When we started on this home school journey two years ago, I was a nervous wreck but incredibly excited. I had visions of ripe little minds growing into mature little models of exemplary citizens. I envisioned smiles, serene contentment, and—okay, I’ll just say it—I pictured the school from Little House on the Prairie. You know, the one room school house where all the kids behaved and the teacher was always pretty and sweet.
I’m currently teaching a twelve year old girl, a ten year old girl, and a very rambunctious three year old boy. Little House on the Prairie we’re not. If anything, our home school days resemble a show called Math Stinks, Mom is Spiraling and the Kids Have Taken Over in the Suburbs.
I second guess myself a lot. Daily. Multiple times a day. Some days are almost perfection. Others are like trying to dig fingernails through concrete. Most of them are exhausting. Quite a few of them are amusing. None of them are dull.
On a side note, I’ve learned that you can declare any odd task is part of Home Ec and your home schooled kids won’t question it.
“Vacuum the floors. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”
“Make spaghetti. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”
“Change your brother’s dirty diaper. Don’t even think of complaining. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”
Before taking on the enormous task, I read every book I could get my hands on…how to pick curriculum, how to schedule your day, how to organize the house, how to teach multiplication tables, how to know your child’s learning style, etc. But there are a few things you can’t pick up in a book. Here is my list of five things no one told me about home schooling.
- Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.
I’ve seen educational snobs who look down their noses at home schoolers. Annoying.
I’ve also seen home schoolers who look down their noses at traditional education. Also annoying.
I was chatting one afternoon with a die-hard home school mom. After lamenting the current problems plaguing a certain public school in our community, she shook her head sadly, disgusted with the state of affairs.
“It’s like these parents don’t even care about their kids. I don’t why everyone doesn’t home school.”
My response was, “Uh, because some people like to eat.”
Not everyone can afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home parent. Some families need both parents working, and even at that, still live pay check to pay check. Home schooling is a privilege and one we shouldn’t take for granted. Yes, there may be some sacrifice along the way (actually, a lot of sacrifice) but God forgive me if I ever look down on someone who doesn’t home school because they can’t afford it. Praise the Lord for good teachers and excellent public schools. We need them all.
And let’s be honest. Some parents aren’t designed to be academic teachers. They’re just not. God gifts each person individually. He leads each family according to what He has planned for them. I had some excellent teachers growing up. I also had some that shouldn’t have even been allowed to step inside the school. Children with special needs often need help beyond what a home school parent can provide.
The journey is different for everyone and God tells each family what is right and beneficial for their children. Finger pointing needs to stop on both sides of the educational spectrum.
- Home schooling your children does not ensure that they won’t rebel.
I’ve seen it over and over again. A well-meaning mom or dad insists their children will be home schooled, stating the reason with stout conviction: they want their child to follow God and not have to learn the hard way.
Admirable. But homeschooling does not ensure a heart that pursues God.
Just as there are a wide spectrum of children in public schools, the same is true for home schooled children. Some are over-achievers. Some battle depression. Some are hyper creative. Some are class clowns. Some excel at math. Others shine when weaving stories that tug the heart. Some are leaders. Some are followers.
Here’s the deal: humans are humans. We mess up. Pain and adversity break some. In others, those same hurts mold them into someone stronger than they were before.
Do I believe homeschooling is important in helping my children be as strong and resilient as they can be in a broken, hurting world? Yes. I want them to be warriors for Jesus, rooted and grounded in truth. But I also know homeschooling doesn’t guarantee it.
Perhaps you’re reading this and are in the middle of a storm with your grown child. They may have rebelled fast and strong from what you’ve taught them, whether that be through home school, church, public school, private school or anything else. It’s easy to berate yourself as a parent and wonder “Where did I go wrong?”
God is a perfect father and his kids rebel all the time. If you’ve done all you can to teach, guide and love, lay that child and his or her future at God’s feet. Pray and trust. Love and wait.
- The name of the game is consistent flexibility.
The greatest advantage of home schooling is being able to arrange things according to your child’s needs. Some take this to an unhealthy level and have no organization at all. Without goals, people tend to drift. You need both.
What my children need from me, from others, from their schooling will oscillate and change as they grow and change. Undisciplined kids need structure. Rigid children need to learn to release their need for control (unless it’s due to a condition like autism).
Personally, I’m a very routine oriented person. I like schedules and consistency. Home schooling has stretched me in this area. And although I’m loathe to admit it, part of my problem has to do with the need for control. Learning that I can’t always accomplish something in the way and manner I prefer has been good for me. It reminds me that I’m not the end all and be all. I’m learning the blessings of having a life interrupted…a lesson that’s incredible important if I want to embrace being interrupted by God and His ultimate plan.
- It’s normal to be afraid.
I’m constantly evaluating, wondering if my children are getting what they need. Are they too sheltered? Not sheltered enough? Too busy? Too much down-time? Are they having fun in their learning? Bored to tears? Are they ahead? Behind? More sports? Less sports?
Maybe I should just enroll them back in school. You know, more socialization and all that. Then I remember school attendance is forced socialization which works against the whole building-relationships thing. More tests? Less tests? What about the future? ACT/SAT readiness versus getting away from the teaching-to-test mentality.
It always comes back to What if I’m doing something wrong?
What if, what if, what if…
As I reach for my chocolate and a copy of anything by James Dobson to assuage my parenting guilt of not being enough, I think they would benefit from a better teacher and all these worries would be solved.
Then I realize most of these questions are the same ones asked over and over by public school and private school teachers too. Are my students learning? Is it fun for them or torture? Are they ready for those benchmark tests? Ahead? Behind? Why can’t I get little Johnny to focus? Why is little Susie so difficult to reach?
The worry, the what ifs, the feelings of inadequacy have very little to do with being a homeschooling mom and everything to do with being a teacher, no matter the venue.
Fear is normal. Embrace it, learn from it, give it your best effort and trust God with the outcome.
- My relationship with my kids is more solid than it’s ever been…despite the bad days.
Tears over calculating the volume of triangular prisms.
“I need help.”
“I need help.”
“Mom, I don’t get it.”
“Nate scribbled on my language work.”
“I don’t want to learn this today.”
“I need help.”
“Math is from the devil.”
“I write better with mechanical pencils.”
“I need help!”
“Nate just stole my Civil War test!”
“Mom, I need help!”
Some days I look for a dark closet where I can eat sugar in private and pray for Jesus to come back. It’s rough. My frustration has peaked, my kids woke up in the mood to argue and my toddler son has spiraled into a hyperactive state that gives me heart palpitations.
I sit in my, uh, ‘devotional time’ and wonder if it’s worth it.
Then I hear my girls giggling as they write some hilarious essay about their views on life, or see the gears of their little minds clicking when a difficult concept is finally grasped and a ribbon of satisfaction unfurls through me.
Teaching those memory verses that don’t want to stick is worth it. Teaching them to persevere through the hard subjects when they want to quit is worth it. Encouraging their individuality is worth it.
I know them so well now. I’m learning every day what their dreams are. How God has woven their personalities together. The best way each of them learn and what each of them fears. And I bet they would say the same of me.
Teaching is so much more than just solving for x or being able to quote the Gettysburg Address. It’s showing my kids how to function through the hard days. How to lean on God for strength when I’m exhausted. How to keep trying when I fail. How to find the creativity in my mistakes. How to love others even when it’s difficult.
Home school is more than learning reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s learning to live a life that pleases God.
And that is definitely worth it.
I want to hear from you! Are you a home schooling parent? What challenges have you faced? What frustrates you? What are the joys in teaching your children?