A friend was trying to discern whether or not to start homeschooling her children and she asked for my thoughts on my experiences as a homeschooler. She asked at probably the worst part of the homeschooling cycle – at the end of the school year. The kids and I are both so done with it and yet we have to keep pushing through in order to finish. However, I did my best to give a well-rounded picture so she could make an informed choice for what was best for her family. And then, I thought I’d write it up into a post in case anyone else out there is trying to make a similar decision and has no one to ask nor has access to the thousands of other blog posts saturating the internet on this very subject right now.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine:
- Probably the most important thing to remember about homeschooling when first starting out is that it won’t be at all like you imagined it. For instance, I expected musical prodigies, daily walks in which we enjoyed nature’s beauty, prolific readers and children who loved school. What I got was a couple of recorders that the children use mainly for sword fighting, daily walks that mostly consist of everyone complaining about how hot it is and how they need to go to the bathroom, prolific cartoon watchers and children who insist that school was invented as a device to torture children. I’ve even met people who are living my perfect homeschool life who say that homeschooling has not turned out as they expected at all. I always wonder what their expectation were. Did they expect their kids to be doctors by the age of 10? Or did they imagine in the other direction in which their homeschool would be basically turning out felons and they lucked out and got school-loving prodigies? Whatever they expected, it just proves that nobody’s homeschool goes as expected.
- Also up front, I make sure to point out that it’s difficult to keep the house clean with kids home 24/7. This doesn’t bother a lot of people, but I’m a bit of a Martha so it bothers me. My house always looks like a war zone with brief 10 minutes respites after a periodic pick-up throughout the day. It takes great effort to not let it drive me crazy.
- You have to be very intentional about when your children eat because, if you’re not paying attention, they will eat every minute of the day. Especially if they’re looking for something to do to when they’re avoiding school work. Children will eat like hobbits if you let them.
- Homeschoolers aren’t great at standing in line. It doesn’t come up much, but when it does, it can be a tad chaotic.
But there is a lot of rainbows and sunshine:
- The absolute best thing about homeschooling is all the time I get to spend with my kids. I get to be there for every amazing moment and for every milestone in their lives. (I’ve taught four of them to read so far!) I know what is important to them, their strengths and weaknesses, what their favorite things are, their fears and most of their general thoughts on life. When they have questions, they come to my husband or I. When they want to retell a SpongeBob episode nearly line for line, the come to my husband or I (usually when we’re in the middle of something).
- Knowing them well helps to tailor the school lessons specifically to each child. I know which ones need visual learning, which ones need manipulatives and which one needs an entirely out-of-the-box approach. Thankfully, there is a lot out there to help parents with practically any learning challenge that pops up from books to curriculums to special needs help when you enroll in the home study schools.
- I love getting to learn along with them. There are many things I have forgotten from my school days of yore. There are also many things, because of the constraints on the public school system, that I didn’t learn at all. So, much of the time, I am learning as much as my kids and there is certainly nothing wrong with more book learnin’, even for adults.
- The booklists, alone, have made homeschooling worth it. Homeschoolers, as a people, are obsessed with books and they like to write the good ones down on lists and pass them around. This is very helpful in that there are a lot of books out there. And a good deal of them are, pardon my crudeness, crap. The booklists are like treasure maps, helping parents wade through all the rough to get to the diamonds. We have had some of the best read alouds reading books from these lists.
- Homeschooling frees up a lot of time for the kids. Again, there are constraints on the brick and mortar schools that can’t be helped. There is one teacher for 20-30 kids so it’s pretty time inefficient for the individual child. Allowed to work as they please, the kids can sometimes finish their school before lunch freeing up the rest of the day to work on their passions be they art, computer programming, entomology or monster fighting. This freestyle schooling also grants you the right to claim the title “Unschooler”.
- My kids get to grow into who they are without any fear of being who they are. I was picked on when I was in school and I wasn’t brave enough to just be me despite being picked on. I changed myself so that I would be left alone. Sometimes I wonder who I might have been if I’d been comfortable just being me. My kids won’t have to wonder about that and that is very satisfying to me.
It is a lifestyle not for the faint of heart. However, I think the pros outweigh the cons. Things that are worth it are usually challenging and I would put homeschooling into that category. My children may not end up being musical prodigies that know the kind of math you need to know in order to figure out which toilet paper is the best deal at the grocery store (though I suspect even Stephen Hawking couldn’t figure that out), but we have definitely found the method of schooling that works best for us as a family. Even if it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.