If you read the previous post, you know a little about the structure of our first half year of homeschooling. The short summary of how I feel about it: I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING!* Never does a day go by that I am not happy that Elizabeth is home this year. Truly the Lord brought us to this place. If you've been following my story for a while, you know that I never imagined that homeschooling would be part of my life. (I taught public school for two years, for goodness sake!) And here we are and here my desires are being fulfilled in ways I never expected!
So, that is the short story - that I'm glad we're homeschoooling. We will continue for the near future, and I can (sometimes!) imagine sticking it out for the long haul. The long story is that, while I'm excited about it, there are still doubts, fears, and complications that come up for me and every homeschooling parent. I think the most important thing that needs to happen before beginning is to know why you're homeschooling. The reasons will look different for different families, but the underlying commitment must be there. Without solid ground to build on, you'll quickly crumble when the going gets tough, you are filled with doubts, or you begin to compare your life to those around you who have made the choice to send their kids to school. Choosing to homeschool means you are saying 'no' to some things, but the same can be said about sending your children to school. For every 'yes' we give in this life, we're also implying 1,000 'nos" and vice-versa, right?
My advice: Think through your child's education, research the options, discuss with your spouse, pray together, and make a decision for the year. (Yes, for the year, you don't have to homeschool K-12 just because you start in Kindergarten. Nor do your kids have to be in school all 13 years, they could spend some time in the middle at home. And further, your decision could be different for each child. You know them best!)
There have been many unforeseen and delightful benefits of homeschooling:
- The kids still get to be together and deepen their relationship, even though they're four years apart.
- Elizabeth is learning what it takes to make a house run, e.g. the laundry doesn't 'magically' get done while she's at school.
- I know what she's learning and can draw connections wherever we are (store, library, car, etc.)
- Elizabeth can work at her pace, whatever that pace is. And together we can finish a project in one day or eight, whatever is needed.
- Colin and I talk a lot about our kids' educations and dream about what and how we'd love to teach them, trips we'd like to take together, the flexibility that homeschooling offers. These conversations energize both of us and strengthen our marriage.
There are "I don't knows" that sometimes trip me up:
- I don't really know how E is doing in comparison to other kids her age, which is (truthfully) good for me, because I tend too much toward comparison and competition. But it also ushers in some doubts; how do I know she's "on track." That leads me to a more philosophical question: What is the point of education? Do we simply want to make sure that all kids of a certain age can do exactly the same thing? Or do we want to instill a love of learning and equip kids to explore and discover for their own sakes? When I remember that one of our primary family goals is to maintain Elizabeth's interest in learning and to instill in her the confidence that she can learn ... then those doubts are quieted, and I'm refocused till the next doubt cycle.
- I don't know what my life would be like if E were in school. I do imagine that my house would be much cleaner (I could get to those things during Brian's nap times) and I'd be in better shape. But given our motivations to homeschool in conjunction with the unexpected benefits we've experienced, those things are not as important ... once I get my mind refocused on our goals.
- I don't always know how I'm supposed to feel or act when I'm with friends who are talking about what's going on at school. Sometimes I'm jealous that I can't participate or don't have faces for the names they're mentioning. Other times I'm excited for them about what their kids are doing or learning. It reminds me of the Scripture that says to rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Just looked it up, Romans 12:15) Throughout all of life we'll find ourselves in places where other people are doing things we can't or aren't doing, other people's kids will advance in arenas our children are not gifted, friends and family will endure trials at different times, and all of these things give us opportunity to practice loving our neighbor by delighting or sorrowing along with them. I am not always very good at this (I tend toward judgmentalism, jealousy, and discontentment too easily), but God is working on me and I'm thankful for it!
The best advice I got or read before beginning, that I'd like to pass along to you:
- Have concrete reasons why you're homeschooling. Then you're ready to give a simple, non-judgmental answer when people (or you children!) ask about your choice. And, then you've got your base-line convictions to fall back on during a bad day or bad week.
- Don't go crazy over-buying materials and over-planning, you're likely to end up having spent too much and stressing out yourself and your family. It's always easy to add more later.
- If you try something and after a while it's not really working, let it go and try something different. Keep an eye on how your child is responding to your methods, the curriculum, the topics, etc. Is reading frustrating every, single, day? You may be pushing too hard. Is your child bored by worksheets? Bust out some beans and pennies to practice math.
- Get to know your children's librarian and take advantage of their knowledge!
I'm annoyed with the lack of structure in this post, but I also want to publish it so I can move on to other posts. So, here it is, in all of it's disorganized glory! Have a wonderful Tuesday.
*I have known homeschoolers who can leave a person feeling like a terrible parent or terrible Christian if you're not homeschooling your kids. Please know that I NEVER want to leave you feeling that way. I share my experiences because I do love what I see happening in our family this year. But I am sure that God led us on this path and that He will also guide the steps of your family; for some that will lead to homeschool, for others private school, for others public school.