We homeschool. As I’ve already learned firsthand from awkward silences, enthusiastic embraces, disapproving glances and/or a looks of concern as the person I’m speaking with adds up the number of children calling me “mom” at that moment, this confession can result in a myriad of responses. In fact, I have learned that most have strong opinions regarding the wisdom of this decision. However, after living this adventure for six months now, I can share from personal experience what we have learned homeschooling isn’t — and what it is.
Homeschooling is not:
Isolated: My children’s social skills have been the No. 1 concern others have expressed. However, with swimming, piano, dance and improv class, nature meet-ups, group science experiments, field trips, retirement home visits, and crafting collaborations, social opportunities are prolific and rich. And this is just our kindergarten year! If anything, we have had to narrow down the chances for “socialization” as there is always something new to take part in. For those looking to connect with homeschooling, Homeschool Hookup is a Facebook group where families can not only learn about weekly meet-ups, homeschool-friendly classes, curriculum swaps and more.
A political/religious statement: Our decision was not based on a distrust of mainstream education. After teaching in the classroom for six years, I wholeheartedly understand the incomparable advantages of public education. As our children grow, it is quite possible that these benefits will outweigh those of homeschooling. However, I also know the school years can quickly become packed with activities. For now, homeschooling is what makes it possible for us to make time for music, dance, theater, art and community involvement while maintaining a peaceful pace with family at the core.
Something requiring an education degree: Although many have expressed approval of our decision to homeschool because I used to be a teacher, what they don’t realize is that this, actually, can be a great hurdle. It’s a daily struggle to let go of the preconceived ideas of education as instruction followed by repetition for a formulaic amount of time. Homeschooling requires instead, a dedicated commitment to flexibility, intentionality and authentic growth alongside the student. Another homeschooling mom said recently:
“I have learned that I cannot possibly teach my child everything they need to know! BUT I can teach them to love learning and thereby setting them on a path to find out the answer to anything they need to know!”
Along these lines is the misconception that parents are ill-equipped to educate their children. While homeschooling as a foundation is about real-life learning, parents have abundant options to guide teaching. From whole curriculum kits packed with everything families may need for the grade level, including all of the fancy hands-on tools teachers rely on to online correspondence programs, resources are truly endless.
Overwhelming: Parenthood is stressful. Add to that our busy home, the flood of input from well-intentioned friends, family and the good old internet and the given hopes and dreams for my children to be well-prepared and well-equipped for anything and everything scholastic and calling ourselves homeschoolers can quickly become one more source of disabling comparison and worry. This being said, I’ve come to understand that curriculum, schedules and teaching philosophies are just means by which individual families live out their calling. There are days where we begin school before breakfast and others where we are starting after dinner. Shifting the mindset of school hours and off hours to a general priority and pursuit of knowledge allows us to be homeschooling at all times. Going forward, I believe the key to avoiding burnout and maximizing success will be staying true to how homeschooling naturally fits in our lifestyle.
Liberating: Children are, by nature, curious and intuitive. They know the difference between something I’m really excited about and something I’ve planned simply to get out of the house or check “school” off my list for the day. Homeschooling is the privilege of thoughtfully joining them, hand-in-hand in the pursuit of knowledge. It challenges me daily to truly engage in more meaningful conversations about why and how we are doing things rather than landing on “because the book said so.” I’ve been incredibly inspired by the Wild & Free homeschooling community who recently quoted, “What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn’t a school at all.” (Source: John Holt)
A sacrifice: Yes, homeschooling gives leeway for divergent methods of learning and explorations otherwise not prioritized; however, this isn’t to say it isn’t full of many character-shaping sacrifices. One mom phrased it well with this reflection:
“To do anything well requires an equal number of yeses and nos. Sometimes, these decisions are simple when the choice is between a right and a wrong choice, but other times, we find ourselves between two good choices and finding the answer is more about digging deep, defining the intention and listening to one’s heart.”
Rewarding: As an individual who highly values productivity, slowing down to intentionally and sincerely guide and invest in my children is a challenge. Homeschooling has inspired me to seek practices for authentic learning and opened my eyes to the rich, addicting rewards of knowledge. Although as time passes our family very well may choose different directions with our commitments and academic endeavors, I will always hold these homeschooling years as some of the most precious, joining another mom in her affections:
“There are days I cry; there are days I want to bang my head on the wall. But there are days where I’ve never felt more connected to my children; I’ve never felt more love and trust and freedom and pure joy in my relationships with them. Homeschooling has taught me to slow down and notice the unique things in my kids that makes them individuals and appreciate the wonderful people that they are turning into.”