Welcome to the "Why Homeschool?" Guest Post Series. Where we get to peek into the lives of other homeschool families and learn a little about why they do this crazy thing called Homeschooling. If you are interested in reading the past issues, check out my Guest Post page. There are also instructions there about participating in the series, too.
I would like to introduce you to Tessa, a real life homeschooling friend of mine. I met Tessa when my oldest was preschool age and I was figuring out what to do with my life in the future. She organized this lovely little monthly co-op and I joined thinking that I could meet some homeschoolers to help give me inspiration. She REALLY did. I don't know if she knows this, but I learned so much from her during that year. She is a wonderful person and a wonderful mother. Thanks for writing this post! Tessa blogs at Homestead Lady.
“So, someone told me you Homeschool – is that right?” The lady sitting next to me in church asked.
“Yep,” I said.
“Sooooo, what’s that like?”
“Ah, honey…” I said with a sigh and a smile.
Like most homeschoolers I get asked that question a lot and there’s never a twenty-words-or-less answer. It’s like everything and nothing I’ve ever done before! Naturally, I can’t say why anyone else should be homeschooling but I’m always happy to discuss some of the reasons why we do. The first reason is probably TIME – I just don’t have time to do anything else. If I add up all the things we’re supposed to teach our kids – the gospel, life skills, reading, writing, math, manners, gardening, service, fun, music and the arts just to name a few – I just can’t figure out how to do that AND send them away from home for 6-8 hours a day AND then let them detox from school and friends AND then help them with homework AND then be together as a family. I admire parents who make it work; I just know that I don’t have that capacity. This time factor has been especially true in recent years as we’ve been building our small homestead. Homesteading means 365 days of work and everyone has to pitch in so, in our case, life is school and school is life!
We’re devoutly Christian so another big reason is the amount of gospel teaching we feel our children truly need in these the days of trial as ‘men’s hearts fail them’. This time is unlike any other and so are these kids. There’s so much they simply MUST know in order to survive, let alone thrive in this time and be ready to literally build a better world. That kind of teaching doesn’t take place in government school and, although we attend three hours of church meetings every Sunday and weekly activities, church just isn’t enough exposure to gospel principles, in our estimation. Of particular benefit to us in teaching our children how to work, the value of work and why we work (not just for ourselves but also for others) has been to involve them heavily in the work of the homestead.
Plus, and this next reason is closely tied to the previous one, as you study history you discover that chances for learning and quality of education are right up there with land ownership, freedom of movement and speech/thought as rights that are always compromised as the strong seek to dominate; just because a government provides something, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing or that the collective’s motives are pure. We feel this is a point not to be lightly passed over or deemed unimportant – as we study history and our place in it, we become more and more convinced that this generation will become the saving grace for an entire nation; we must give them the tools they will need to use in a very real way.
I enjoy the freedom of homeschool – I don’t like people telling me what to do. We have freedom of movement and social interaction with all kinds of different people in all kinds of different places. The idea of putting my children in a room for 6-8 hours a day with people all their own age seems totally foreign. As we attend Homeschool groups and events, my children learn to interact and associate with lots of different ages and types of children. It’s not uncommon to watch older children, out of habit, turn to younger children during an activity to make sure they know what to do and are where they need to be.
I also like the freedom to choose curriculum to suit the ever changing needs of my children and their interests. It’s a lot easier on the teacher and more beneficial for the child if children are able to study things they’re actually interested in. That’s not to say that you don’t have a core and stick to it – there are subjects that everyone needs to master regardless of how interesting they seem to us. (Math comes to mind, in my case.) However, if you have a child who isn’t so keen on writing but loves cars, the odds are you’ll be more successful getting him to write something about cars than something for which he has less passion. If math workbooks get boring for one of them quickly, play math games. The point is, there is a lot of flexibility in homeschool that government school just can’t provide – there’s one, lone teacher trying to teach 35 kids the same thing for the same amount of time with differing levels of understanding and interest. I know I couldn’t do that for that many kids so I really admire the GOOD teachers in public school.
There are other reasons that educating at home has appeal and they’re pretty typical to most homeschoolers, I’ve found – safety of children, learning respect and issues of manners in general amongst kids today, politics, bullies, drugs, sex…the list goes on and on.
If you’re a praying person (or one who takes time to ponder and feel out what is right for you), the bottom line is really to pray about it sincerely. The only time I ever really pipe up about homeschool is when a parent says, “Oh, I could never do that, I’m not [insert a word like smart or organized] enough”. That’s nonsense. If someone prays and the Lord says that homeschooling is right for your family, then He will prepare a way. Phillipians 4:13, for Pete’s sake! You have to allow yourself a learning curve and an adjustment period and things are always changing and life happens and nothing ever goes perfectly, sure, but if He says you can, you can. Period. Our homeschool has evolved as our lives have evolved and that’s actually one of the coolest parts about it – education is just part of what we do every day.
The biggest personal benefit to me is that my kids are my best friends. Sure, we drive each other nuts sometimes and yes, some days I would really like to get a more conventional job so that I could have sick leave and lunch breaks and go to the bathroom by myself. Ultimately, though, my children know me better than anyone and I know them and we love and serve each other all day long until, by now, its habit. They forgive me when I’m a jerk and I say I’m sorry. They stick by me on the days when nothing goes right. They eat pancakes for dinner with me on those days we decide we just need to start over. I don’t have time for grown up friends, but I have four little, true friends that I hang out with every day.
I hope that wasn’t too pedantic or preachy. There are plenty of times I throw my hands up in the air and want to quit; I just know that, for us, this was the right thing to do. That knowledge gives me the power I need to keep going in spite of my weaknesses and despite all the stuff I mess up.
As far as what a typical day of school looks like for us – ha! I have no idea what a “typical” day might look like; in eight years of homeschooling, I have yet to have one! This year has been typically tumultuous with a surprise fifth baby, a job loss, a lot of new homestead projects under construction and the possibility of moving looming up within a year or so. However, in every experience there is a lesson and we’ve had a great school year so far.
I’m writing this in January, so this month we’re starting cool season crops and perennial flowers and herbs indoors on our seed starting shelves, clearing snow from animals pens, monitoring the animals health (this year has been crazy, crazy cold) and drawing out plans for the coming year. The kids need to decide what they want to plant in their garden boxes and they’ll also help us decide how many chickens we want to have, whether or not we raise turkeys again this year and how many goats we think we need. We’re also waiting excitedly for our several hundred bulbs that we planted this fall to pop up in spring and promise us that this winter will, indeed, end.
See, not really something you can sum up in twenty words or less and I don’t even remember what I said to that nice lady in church. BUT, if I had to try, I’d say, “Never a dull moment, so glad I’m on this ride, wouldn’t trade it for the world and, man, am I exhausted!”