Words from a friend

I met my friend Karen about 10 years ago. At the time she was teaching for a virtual school that we are no longer a part of. She was my assigned teacher. When I first started using the school for curriculum I decided that when I had to talk to my assigned teacher the conversation would go something like this.

“uh huh, uh huh…ok…ok…bye.”

And that would be it.

Turned out I met a dear friend and a homeschool mentor. Our conversations look nothing like the above.

Bill and Karen with the original 8, plus their families. Photo by Scott Olney.

Karen has been homeschooling for about 24 years now. She has 8 children ranging from well into adulthood to her youngest who is a high school Jr.  She currently works for a different virtual school here in Kansas were she mentors parents and helps kids achieve their full potential. Karen knows her stuff. She was recently asked to write something for a homeschool group and she posted it on FB. I asked if I could share it on my blog because I knew you would love to read it too. Enjoy.

How might I encourage my younger self? This is the question I ask myself today. What do I wish I knew back then? What am I glad for today? What have I learned?
I’ll start with regrets and what I wish I had done – just to get those out of the way. I say this knowing I serve a God who is in the business of paying off debts, balancing accounts, and bestowing love and grace. So I have given these to God, and He can handle it…but these are my wishes:
1. If I had known better, I would have squeezed MORE ONE ON ONE TIME in with my kids! I devoted a few hours per week to each one for a couple of years. It was incredibly hard to schedule. We would hang out, chat, or work on academic things – but we were alone, no interruptions allowed! It is time (and money, if need be) well spent!
2. MORE MATH. I now work with other homeschool moms in a virtual school, and I encourage them to do more math. I want brains engaged in math, not just lessons done. Mine could have used more…
3. MORE WRITING. Nearly every drop of college or career opportunities are somehow linked to writing. It is minute-for-minute just about the most worthwhile pursuit in terms of future dividends!
Now for the things I did on purpose, and I am still glad for:
1. Time for MYSELF. There. Sounds selfish, but it needs to be said – when we serve from a deficit, we serve poorly. When I am strong, I can serve them with strength. Go. Do. Never apologize to them for leaving them for a bit. They need to see you do this, and they need to survive it. It empowers them, and it models healthy balance for them.
2. Time WITH BILL (my husband). That’s tough! But we go and do together, and often, and sometimes big (trips, etc.). Again, it benefits us all, even the kids! And it models some really healthy stuff about marriage. I want them to see me choose him over them, even – and they need to see him do the same. Weekly dates were our start…
3. Survived WITHOUT MONEY! We did it! Money is overrated! smile emoticon But, seriously, having no money made it impossible for me to buy any real curriculum. Now, I wouldn’t if I could! I love the individual creation of a learning design for each kid, which I was forced to learn for my kids. It is not pretty much my main thing about education!
4. Encouraged our kids to TRAVEL! With a deep breath, we said to our first one as she entered college, “If you study abroad, we will come visit!” We didn’t know how, but we decided it was a worthwhile promise. Now, the 6 of 8 who have left home have each one studied abroad (Holland, Spain, Italy, and one in Spain now) or plan to, or have done international mission trips. I know home education keeps us close and our worlds small, but I never want to be a hindrance to God using my kids – so we sent them out.
And one last category – the “formula” I have developed to help me finish this:
1. INDIVIDUALS: See each one as a person, not a kid. Look to the goal, not the short thing standing right in front of me this moment. smile emoticon each is a precious individual.
2. TIME: Time is more important than content. Time learning is a good place to focus. Brains need hours spent in the process of learning. What they are learning is actually lower on my list than challenging them and allowing them the space to actually learn, through failure, even.
3. BIG PICTURE: Every day matters – It’s a big picture thing, this homeschooling. No one day will make or break them or us! Look to the big, overall picture, and pour grace freely over the whole process (even for you!!)

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