Next week will begin my 15th year of teaching my children at home for school. I started when my oldest son, Andrew, was in 3rd grade. Andrew will be 22 this month and has been in the Navy for 4 years. It seems as if it were a lifetime ago that I began this journey, but here I am, still at it.
You may be thinking that this blog post is about how to homeschool properly, how to do everything the ‘right’ way? The ‘Expert Mother’ is going to give you advice on what to do and how to succeed. Oh, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! I am not an expert. I am not a supermom. I’m not a better person than mothers who place their children in public school. I’m not heroic to be homeschooling 6 different grade levels. I am merely a mother with faults like any other mother, but who takes one step at a time in obedience to what God has called me to do.
Last year was a difficult one, educationally-speaking. Because of my husband’s employment situation, our family made 2 moves in 1 school year. Talk about disruptive to our regular routine! I don’t think it really caught up to me until the beginning of this summer how stressful moving a family of 8 two different times in 5 months was. And then to look ahead to this next school year, realizing I would be teaching 6 different grades, from PreK up to 11th grade, I had what you could call ‘Major Burnout’. I didn’t want to homeschool this upcoming year! I cried and wanted to throw in the towel. I told Mike that I felt like putting all of the kids in public school and being done with it. Yep, those weren’t fun feelings. They were scary for me because out of all these years of homeschooling, I never felt that way. Of course there have been rough patches here and there along the way, but never to the point that I didn’t want to continue.
In the midst of all of these raw feelings, I had to ask myself, ‘Do I believe that God is telling me to put my children in public school?’ The answer was ‘No’. I did not have peace about that. What should I do then? I had to take the advice that I’ve given other moms in the past: Seek outside support.
I’ve been encouraged by my good friends as we’ve shared our hearts with each other. The thing that has brought me peace about homeschooling this upcoming year was to enroll my kids in the homeschool co-op that is held at my church on Tuesdays. While it is more expensive than if I were to do everything at home on my own, this co-op will be my life saver this year. The kids will be getting most of their classes taught by homeschool parents/teachers, then completing their school work at home throughout the week. Teaching high school science with labs is not my cup of tea, so I am thankful that someone else will be doing that for me (along with most of the other required classes for my older kids). I feel like I can look forward to this next school year with excitement because the pressure is gone. And I can enjoy more leisurely time with my 4 and 6-year-old daughters.
Why even bother with homeschooling? Why not just enroll the kids in public school? Why do I have such a strong conviction about this educational choice for my family? There are so many reasons I can give, but it boils down to a few major things for me:
Relationships. I enjoy my children. I spend time with them on a daily basis, so I want them to be enjoyable- to me and to others they meet. Homeschooling ‘forces’ me to come face-to-face with my children’s attitudes, their hearts, their uniqueness. I don’t pawn them off to someone else to work on discipline issues or to nurture their giftings. In my home, we have routines during the school year. I like being relaxed during the day, starting school at 9:30, but this does not mean that we are lazy. I am not a rigid scheduler, but we do need to make sure that schoolwork and chores get accomplished during the day. I like to think that my children are being educated, not necessarily schooled.
- American schools are lagging behind their international counterparts. The US was once a leader in math, science, reading, but not anymore. We are behind at least 25 other nations. 100 years ago, American high schools taught Greek and Latin; now they are focused on rudimentary English.
- Homeschooled high schoolers in the US can participate in dual-credit programs with Junior colleges. For high schoolers who are planning on going on to a university, this is an excellent avenue to getting those basic education requirements out of the way while still in high school, saving a lot of time and money after graduation.
- I may be more likely to send my kids to public school if our school system was arranged more like Finald’s unorthodox educational system. Many children who are in a classroom for long hours are experiencing a condition called ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’. Nature deficit disorder is not a medical condition, but the results of this disorder (attention problems, anxiety, obesity, depression) are treated with medicine. It is sad to think that the best cure is simply more time outside. I have one child in particular who does not thrive sitting still at a desk. I know she would be labeled with some sort of learning disability in a public school setting, but here at home, she can learn quite simply with less restrictions. ‘You want to do your math outside in the morning sunshine? Sure, feel free’.
- Homeschooling teaches my children how to function as a member of society, not merely a classroom. We like to be involved in our community by serving at the homeless soup kitchen once a week and assisting refugees whenever needed, so we need to be flexible to the needs of others, not just a school schedule. I especially want my teens to be branching out into adulthood, looking to the future in anticipation of where God wants to use them and being challenged to do hard things beyond book studies. I like to think that our school revolves around life; life does not revolve around school. As Mark Twain said, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education”.
These past 15 years have gone by so fast; I know that in the blink of an eye, my role as ‘homeschool mom’ will be done. Until that day, I will continue one day at a time, one foot in front of the other with prayer, with the help of others if needed, and always with humble amazement that God has entrusted me with molding the lives of my children. I am thankful for the fun days and the hard days, for the smiles and the tears. It is all part of this fulfilling journey that I call Motherhood.