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Overworked, Underpaid, and Overjoyed

By Melissa Morgan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #91, 2009.

The trials, tribulations, and joys of homeschooling a toddler.

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Melissa Morgan

You’ve read the same bedtime story again, and your sleeping preschooler looks like an angel, lovingly snuggled under covers with a favorite blankie. However, not long ago your angel, pouting lips and stamping foot, declared “NO!” to your preschool lessons, after totally trashing your living room with toys and spills. You know you still have to spend hours cleaning up before you can fall into bed yourself, and get up tomorrow and start all over again.

Most people pay someone else to teach their kids the ABCs, 123s, and “it’s NOT all about me”s. Yet here you are, staying home with your little one, when you could be out working and contributing to the family income. You may be wondering, “Is homeschooling really worth it?”

Perhaps you are starting your homeschool journey, wondering if you’ll last a year. Or you may be a veteran, with years of experience under your belt. Still, this youngest child has you frazzled with strong-willed demands, while the emotional and academic needs of older siblings fall by the wayside.

Whatever your challenges, you can find encouraging assistance, both spiritual and practical, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

Share the Work, Spread the Joy

Since every child is an individual created by God, each with unique strengths and weaknesses, there is no one-size-fits-all best way to preschool. One child may love “playing school” with workbooks, while another will only learn with music or hands-on games. Thankfully, you can tailor your home preschool to your child’s individual needs.

Try not to be influenced to “keep up with the Joneses.” Why must we be in such a hurry to teach academics? In the past, Americans started school much later, yet managed to be literate compared to most modern adults. If you wonder about this, compare past generations’ use of the early McGuffey readers with the books kids are reading today. (You can download the McGuffey Readers for free from gutenberg.org.)

Could the missing ingredient today be parental influence? Our ancestors spent more time working together with their children than most families do now. Even young children worked and contributed to the family. Most little kids really do want to help, to feel like they can do a big person’s job. They just want it to be their idea. Sadly, many kids reach adulthood, without learning the principle “Work before play.”

As a homeschool mom, you can include your preschooler in your work. You can teach your child that he or she must do basic chores, such as picking up their own toys, carrying dishes to the sink, and even sweeping or mopping the floor. Electronic devices and small mountains of action toys monopolize many households; if so, they can be withheld until after chores are completed. Kids can learn to sing the alphabet while you show them how to sort mail, pick up their own toys, or file records. Toddlers can learn numbers when they count beans on the vine, sort silverware for company, and figure the time it will take before they can go out to play. Older siblings can help your little one learn how to “do it myself,” and can be great motivators, if properly supervised.

Sure, you’re overworked already. It’ll take more time to teach your children to do these things, than if you just did them yourself. However, the look of uninhibited joy on your child’s face, and the “I helped!” makes it all worthwhile.

After a job well done, there is nothing more delightful than a preschooler performing a celebration boogie; some of my fondest memories are of dancing with joyful children.

If grandparents or other older relatives are available, time together can be mutually beneficial, especially if the older adults have the patience to demonstrate disappearing skills to your youngsters, such as woodworking, fishing, gardening, and knitting.

You can also find support and fun by networking with other families. However, peer pressure can work for good or for ill. With adult guidance, well-behaved children can help one another learn. Consider joining forces with likeminded families in groups such as Mommy and Me, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOP), and your local church. Local homeschool support groups can help you find abundant opportunities to interact with other families with small children, in work and play. Find national, state, and local homeschool groups at Homeschool World, home-school.com.

If you wish, you could start your own play group—or better yet, work group. It only takes one other family, meeting together every few weeks, to encourage and help one another. Get together with friends to help a new mom in the neighborhood, host a garage sale for charity, do spring housecleaning for each other, or bake for a sick friend. Working with others, children learn how to learn and are forced to discover that it’s not “all about me.” The job doesn’t get done without cooperation, discipline, and a modicum of patient kindness.

After children work and play hard, they are sometimes tired enough to sit and listen. During quiet moments, we can use stories to demonstrate to our children how to work together.

A Quiet Time Story

A boy was once sent from home to take a basket of things to his grandmother. The basket was so full that it was very heavy. So his little brother went with him, to help carry the load. They put a pole under the handle of the basket, and each then took hold of an end of the pole. In this way they could carry the basket very nicely.

Now the older boy thought, ”My brother Tom does not know about this pole.

“If I slip the basket near him, his side will be heavy, and mine light; but if the basket is in the middle of the pole, it will be as heavy for me as it is for him.

“Tom does not know this as I do. But I will not do it. It would be wrong, and I will not do what is wrong.”

“Then he slipped the basket quite near his own end of the pole. His load was now heavier than that of his little brother. Yet he was happy; for he felt that he had done right. Had he deceived his brother, he would not have felt at all happy.”

—from the Project Gutenberg EBook of McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader by William Holmes McGuffey

Regrets and Rewards

The Bible teaches us about training up our children the right way, teaching them diligently “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”—Deuteronomy 5:33, 6:7, NKJV

Homeschool preschool sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Yes, we all make mistakes. By the time homeschool parents are fully trained, they are out of a job. Ask anyone honest enough and you’ll hear a list of “Things we wished we’d known when we started homeschooling.”

Perhaps we could have given our children more interaction with positive friendships. Or limited their negative social experiences. Or we should have worked harder on academics—or maybe one child needed less structure, or more discipline or more abundant choices. So, where’s the joy?

Somehow, through God’s grace, most homeschoolers succeed both academically and socially by the time they enter college. As we look back, we remember the sweet angelic smiles, and fondly recall tiny foot-stamping with the nostalgic perspective of time and distance.

In our family, we are still learning to “seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”—Luke 12:31, NKJV It may take a lifetime, but we’ll reap the joyful rewards of efforts spent training up our children, if we keep our priorities in the right place.

Melissa L. Morgan is the co-author of Educational Travel on a Shoestring and Homeschooling on a Shoestring. With her husband, Hugh, she has homeschooled their three children from birth, taking advantage of many educational opportunities in the real world. She invites you to visit her website at www.eaglesnesthome.com.

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