Start Homeschooling – it will change your life!
The first thing that I noticed when I started homeschooling (18 years ago!) was the calm of my mornings. Don’t get me wrong – we still had conflict and not everything was rosey – but compared to rushing out the door at 7.30am, being in town all morning with two little kids (while Josh went to Kindy), coming home at lunch time with breakfast dishes still to do, let alone laundry and preparing dinner – comparing that with being at home, with time to get my day started in an orderly way was very noticeable! We had time to deal with the conflicts, we had time to teach responsibility and we had time to start our day well. So you can’t compare your morning rush, and the pressure that leaving the house puts on your patience with what your life is going to be like as a homeschooler.
Another thing that was different was my ability to teach my kids. During the year Josh went to Kindy I knew he was ready to read so I talked to the teacher. She agreed but didn’t want to teach him to read (or get me to) as that would put him ahead of the class and make things difficult. I didn’t have a clue where to start so I accepted her advice. The following year, armed with learning-to-read curriculum for Joshua’s first homeschool year, when I saw the same readiness in Jessica I knew how to gently introduce her to sounds and reading skills. Of course the curriculum was available to me the year before, I just didn’t know it was there or didn’t pursue it. Once you start to see how you can teach your kids you start to see what is available to help you. You will discover a world of resources, just waiting to help you help your kids to learn. People imagine that you are doing this teaching thing on your own – you aren’t, you won’t be – there is so many curricula written for the homeschool student you’ll be overwhelmed with choice!
I did have to rearrange some of my personal activities. I stopped going to the ladies Bible study, though I continued with my prayer partners. I stopped sewing though I found a creative outlet in my teaching early primary. I missed these activities initially, but it wasn’t long that I found a new rhythm to my days and social interactions with other mums. On the flip side of this is that I have found that my talents and interests have been the very tools that have helped teach my kids. The things that Peter and I are passionate about are the things that give context to teaching our kids. This of course will differ for you in that you will have different gifts and passions – but don’t think that you have to leave everything behind and become a teacher. I am a mum who teaches – I bring every part of me as a mum, into the role of teaching my kids.
Another anxiety people have is that they won’t have the capacity to understand the material that kids need to learn. I get this. Our Joshua is a very bright boy – he knows much more than me in terms of knowledge. But I have a wider frame of reference than he does simply by the nature of me being an adult and him being a child. These days, with him having graduated, and studied at Uni we continue to learn from each other. Read my story of the first time I was confronted with this idea of him being smarter than me. In a sense I have been educated all over again – I know far more about the world than I did when I was a young mum. Homeschooling has taught me as we’ve gone along.
Many people say that homeschooling is a lifestyle – and that is a fair enough comment. When my kids were little they went everywhere with me and everywhere we went was an opportunity for them to learn something. There is less compartmentalising your life when you homeschool – it all merges into life. So if you are planning on homeschooling this is something you have to be prepared for. Homeschooling isn’t about setting up a little private school in your home, having a principal, school hours, and homework. Homeschooling works its best when you incorporate everyday life into learning opportunities and vice versa.
But at the same time, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are learning and are being prepared to live in the world that we live in today. This includes knowledge and life skills such as being able to study, work, be a part of a team, be accountable etc. So we do need to be committed to helping our children grow in these areas – and this isn’t always fun! Children don’t always want to do these things. We need to be prepared to spend time teaching our kids (it isn’t about sitting them in front of a store-bought curriculum and carrying on with our life). We need to be prepared to deal with conflict (there will be times they don’t want to study, just like there are times they don’t want to do homework).
One of the things that has been a constant for me over the years is that homeschooling is really just a tool that parents can use. The success of our homeschooling is as strong as our parenting is. And this shows up in statistics too – the number one thing that influences a child’s success in life – whether they homeschool or whether they go to school – is the parents involvement.
Benefits of Homeschooling
There have been two big benefits in our family because of our homeschooling
1-Strong Relationships. Homeschooling puts you in control of your time for your family – you are no longer dictated to by the bus run or by class schedules. This means we have had more time to build and strengthen relationships – both the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationships with each other.
I remember looking out the kitchen window once while I was preparing lunch and Daniel and Josh were out playing on the swings together. Daniel was only little cause I remember the image of his saggy nappy in my memory! I remember thinking that if Josh was at school he wouldn’t be here at this time – which was prime time for Daniel – instead he would come home at a time where I would have to wake Daniel up from his sleep, Josh would be tired, so too would Daniel since I’d woken him up. Josh would then have homework and before we knew it, it would be dinner time and then everyone heads to bed. This little memory of mine, typifies the benefits of homeschooling.
Your kids learn to live together, they learn to co-operate with each other, they learn to depend on each other. When kids go to school they learn to do these things with their peers – and some people would say that is a good thing – it’s not that my kids don’t do these things with peers – but because they’ve built strong sibling relationships it is these connections that they depend on when the going gets tough.
2-Individual learning. Another benefit has been that we have been able to tailor make each of our children’s learning experiences to fit them. Not to make it easy – but to make it relevant and appropriate to their learning style and ability. There has been a base line that I want for all my children but they have been able to work towards that foundational knowledge at their own pace especially if it is a subject that they struggle with.
But they have also been able to focus on the things that they delight in – making their overall learning experience more positive than negative. So my advice to my best friend who is thinking of homeschooling? It has nothing to do with whether you are patient enough, or smart enough, or if your kids currently listen to you, or even like each other – the most important thing for you to think about is are you prepared to give your time, your energy, your talents to teaching your kids to be well rounded, well prepared adults? Whether you are prepared to live life with your kids!