Season of Firsts – Karen Coxhead
First time Blogger here! I think we are all in a season of “FIRSTS” right now, aren’t we? There are a lot of things that I’m doing in this season of my life that I never imagined myself doing. But the unexpected and the unpredictable are a part of life, aren’t they? Especially when you say “yes” to God. He takes us in directions that we never imagined that we would go, and He stretches us beyond what we imagine ourselves capable! Now more than ever I am thankful and grateful to have God in my life, and that I can trust in His favour and grace to get me through.
Today I wanted to write to you from a Homeschooler’s perspective. I believe that this is relevant for a lot of you right now who find yourselves in lockdown and having to “Homeschool” your own kids.
First though, let me tell you a little bit about myself. My husband’s name is Peter, and we will be married 18 years this month. We have four incredible children. Amanda our firstborn just turned 15. I don’t think I could have done a better job of cloning myself, she is so like me in character, temperament and looks (although she definitely has more of her father’s sense of humour!). Hayley is 12 going on 16! She is the “feeler” of the family, kind-hearted, just amazing with other kids and a baker. Kaitlyn is 10, my little firecracker! Boy have we had some parenting battles over the years! But she has the most tender heart towards God and so appreciates all of God’s creation. And then there’s my little man Sean who is 4. He keeps us on our toes but brings so much joy and laughter to our family. Peter is a self-proclaimed IT geek, and I have been a stay-at-home-mum from the time that Amanda was born. Last year I also began my role as the LIFE North Kids Pastor because God decided to stretch me a bit more! Our homeschooling journey began at the beginning of 2014. Prior to this Amanda had been in school for 4 years, and Hayley for 2 years. And let me emphasize that it has been a JOURNEY! There have been plenty of bumps along the road. We have learned a lot along the way and are still learning as we go. I am by no means an “expert” but hope today to give you some encouragement as I write.
We made the decision to start homeschooling for a number of reasons, but I don’t want to focus too much on these today. Mainly because most of you find yourselves in a position right now where you did not have a choice! The decision was made for you with the lockdown. However, I think that one of our reasons for homeschooling would be relevant for all of us today. That reason is PERSPECTIVE: seeing our family and our children from God’s point-of-view. For Pete and I, we see Parenthood as being given the responsibility and privilege of raising up individuals to know God and to discover their identity in God! We see that our role is to help our children build character and grow in the gifts and talents that God has placed in each one of them. And so homeschooling fit perfectly into this framework. Education or learning is not a separate and distinct part of our children’s lives, it plays a part in the process of them discovering who God is and who God created them to be. Learning encompasses so many things, from reading, to writing, to math, to cooking, to doing the dishes, to making your bed in the morning, to helping to take care of your siblings. Learning and growing is an essential part of life, and that is what we have tried to help our children to understand. It never ends, we learn and grow and change and adapt through all the seasons of our lives. So, we as parents are here to help to equip our children with the tools that they need on this journey of discovering who God has created them to be.
Now let me stop here for a moment and reassure you that that does not mean that you need to know everything and be able to do everything! My daughter Amanda is a very gifted drummer, but I am not. So, we outsourced her learning to a more than capable drum tutor! What we did as parents was invest in a desire and an interest at an early age, which has turned into an incredible gift that she wants to use for God. In a lot of areas, you WILL have the ability to support your kids learning. In some you may not, and that is ok. I have learned to learn alongside my children, and that has become an enjoyable experience. We have been learning to speak Maori together for a couple of years. The kids have been picking it up a lot quicker than me, but I’m persevering and getting there! I have also learned that sometimes it is ok to put something aside that is too difficult or too stressful to handle for that season. Before we began to homeschool, Amanda struggled with writing. And I STRUGGLED as a parent to help her. So, when we began our homeschooling journey, I made the decision not to even attempt any writing for over a year. Eventually I stumbled across a fantastic resource that helped us on our journey. And believe it or not it unlocked another incredible gift in Amanda. You would not believe that it was the same child who would sit and stare at a blank piece of paper for over half-an-hour, who now loves to write and can write hundreds of words in a single sitting!
I am not a trained teacher. I am not a Super-Mum. I am just someone who gave it a go because I believe in my kids and my family. And homeschoolers are as diverse as every family out there! I am not here to tell you what to do or how you should it. I am here to encourage you in this season that you CAN do it! It won’t be perfect. Some days you will feel like giving up. Some days success may look like your kids focusing for 20mins. But let me encourage you to keep a few things in perspective. We are in unprecedented times. Things are NOT normal. We have had to make a lot of adjustments to our lives, not just us as parents, our kids have had to as well. The most important thing we need, and the most important thing that our kids need right now is GRACE, GRACE and more GRACE! Grace to make mistakes and fail, grace when we’re upset, frustrated or angry, grace in the uncertainty. If you are working from home right now, it probably looks a lot different to what it normally would. Your kids learning at home is also going to look a lot different to what school normally would for them. You as a parent will need to figure out what works best for your family. And yes, that may take some time, some trial and error, but that’s ok. Be aware of your limitations and the limitations of your kids. Be aware of pushing yourself or your kids too much. Be aware of adding stress to an already stressful time. Don’t worry about your kids falling behind. Remember the big picture, God’s perspective. The end goal is not just to help educate your kids, the end goal is to grow an amazing individual who loves God and understands who they were created to be.
Some Quick Tips
- Give kids manageable bites of work – 20mins per topic is a good goal
- Give them work that they can achieve
- We generally finish school by lunchtime
- Let kids choose what they want to do in the afternoon – it’s ok for them to get bored and learn to occupy themselves
- Kids are more likely to do something that interests them or if there is an incentive
- Be FLEXIBLE!
Primary Kids Pastor LIFE North