This looked easier, in my head.

When I was pregnant with Nolan, I used to daydream about sharing my love of reading and writing with my child. I envisioned myself lovingly teaching my child with unlimited amounts of patience. I would be the perfect teacher and mother. My child would enter kindergarten knowing everything there was to know. My child would have a strict night time regiment of homework, reading for fun, and bed. TV would be limited in our household. We would be a family of avid readers and imaginative play, frequently visiting art and historical museums, going to music concerts (think more James Butler Trio, less Justin Bieber, ok?). We would be worldly, my family and I.

It wasn’t until I had Nolan that I was faced with the startling realization that everything is harder than it seems. It’s hard to keep a child engaged on learning (in the let’s practice tracing letters and doing maths way). The pressure to get everything done, the pressure to have a perfectly clean house, the demanding schedule and meeting of everyone’s basic needs is totally exhausting and it doesn’t leave much left in my fuel tank.

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Nolan is in school now, and when he comes home he is tired and just wants to rest. I haven’t been pushing homework as much as I should have, as much as pre-baby Jess claimed she would. He certainly didn’t go to school as prepared as I would have liked, because I was busy with a baby under 1 too.

I’m changing that now. We will do homework every night, I’ve started printing out worksheets for us to do together. Practicing reading was easy. It’s everything else that we have been neglecting.

But then I look at Archer, too. And I want to do more educational things with him, help teach him and prepare him for kindergarten in 2015. I have no more excuses. I just have a terrible sense of direction, and when I get overwhelmed I feel weighed down and unable to move forward. Like my feet are stuck in thick, heavy mud.

I tried Googling “teaching two year olds”, but the results overwhelmed me. All those fancy, detailed how-tos. All those perfectly colourful photos depicting what it should look like. I couldn’t help but feel outdone before I even began.

Wadding through this complicated battlefield of educating small children is completely confusing. I have no idea where to start. I feel like I have no footing in this.

With Nolan, we literally coloured and read books a lot. I would help him trace the letters in his name over and over again. We would look at alphabet charts and sign the ABC song until he could sing it by himself and identify them all.

But when I took to Google for some ideas on how I could teach and engage Archer, that wasn’t even listed as an option. I should be making colourful sensory kits! Buying foam letters by the truck load! Painting colour wheels! Creating DIY flash cards on recycled hemp paper!

I exhausted myself simply reading all the things that I should be doing (but am not). The guilt reared it’s ugly head, because I don’t do those things and the thought of doing those things overwhelms me and makes me not want to do those things. The whole “I am stuck in mud” feeling.

I feel like I need to take baby steps. Ease myself into this whole “educator” role. It’s going to be a learning curve for me, forcing myself through the overwhelmingly stuck feeling, finding my footing on solid ground.

It’s never too late to make changes, right? And if those changes terrify and overwhelm you, that’s good…right?

I just need to overcome the stuck feeling and start doing stuff.

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About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
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11 Responses to This looked easier, in my head.

  1. I remember feeling that way with Ari. I agonized over how to teach him his colors and language skills. Looking on the internet absolutely makes you feel worse. It’s like when you good medical symptoms and the internet convinces you that you have one day to live because you have a hangnail.

    From my brief experience teaching 2’s in preschool, I would say experiential stuff is the most important. Playing with different textures like play dough and then in the moment pointing things out. For example “Look Archer, this play dough is red. Can you say red?” They don’t have a long attention span so things that are kinesthetic are really great.

    • Jess says:

      OMG so true! It is a lot like googling medical symptoms and convincing yourself you’ll be dead in two hours. Those are great tips though, MUCH easier than making DIY flash cards on recycled hemp paper with food ink. Lol

  2. I apologize in advance for this long-winded response. This happens to be a topic that I have a lot of experience in, and thoughts on.

    I am a former stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. I was at home with, and educated my two girls until they were 4 and 6. My intention had been to homeschool them throughtout most of their education, and then life threw me a curveball and when things didn’t work out with their father, we were forced to explore other options.

    In any case…this is an area in which I have some experience. The best advice I can give you is to throw out all of the “shoulds” and the comparisons to how other people are doing things. Because doing that will only make you crazy with guilt. Been there, done that. I also know that it’s a whole lot easier said than done.

    Instead of focusing on what you “should” be doing, focus instead on learning how best your own children learn. Because they all have different ways to doing it. For example, my oldest loved flashcards and worksheets and would sit for hours with them. Easy peasy. We spent tons of time every single day with both. My youngest? Not so much. I realized that she learned best through physical things, so I taught her the alphabet by drawing the letters with sidewalk chalk in the driveway and hopping or walking along them while we sang the alphabet song together. If I’d “forced” her to sit down with flashcards I likely would have ended up only frustrating her to the point that she didn’t want to learn anything, and frustrated myself into believing that I wasn’t capable of teaching her.

    I’m a big believer in “stealth” learning. So like “Old School/New School Mom” said, take opportunities to incorporate learning into playtime…with things like playdough (my girls loved playing with (and eating!) alphabet shaped pretzels).

    I think one of the best things we parents can do is instill a love of learning in our children. Make them see learning as exciting and fun, not a chore. Sure, sometimes it will definitely BE a chore, but by that time, the belief will be instilled in them that they enjoy learning. Sneaky, right?

    Maybe you could hit up the local library and look through the homeschooling section. Find a book (or two, but don’t overwhelm yourself) that appeals to you and fits with the learning style of your kids and then run with it. Use what works, and toss what doesn’t. And be wary of any book, website, or person who tells you that it is “supposed” to be done a certain way. Not so! Do what works for you and your boys. Period.

    Oh — and while you’re at it, cut yourself a little slack, okay? You’re a good mom. Know how I know this? Crappy moms don’t give things like this a second thought.

    And hey, if you want to talk about this, just drop me an email, anytime. I may no longer homeschool my girls but I’m still pretty passionate about it, and I definitely still use every opportunity I can find to teach them when we are together. 🙂

    • Jess says:

      Thank you! I never even thought to hit up the library, heh. Those are great ideas, I’m still “learning” what Archer’s best learning method is. We are going to explore with making playdough alphabets today, and I like the idea of coloured toys in the kitchen sink.

      I’ll definitely hit up the library for a homeschooling book though! And I’ll probably bother you with questions too haha

      • Hey, bother away! 🙂

        I like the library because it’s WAY less overwhelming than The Google, which can be as terrifying as looking for kids birthday party ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes you need to step away from the computer. heh.

      • Jess says:

        Oh god, you’re so right. The few times I mistakenly went on Pinterest for party ideas were horribly guilt inducing lol. Who has time for all that!???

      • My girls are turning 9 and 11 in the next little while. I’ve been on Pinterest looking for ideas. I suddenly feel completely inadequate as a parent. Pinterest guilt! If that’s not a thing, it should be.

      • Jess says:

        Pinterest guilt is totally a real thing! Sarah shared this funny article about why Pinterest is killing you.

        http://tonymccollum.com/2014/02/pinterest-is-killing-you-and-how-to-stop-it/

        It’s so true, I never create anything new when I fall into the Pinterest hole. I just repin stuff other people do and feel internally inadequate because I could never do it like that haha.

  3. The thing about parenting is you only figure out how to do it once you’re done. 🙂

    You can’t go wrong with filling your house with books. I agree that the library is your friend. My local library even had “story time” sessions that meant they would be entertaining one kid while I focused on looking for books with the other. My kids also really got into “books on tape” (or CD, now). My sixteen year old still likes to put on a CD of a favourite book at bedtime.

    I also agree with the emphasis on building the learning into everyday experiences. Since you have to manage your energy so carefully, the trick is to find the learning opportunity in all the other things you have to do around the house. My kids learned early concepts around fractions, math and measurement by standing on a chair and helping us bake cakes and muffins. Teach colours and categories by involving them in folding laundry. Teach them to tell the time by teaching them that mom is going to lie down and rest for 15 minutes and they need to play by themselves until the clock says 2:00.

    Instead of thinking in terms of how much YOU need to do to help them learn, think in terms of what you can do to encourage them to be independent learners.

    • Jess says:

      Very true, and very good points. The only reason why we don’t bake is because I actually legitimately suck at it lol that’s definitely a Nana activity. Nothing worse than helping make rock hard cupcakes with mom lol

  4. Trauma Dad says:

    I used to feel like I was going to be with my kids constantly, making sure every vision of what was good for them would come to pass. Then they were kids, and I was like “oh.” I’d get home from work exhausted, get those amazing excited hugs they give you right before they ignore you unless they’re complaining for the rest of the day. It was a huge struggle for me to be engaging, because my job was so social and public and so full of the things which devour my energy. I would just lay face down on the floor and let them climb on me, and say something in a funny voice every now and then as I fell asleep, and they’d scream in my ears to wake me up. And then it was time to cook for them or something, and then somebody made a huge mess or hurt themselves doing something I’ve warned them about doing several thousand times and then baths and bedtime stories. The days just vanished sometimes. I would lay there by their beds and ask what kinds of things they’d been thinking about, doing my best to engage their philosophical functions or their ethical sensitivities, but that was about it.

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