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There was a time earlier in my homeschooling journey when I was in so much pain from Small Fiber Neuropathy. I seriously could barely walk. I basically had a mini classroom set up in my bedroom. This was early on in the game. Which meant I hadn’t really developed much confidence in my abilities, especially since “sick mom guilt” kicked in.
I thought that if I didn’t push until my breaking point I wasn’t trying at all. In my mind, I would receive the award as “World’s Worst Home Educator” if I took a day off and let my daughter read “twaddle” all day. Oh, how I laugh, I was so silly!
If only I would have realized that my daughter reading her “Barbie and the Pink Shoes” over and over again was actually instilling a love of reading in her.
But, I didn’t.
Instead, I stressed myself out so much that I became sick often. I had more hospital trips more than anyone I knew. The worst thing that happened though is that I started to hate homeschooling. So much so, until I really did. With every fiber in my body burning and aching, plus the amount of pressure I was putting on myself, it happened. Towards the end of our second year of homeschooling I really thought to myself that this was our last year. I didn’t think there was any way I could do it anymore. At that moment, that big yellow bus I watched drive by each morning had never looked so good.
What changed? You say.
I had surgery.
Believe it or not, the surgery did not truly change everything. Sure, it helped. I went from a 9 on the pain scale to a 5 which was HUGE. No, it was something more.
Before I had my surgery I was scrolling through Amazon browsing for a few new reads to read as I was recovering. I stumbled upon “Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie”. Now, honestly you guys I thought this book was going to teach me how to homeschool while I was sick in bed recovering. I suppose I thought the book’s name was “Teaching From Bed”. I mean there’s a description and all, but I didn’t think to read it. Unknowingly it wasn’t quite what I thought, I purchased it. During recovery, I opened this beauty and began the little unbeknownst to me self discovery journey. I was pleasantly surprised as I was reading this book. This book kind of shook my whole world.
This specific passage spoke volumes to me:
“When I focus on being diligent rather than rigorous, my measure for success is not, “Did I check off lesson 97 today?” I am going to want to check off lesson 97 at some point. But if I can’t do it today because my child is not achieving understanding, I don’t need to fret and worry and wring my hands. I’m not tempted to push her through to the next lesson because we must! Keep! Up!, and I certainly don’t put the math book on the shelf and shrug it off either.” Sarah MacKenzie, Teaching From Rest
In this book it was as though she was giving me permission to stop acting like a public school teacher, to stop letting the lesson plans control me, and helped me realize that I needed to come to God first. The thing is, in all actuality, I loved homeschooling the entire time, I hated the way I was doing it.
After I recovered from surgery, I still didn’t have much energy. On top of that, my lupus was starting to progress quickly. Despite this, something amazing happened, I took the advice from this Godsend podcast, Read Aloud Revival and started applying it to our lives.
I started to focus less on pushing my kids so hard to stay on track with the boxed curriculum and focused more on joy. My focus was on our relationships. Of course, I didn’t neglect academics, but I relaxed. I learned that a math lesson is NOT worth bringing your kid and yourself to tears over. Most importantly, I re-learned how important reading aloud is.
I struggled with the same idea that many parents struggle with. Once my daughter was old enough to read on her own I didn’t think she would really want me to read to her, if she could on her own. I mean that’s just so not cool, right? Oh boy, was I wrong!
I printed out the free book list that Sarah MacKenzie had on her website, grabbed a tote and headed to the library. We had taken many trips to the library before, but this one was different. Before we left the house I asked my daughter what she would think if I read aloud some chapter books to her, her little eyes beamed with glee as she politely retorted “Oh yes mommy, that would be wonderful!”
I asked my daughter an additional question before we set foot out the door. I asked her how she would like to pick out some new chapter books to read to me. Now, anyone that knows this girl knows she’s kind of an old soul, she’s very laid back and has never been one to show too much excitement. Although if my memory serves me right, she replied with an overjoyed “Yes!! Yess! Yesss!!!” Followed with “Is it okay if it’s the next Felicity book, I’m dying to know what will happen next!! And, I know you will just love Felicity’s story, mommy!” I simply smiled and said, “Ok, well let’s go then!” (Not wanting to burst her bubble that I had already read all the American Girl books when I was a little girl.)
As my daughter was rummaging through aisles and aisles to find all the American Girl books she could find, and my 2-year-old son was flipping through numerous board books at my feet, I went to work looking for as many books on the list that I could find.
I remember stumbling upon one specifically, and honestly, I can’t remember if it was on the list or not. This particular book brought me way back to the days in the school library where I would find the perfect spot away from the other kids and dive deep far into another world. It was “Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carrol”, I picked it up and knew this one would be the first.
While I was regaining my strength and trying to find this “new normal” that the surgery had given me, our schooling looked very different than before. For the first time, I just let go. Not on education, by any means, but on the false notion, I had on education. I gave myself permission to enjoy my children. I truly believe reading aloud was the permission slip I was in need of.
As my Lupus progressed, we spent “bad days” snuggling on the couch traveling from destination to destination. Where we traveled was only determined by which book we opened. Oh, the time eras we visited and lands we discovered. Many new friends were met, from Alice to Harry, we were never disappointed.
We started having poetry tea times, nature walks, playing more games and then discovered “Morning Time”. Our entire homeschool was evolving into something new, something spectacular, something life-changing, something only God could curate. We finally had joy in our homeschool, once again. By the end of that school year, the thoughts of putting my children back in school were the furthest from my mind. Instead, I couldn’t wait until the next!
Our summer consisted of tall glasses of lemonade accompanied by Dorothy and Todo; afternoon picnics in the backyard as we were whisked away to the “Tri-Wizard Tournaments”.
I always knew reading aloud was important, to small kids. I would read for hours, picture book after picture book to my kids for years. Until they had lost interest in most picture books, and then their favorites such as, “The Cat in The Hat”. I figured they were just too big for “mommy story time”, but I was wrong. Once I found the right books for the older kids, we were right back to the days of reading out loud for hours.
The wonderful world of reading aloud was re-introduced to my family and I am so very grateful. Our relationships grew stronger, our homeschool healed, and our hearts were full.
If you are going through an obstacle or tough time in your life and/or homeschool, give reading aloud a try. I can’t promise you it will fix your problems, but I do believe it will bring you and your children joy. Sometimes, a little joy is all we need to push through until we make it past whatever obstacles we face.
If you are interested in learning more about reading aloud and how it can transform your homeschool and/or family life, here are some links that can help you do so:
Sarah Mackenzie’s Book: Teaching From Rest
Sarah Mackenzie’s Book: The Read Aloud Family
Comment below and tell me what is one book you would love to read to your kids today!
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