My dear friend, Rosario, is a guest writer on my blog this week! Her wonderful article follows below:
Where Grace Abounds: New to Homeschooling with a Toddler In Tow
I’m new to homeschooling (although I like to joke that I was steadily lured into it since my oldest was born). I tinkered with it last year; but this is our first year doing it consistently, though not without its bumps in the road—namely, mommy’s pregnancy with baby number 3. Rosie, who will be 5 in April, is my homeschooler. I’m pregnant with baby #3, and child #2 is my toddler, Carina. She will be 2 this month, and I must admit that the thought of teaching them simultaneously has been somewhat of an on-the-horizon stressor for me. I know there are curricula designed for teaching multiple grades or levels at once precisely for this reason, and I’m sure I’ll be exploring those soon, but if there’s one thing I have learned and appreciate about homeschooling, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There is a great deal of autonomy in deciding what and how you teach, and there is a tremendous amount of flexibility.
Since I haven’t crossed that dual-teaching bridge yet, I am enjoying the fact that my toddler’s natural stages of development keep her engaged and busy during my teaching time with Rosie. I include her in whatever we’re doing whenever possible; for example, she always begins circle time with us, which, right now consists of praise and worship time via kids worship videos on the iPad. (I had high hopes of learning to play the guitar over the course of last summer for circle time and general household calming purposes, but I didn’t actually get my hands on a guitar until close to the start of the school year, so that’s on pause for now.) This is followed by prayer time. Both girls enjoy this time to the fullest and it really sets the tone for the day. Whenever we skip it, the day just doesn’t have the same flow.
For the most part, Carina is a very independent little girl and can play on her own well, so when the lessons and activities that accompany our stories aren’t exactly toddler-friendly, she’s pretty content playing with puzzles, cars, dolls, Shopkins, coloring, etc. My secret weapon is Play-doh. Thankfully, she doesn’t try to eat it; so, on days when she’s particularly fussy I pull out a few mini-tubs of Play-doh and let her have at it. We allow our girls to have screen time on the iPad or TV, or on one of our phones as well. My husband has a genuine interest in technology and electronics (he put a dismantled computer back together when he was younger, reads tech news, and watches keynote speeches when new electronic products are launched), so there’s just no way we were going to be a tech-free home, but I limit it. There are some seasons (like a sickness-laden pregnancy) where the iPad is out more than I would like, but at that point it’s just about survival and I try again the next day.
When lessons are toddler-friendly, I gladly include Carina in what Rosie and I are doing. One lesson that is most vivid in my mind as one in which both girls were equally engaged was the week we read Blueberries for Sal from the Before Five In A Row curriculum. The story revolves around a mama bear and a human mama picking blueberries on opposite sides of a mountain, each with their little one following, collecting their own blueberries in a tin pail. An activity that accompanied the story was mimicking the kerplink! kerplank! kerplunk! sounds of the blueberries dropping into the pail. We didn’t have blueberries, but we did have galvanized metal buckets from The One Spot at Target (my fave!) and jars of marbles and pony beads. We reenacted the story and dropped marbles and pony beads into the buckets as Rosie counted and sorted by object and color (separating marbles from pony beads after plopping them into the buckets, and then sorting the beads by color).
While Rosie and I worked on sorting, Carina kept plopping and dumping, plopping and dumping. Of course, those are choking hazards, so I kept a close eye on her—and I was finding rogue marbles and pony beads for days afterward, even after the initial clean-up—but, they both enjoyed it so much that it was worth it. Plus, I believe that messes are part of the fun of learning and playing. A surprise bonus was that the copy from the library came with an audio CD that we were able to record into our car, so we have the audio version of Blueberries for Sal any time we’re on the road, and my girls love that.
I have found, though, that as Carina is in the throws of the terrible twos (by the by, starting at age 2 is a myth; it begins much sooner! And, then of course, there’s the threenager stage to look forward to), she has become incredibly clingy—especially since I’ve become pregnant—needing to sit on my lap for long lengths of time, screaming any time I get up, etc. This can wear on my patience and my nerves, and it’s tempting to lash out in frustration. And it’s not just those toddler moments, but times when Rosie is being resistant to the day, or the girls are in an emotional tug-of-war while mom is fighting a migraine and all she needs are a few moments of literal darkness (to ease the migraine pain) and rest. These are the moments when, as much as I tell Rosie she needs time to calm down, mommy needs time to calm down—a mommy time-out, if you will. I have to retreat mentally and/or physically, pause, and pray. The word that resonates most with me each and every time in this homeschool and parenting season is GRACE. 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” This. This verse. It is on replay in my heart and mind, and it refreshes my soul.
My weaknesses have certainly been illuminated through this process, and I’ve seen my daughters’ weaknesses, too. As tempting as it is to feel frustrated with them—and, oftentimes I do—I remember that as I receive grace, so must I shower my precious girls with that same redeeming grace of Christ…as often as needed.
Copyright March 8th, 2016 by Rosario C.