A few years ago, an acquaintance told me they felt like my kids shouldn’t be homeschooled. Especially not our middle daughter.
Some days I can’t figure the girl out. One moment she is a personable, perfectly content, easy-to-please extrovert, and the next moment she’s an introvert who’s frightened by the smallest things. (Though things have gotten a lot better, since almost three years ago when this conversation took place.)
This particular person was as proud to share her two cents with me, as if she were handing me a million bucks. She continued, telling me she felt like my child was being stripped of her true self because she was staying home.
My answer was a puzzled, “You think?…” I felt taken aback. I am used to people being mystified by our desire to homeschool. Normally I am not offended by feedback; People tell me often they couldn’t handle their kids’ being home all the time. I don’t interpret this as I don’t love them. I get it… some parents simply don’t have the ability or desire to stay home to teach their kids.
But that conversation with un-named 😉 was different. Definitely not a fun exchange albeit a short one.
I try to be open-minded, really. Plus, this acquaintance was not trying to be malicious. She believed what she said. But… she was young, with no kids of her own. She had never cried over sore nipples and spilled formula at 2 a.m. Also, she doesn’t know my kids. I do.
Granted, I don’t know what’s best for my kids 24/7. (Just 14/7 while they’re awake and at least 1/7 while I am praying for them, hopefully 9/7 they are asleep and God doesn’t rest, so there you go!).
In all seriousness though, I don’t really know what I am doing, as a parent.
I never wanted kids. I wanted to bartend by the beach, joke with the customers, and sunbathe every day (being hispanic doesn’t mean that I am sufficiently tanned. Ever.) I wanted to wash away my sorrows behind the bar, my safest place. To get free food from the restaurants where I worked. To hit the bar next door and sing karaoke.
A more toned down version of the movie Cocktail. Drama, fun and more drama. Have I ever told you I love my Tom Cruise, sigh….
I know, big goals, right? *Eyes rolling*
God had different (and better) ideas. Now I’m a Christian, wife and mother, all by his grace. Hopefully my thoughts here will help you understand why we chose to homeschool our kids, and why it’s not as impossible as some people think.
So why do we homeschool?
There is no one definite answer. But here are a few thoughts:
- We wanted a mature influence to be the primary one in our children’s lives. Enrolling them in school would place them in the primary influence of other children and unknown adults. We wanted to be the primary influence on our kids.
- We wanted to raise responsible adults, not allowing “happy children” be the main concern. That does not mean that our children’s happiness in not important. It means that their happiness is not our ultimate goal.
- We wanted flexibility, to be able to travel and schedule family learning experiences.
- We wanted something affordable; private school was not a choice.
- We wanted to protect our kids from too much too soon.
- We wanted to be there when they asked all the big questions to give them the answers that were fit for their sensitive, growing brains and hearts.
- We wanted to educate our kids to be life-long, passionate learners. We test, but that is not the core of what we do.
- We wanted to school in the back yard, under the massive fort, and under the dining table (because they want to read to the dog). No one can tell you can’t.
- We wanted to re-learn all those things we don’t remember, because when we parents were in school we were too busy trying to force facts into our heads or too distracted by noisy classmates.
- We wanted to be our kids’ first resource for all things. Okay, almost all things.
- We wanted to be able to give our kids freedom in learning. They could spend a month learning about sharks or Ben Franklin. Freedom.
- We wanted our kids to be each others’ best friends. Actually, we did not know this would be the case, but it happened to work out this way. They defend each other tooth and nail. (though they have a spat or two per week for good measure).
As you can see, there are many great reasons to homeschool. However, I would not be a good friend if I didn’t share some of the challenges we have experienced…
Things that will not happen when you homeschool:
- Chances are, you will not be able to protect them from the harsh realities of the world. Don’t be shocked… they will see or hear something that their little ears or eyes should not be exposed to. You’ll be there to help them, but you should be prepared.
- Chances are, you will not have a genius in the family. Nope, sorry, no Doogie Houser. Say goodbye to your plans for early retirement.
- Chances are, they will be the most socialized kids on the block. What?! I know… Actually, because homeschooled kids are exposed to a variety of people on a constant basis, they are often more sociable than other kids. Kids personalities vary, and ultimately your children’s social skills will depend on your family dynamics and how hard you work at socializing. We have as many or more extracurricular activities than the family next door.
- Chances are, after a while in the homeschooling world, you will find there are too many opportunities for socialization. You’ll re-evaluate your schedule and life for the most important things. Don’t become a slave to socialization and miss out on the main goals.
- Chances are, you will not wake up at dawn and enjoy the quiet of the morning; someone else is always excited about what the day will bring and they will get up right when you’re trying to enjoy your quiet time and coffee. One little bit will manage to squeeze their little tails on to your lap. (You tried, give yourself an E for effort.)
- Chances are, you will try homeschooling and quickly you will find out you are a mean ol witch. The first year really sucks. Maybe even the second. Sorry. I remember a dear friend saying she thought she was smart, patient, loving and all kinds of good things, until she had kids. In my mind, I added: and started homeschooling. Be ready.
- Chances are, you will not finish school on time. You have a whole year, right? You will get discouraged. Other kids will be off for the summer but remember you took off to do other things with your kid/s while the rest of school was in session. You were productive. You took them to visit a sick relatives or went to the aquarium on a quiet Tuesday morning. You helped them to learn, in real-life situations.
- Chances are, you can’t get away with saying, “I don’t even know how they are teaching my kids this, how will I be able to teach it to them?” I hear moms make this complaint often.
- Chances are, on occasion you are going to fantasize about sending your kids off to school. You are the janitor, teacher, librarian, counselor, nurse and principal. That’s a lot of responsibility.
- Chances are, if you read my background story (above), and remind yourself that I didn’t even want to have kids, you’ll feel better about yourself. Thank God He interfered.
Be encouraged. You can do it!
Today I understand better why we are on this homeschooling journey. We are committed, and our experience is unique to us. It doesn’t have to look like other homeschool families’ journeys. It’s okay to co-op, to do cyber academy, tutor, do everything at home, or do part-time homeschool.
I believe the core of homeschooling is in the heart. Teach your children by mirroring honesty, integrity, respect, accountability and gratitude. And try to be an example of a person who loves and understands God’s word. I promise they’ll be better off in life if you do.
If you base your homeschooling on those core principles, everything else will flow from there.
Ask yourself: do your kids feel loved and understood? Do you see them joyful in learning, sharing new things they’ve learned? Do they feel like they have your total support (within safe and logical parameters)?
Going back to my conversation with un-named, it helps me to remember that I know my kids better than she does. If you don’t know your children yet, you will. And by God’s good graces you will learn and relearn a plethora of other wonderful things when you homeschool.
A few weeks ago, my personable, content, easy to please, extroverted, timid daughter gave me this:
PSALM 145 has been running thru my head a lot lately.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
9 The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
10 All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
Here is great version by Shane and Shane