As the girls work in their books for school, they are often asking me for help sound out a word or explain a new concept to them. So I spend a bit of time sitting next to Emma, showing her what patterns are or different shapes or helping her sound out words. I also sit next to Lucy and showing her how to figure out fractions and how to tell time or count money.
But I never sit next to Spencer. He’s not in school. In fact, I don’t really “believe” in preschool. I’ve got enough going on without adding trying to get a two year old to pay attention to the mix. I’ll read him a story or two when the girls are occupied with their work and occasionally I’ll try and get him to learn his colors, but that’s not the same as “teaching him” like I teach them. Lucy and Emma “play school” with him, and that’s enough as far as I’m concerned. I figure that anything a toddler or preschooler will learn they can get by just absorbing what is going on around them. For example, he knows a lot of his ABC’s, not because I’ve worked with him at all, but because I have helped his sister. He listens as he plays with his animal toys or legos from three feet away. He is bound to learn something.
But he wants to be like his sisters. It warmed my heart this morning when he told me he wanted his “Maff Book”. So I gave him the spare workbook and a pencil to scribble with. But that wasn’t enough for him today. It didn’t take long for him to say “Mommy a help me?” I pulled up a chair and sat next to him, I didn’t know what to do, obviously he just wanted me to interact with him as I do with his sisters. I looked at the page he had turned to and it was something about rhyming. So I pointed to the animal pictures and just asked him what animal was what and what sound it made. He was absolutely delighted. Every time I got up to work on lunch, he would ask for my help again.
In that instant I realized one of the best things about home schooling is the individual time I give to each child. The reason they are better behaved and nicer to each other isn’t just because they lack hours of exposure to bad examples each day, but because they get to spend special time with me. A child who is ignored all day long will get irritable, regardless of whether or not they are exposed to bad examples. People want attention and they want to feel wanted. I know I enjoy it when anyone just sits and talks with me (probably why my Visiting Teacher’s have to schedule extra time with me, I never shut up). Why should we think children are any different? There was a drastic difference in Lucy’s behavior when we started homeschooling. I figured it was mostly because she wasn’t surrounded by bratty five and six year olds anymore. But realistically, the change happened as soon as I started homeschooling, NOT as soon as she was out on Summer vacation. It happened when I sat down with her and read her a book that was just for her. It happened when we cuddled in the recliner while we went over subtraction or read a chapter from “The History of the World”. And are her siblings jealous? No, Emma knows that her turn is coming and is more than willing to wait for it. The result of just 5, 10 or 20 minutes of special alone time with Mom scattered throughout the day has made a world of difference. They feel loved and cared for and like I know and listen to them. That is a recipe for a contented child.
And they aren’t the only one’s that benefit! I love my children more than anything, but now I actually LIKE them too. They are little people with hopes and dreams and have senses of humor and I have really enjoyed getting to know them.
Some people wonder how it is that I have the patience for homeschooling. My response is that it’s much easier to have patience with children who are cooperative and patient themselves. And even on those days that they aren’t cooperative and patient, it’s easier to understand their feelings and frustrations because I know them better.
Occasionally Lucy will ask me why she has school at home instead of the building. My response is always the same. I just like her too much. I want to keep her close to me because she is such a fun and sweet and smart little girl. And I honestly mean every word of it. The delighted smile on her face at my response is reward enough.