Isn’t it amazing how much we as parents end up learning when we decide to homeschool? Oh, I’m not just talking about academics (although it is incredible how much I learn with my children sometimes!). Along with little-known facts about historical figures and why blue whales only eat plankton, I have learned about—well, learning!
When I first made that tentative step into homeschooling, my oldest child was just starting first grade, while my youngest was only three. Although a little nervous, I was actually very excited, being quite sure this was the path on which God was leading me.
My husband will be the first to tell you he was not so sure. But he said I could go ahead and give it a try, with a “wait and see” attitude. And really, looking back, I can understand his misgivings, since up to that point, we knew no one personally who homeschooled.
He had all the usual concerns: Would our children really learn all they needed to learn? What about socialization? Was homeschooling being overprotective? And could I, his wife, really handle all this? Yet, in spite of these many concerns, to his credit, my husband trusted me enough to follow my convictions to try.
He didn’t say very much during those first few months—he didn’t criticize, he didn’t affirm. But his silence on the subject made me a little nervous.
Looking back, I see now that I felt I had something to prove, that this so-called “trial basis” made me a mother on a mission! I was going to prove this could be successful—not only to my husband, but to me, and to everyone around me!
That first year, I not only covered the basics of math, reading, language arts, and science with my little first grader, but I also added a multitude of extra scholastically enriching topics. I read biographies to her of everyone from Benjamin Franklin to Sacagawea, studied countries like Australia and Mexico, and peppered her with little homemade quizzes for her to fill out on each of our special lessons.
Amazingly, she seemed to enjoy a lot of this, and I’m so thankful that I didn’t send her running from the room each and every day. (Just some days!) And yes, I did give her plenty of time to “just play.”
Yet, when I review that first year with my 6-year-old, I think that I really must have thought I had to ready her for college before she even entered second grade!
As for socialization, she certainly had her share of this, too—and more! Between a weekly homeschool play group, Awana, choir, a few extra classes through the recreation center, Bible study group, play dates, and of course, church on Sundays, she wasn’t lacking in the social department. In fact, I think there were times we were all dizzy from her social engagements! But since the issue of socialization seemed to be a concern to those outside of homeschooling, I was secretly glad we were running in circles—at least for awhile.
That first year was a learning year for both of us. As it began to sink in that my daughter had 11 more years of schooling to go (not to mention that her little mind could only retain so much!), I began to slow down just a bit—take a deep breath—and relax.
As for socialization, I must admit, we do still find ourselves driving to a few outside activities each week, and some months are more active than others. But I find myself being more mindful about overloading our children—and our family—with too many extras. We are now part of a different group that we love, but which meets every other week. I try to put limits on how many outside classes and lessons my children take each year, and we space out our play dates a little further apart these days. As good as outside activities can be, I’m finding that down time is important for all of us—as individuals and as families.
And so are simple pleasures—the kind where there is no agenda or even the “secret learning” that we homeschool parents are so adept at creating involved—things like playing dolls on a rainy afternoon or pillow fights with Daddy before bed. I have a feeling these are the things our daughters will remember far longer than the soccer class I hurried through traffic to get them to on time.
Now that my youngest is in first grade, it’s hard to imagine trying to stuff as much learning into her sweet little head as I did to my oldest. Oh, we still learn about things like Abraham Lincoln, the early colonies, and what life is like in Australia. But at a much less frantic pace!
As for my husband, I’m still not quite certain what he was thinking during those first few months of homeschooling. (Maybe I should ask him!) It might be that the lack of feedback I was receiving was actually due to his preoccupation with work back then, instead of anything directly related to our schooling endeavor! But now, as we continue in our fourth year of homeschooling, he has seen our children not only learn but thrive, and is completely convinced that this is the right thing for our family. (He is even their art teacher now!)
My husband is also amazed at all of the friends our children have made through homeschooling—as well as the friends we have made along the way!
As I look back at these last few years, it is also interesting to see how each year is just a little bit different than the last. As we sift through what works for us, we add a little here, omit a little there. And now that my youngest is schooling full time with her older sister, a whole new dimension has been gained! Certain subjects can be learned or projects can be done all together on occasion, and we have discovered that we all love learning this way!
Yes, when I say “we,” I do mean to include myself. That is one of the benefits of homeschooling for parents—learning new things or relearning things we had completely forgotten along the way! (Did you know that palm trees have no annual rings? Neither did I!)
One of the most important things I’ve learned along the way is that no homeschool is completely perfect, because we are all imperfect. But as I learn to continually rely on God for wisdom and direction, we can’t help but learn and grow as a family. As well as I know my own children, God knows them better. So I’m continually learning to seek His guidance in all our endeavors.
And yet, as far as we’ve come as a homeschool family, we still have a long way to go. We are continuously on a journey, learning what works, what our talents are, and how we can be used of God. Sometimes what works academically one year might not be appropriate the following year. Some days we will accomplish a lot; some days, not so much. Some days will be a struggle; other days will be brimming with the excitement of learning.
These days, if my first grader can’t name the 20th president or forgets who invented the telephone the day after we’ve discussed it, I’m not flustered. I have since learned that my child’s whole academic future does not rest solely on her ability to know these details before the age of 7! Instead, we all continue to learn and grow as a family, day by day, moment by moment, as God leads us. It’s hard to say who has learned the most from this homeschooling journey so far—my children or their parents.
But I just have a feeling I might know.
Tamara Sinclair has been homeschooling for three years and lives in Oregon with her husband and their two young daughters. She has always loved writing, and when not busy with schooling, she enjoys escaping into a good book, traveling with her family, or blogging about everyday life.
This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2009 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Get more great homeschooling help by downloading our FREE 8-page report entitled “The Secret to Homeschooling Freedom” by visiting http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com/resources/report.htm