us questions, so my husband and I will always be a part of his education. But as for the requirement of doing a certain amount of school each year, well, that’s over now.

It’s a weird feeling. I’ve been homeschooling since I was in my 20s. What do I do now? Being over 50, I’m not getting responses to the resumes I send out (then again, why would they want someone who’s been out of the full-time workforce for nearly 30 years?). It’s both scary and exciting to wonder what’s next.

I think I’ll keep this little scrap of paper; it can remind me that God knows what the future holds, and that He’ll help me overcome discouragement about the future just as He helped me overcome discouragement about educating Josh.

Fasten Your Seat Belts……

Close-Up of Tops of School Buses in a Parking Lot, Brooklyn, New York by Todd Gipstein
Close-Up of Tops of School Buses in a Parking Lot, Brooklyn, New York


So here we are. The last weeks of summer already! The months sped past, and now there’s a chill in the air, it gets darker a little earlier in the evening, and there are other signs that fall is on the way.

With it comes a new school year for the neighbors as well as for us. Soon you’ll watch the neighbor kids line up for the school bus while your kids are still in their pj’s, and maybe still in bed. Will you think, “We are so lucky to have this freedom.”? Or will you think, “Oh dear God, help me, I’m not sure I can do this after all!”

I don’t mean to put pressure on you, but I have to be honest: your attitude is going to be a major factor in the success of homeschooling in your family. How you look at this venture speaks volumes to your children.

Imagine you’re seated on a jetliner getting ready to take off across the ocean to Hawaii. You hear the captain calmly announce that the jet is ready to take off. As he makes his routine pre-flight announcements in a practiced, serious, authoritarian voice, you feel as though you’re in good hands.

Now, imagine instead that his announcements begin with him nervously stammering, his preflight speech sprinkled with um’s, er’s and ahem’s. How secure do you feel?

Nothing has changed; after all, you’re still on the ground. But the captain’s attitude can be cause for feeling secure or cause for alarm. How you feel is directly linked to his attitude.

It’s the same way with your kids. They see their friends going to school. Strangers ask them where they go to school. They hear about this school place and all they know is that they don’t go there. How you behave will make them either feel secure about not going to school, or make them worry that there’s cause for alarm.

Does your attitude need work? Are you scared or worried? Have others, parents or friends, made you feel insecure about homeschooling your kids? Better get your act together! You don’t want to doom this school year before it’s even begun.

Think about why you’re doing this. Think of all the things your kids have already learned while in your care: each screaming little newborn bundle of needs has become a walking, talking, bright happy child. You’ve already shown that you have what it takes to raise and teach each of your children. God has given you the responsibility of doing this, and He has equipped you for it.

So turn away from watching the big yellow bus pull up to the line of neighbor kids, face your own kids, and in a practiced, serious, authoritarian voice, say: “Everybody get dressed! We’ve got work to do!” And then set about making another year of learning and memories.

Won’t Be Long Now….

The scent of sunblock no longer gives me a thrill. My pots of flowers look overgrown and a bit dehydrated. The weatherman’s announcement of another day in the high 80s makes me cranky instead of happy, as it did back in May. Yep, slowly but surely, summer is on its way out.

Now it’s the thought of the apple harvest, cooler nights and going back to sweaters that makes me smile. Oh, and new books, new glue sticks and crayons, support group meetings starting up again and a fresh start to the school year.

I couldn’t wait to put away our school stuff a few months ago, yet now I’m eagerly thinking about getting back to the challenges and joys of homeschooling every day.

I wasn’t always like this. Those first few years I homeschooled, I faced each fall wondering if I’d be able to pull it off for another year. Sure, I’d taught my kids to count, to read, to print letters. But that soon seemed like small potatoes. Up ahead loomed cursive writing, fractions, topic sentences, science projects, and someday, chemistry, foreign language……trigonometry!

I’d had some success in the early years, but how would I tackle the big stuff? I faced each fall with trepidation. I’d think, “We’ll try it for one more year, and then decide…..”

And the years passed, and the kids kept learning, sometimes in spite of me. Seemed like I learned along with them, though, and things came back to me that I hadn’t thought of in years. Fractions made sense this time. Geography was so interesting. And once they reached high school, I learned that you could sign them up for community college chemistry if you didn’t want to turn the house into a Chem lab. What a relief!

So, are you scared? Or are you excited? Or both? It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that you want to homeschool, you enjoy seeing your kids’ eyes light up when they catch on to a difficult concept, you know where to go when you need help in helping them. The emotions come with the territory. Just keep thinking, “One more year, then we’ll decide whether to keep going.” And before you know it, you’ll find yourself facing every fall with excitement, not fear.

(Looking for some tips to get your year off to a great start? Check out my free e-course, “Top Ten Tools for Homeschooling Parents.”)