Never ever in my life did I think I would be a mom. Then, never ever did I think I would be a homeschooling mom. In fact, I counted down the days until my daughter would go to kindergarten. I would have some one on one time with my son and get a little bit of my freedom back. My daughter is a take charge, talkative girl who doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Qualities that I prayed she’d have but admittedly are very exhausting. Imagine my dismay when she repeatedly cried every day before and after school … for 7 months straight. It was clear something was wrong.
An unchosen decision
When my daughter tells people that kindergarten was too tough, they are quick to assume I am a softy mommy. Who just couldn’t bear the thought of her precious angel struggling to finger paint.
Quite the opposite. I feel I have been very open and honest about my kid’s faults, areas of struggle, and where they just need to tough it out sometimes.
But having my tough, strong-willed, independent daughter be reduced to tears at the thought of having to go to school really puzzled me. We had even gotten her into a saught-after charter school! It was supposed to be better!
To make matters even more jarring, our oldest daughter had just entered high school and let me tell you, many discussions with the guidance counselor saying things like, “The majority of the junior class is depressed,” didn’t seem too promising.
School has changed
One thing I hear the most from other parents my age is, “PSH! Homeschool! They’ll be just fine in public school! We survived.”
However, the almost 20 years that I have been out of school…Ummm things have changed quite a bit.
The biggest change is a bigger push in standardized testing. These test results not only help determine which schools can get more funding but also (in my opinion) do the following to our children:
- Reduce them to one type
- Base their future success on how well they test
- Actually prevent them from a love of learning
Some people are amazing at testing. They can memorize answers like it’s nobody’s business. But does that mean that they’ve actually absorbed or enjoyed any part of the learning experience? Probably not.
Memorizing a date versus understanding history
Sure, a kid could memorize that the Fugitive Slave Act started in 1850. They could memorize that date with some fancy mnemonic device. Totally. But will they deeply understand that this meant human beings were being hunted by bloodhounds only to be enslaved and most likely punished for attempting to escape?
Recess as an option
As I get ready to write this, I can hear all of the well meaning parents and teachers get angry. So let me be clear: TEACHERS ARE AMAZING. I have yet to meet an individual teacher who doesn’t have their students best interest at heart. In fact, most of them spend their hard-earned dollars to improve the quality of the classroom.
Unfortunately, the bigger laws that are at play often prevent them from having a classroom that can truly thrive.
In the article, The Death of Recess, the author talks about how ADHD diagnoses are increasing, childhood obesity is up by 30% and Finland is still beating us in the education department. Why? Because to better prep for testing, schools around the US are removing recess!
My husband visited my daughter’s kindergarten class on several occasions and took note of the fact that recess was clearly an option. If they didn’t make it out, they did’t make it out.
That meant my 5 year old was inside for 6 hours a day with only the free time they may have allowed in her classroom.
Tests don’t determine worth
My husband, Tom, and I both went through public schools, and we both left school with no guidance or direction. Tom wanted to make money and I felt like I had absolutely no promising future what-so-ever.
We were both terrible at school.
Tom is very much a hands-on learner which contributed to him working his way up in his company but also left him doubting his intelligence and capability to make anything of himself separate from his place of work.
I was a social butterfly in school. Interacting and talking and laughing was my favorite. And you know what? Honestly? I liked learning (in some classes).
When we had tests or projects, I would apply myself, study hard and head into testing with a good understanding of the teachings. Then I would fail! Fail. I would fail! I didn’t understand the wording on the tests oftentimes and other times, I was maybe just too confident.
The knowledge was there in my head and yet I had an F in front of me. I kept trying again and again. And the same thing kept happening. It’s defeating and truly did not determine how intelligent I was. However, I was lead to believe that it did.
Only the kids with good grades would pass classes and stand a chance at college. And college was like the holy grail.
Why should I even try? I clearly would’t amount too much. Guess I should just grow up and be a wife. ???
Self love first
No, not everyone’s school experience was the same as mine. I understand that. Some people just loved school, they aced their tests, and unfortunately, that left some people with this complex that they were actually better than those that didn’t test as well.
As I started learning about homeschool and the flexibility to teach children how they learn, meet them at their level, and not hold them to anyone else’s standard…I was hooked.
Because ultimately, what do I want for my kids? Good grades? To keep up with the pack? Or do I want them to love learning, love themselves, and embrace who they are without comparing themselves to anyone else?
I don’t want my kids to go to school and get good grades and allow this to give them a false sense of superiority. Just as much as I don’t them to lose faith in themselves because good grades and gold stars are given to other people.
A love for learning
Instead of forcing my kids to memorize site words so they are “up to speed” or drilling multiplication facts into their heads, I want to instill a love of reading. I want them to see how math benefits them in daily life.
Instead of memorizing all the parts of a plant, I want them to sit in nature and embrace the magnificent beauty of how everything really works in a cycle. How we can better benefit the earth and how the earth provides for us in return.
Ask and have answered
One of the biggest parts of our homeschool has been my kids telling me what they want to learn.
How are black holes formed?
What happens when a tornado forms?
How are bouncy balls made?
These are just some of the questions I can remember that my children have asked and we have found the answers to.
And you know what? Sometimes I make them find the answers! Because I want them to learn to research on their own. I want them to be able to find one answer, and allow it to spark another question that they want to be answered.
I don’t want to provide everything for them on a silver platter but instead to inspire a thirst for the never-ending pursuit of knowledge.
God could have something to do with it. You choose.
Ok, so let’s talk about religion a little bit, shall we?
Because whenever I tell people I homeschool, one of the biggest responses I get is a scrunched nose and a, “Mmm…so….you wanted to like…talk about Jesus?”
Not so much. No. Honestly. For me, it was about the independence and individual development of each of my children. BUT, we do talk about God.
We don’t wake up every morning and sit silently in prayer. Instead, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit casually make their way into our conversations. Volunteering at church is something we do every other weekend.
Some of our curriculum talks about God. For example, our math curriculum walks through the real-life experiences of a brother and sister who are taking a trip to Guatemala on a mission trip with their family.
The book tells stories, includes the God word on occasion and puts the kids into real life math experiences. Like setting out plates for a big meal, measuring the perimeter of buildings or planning out how many snacks to pack on a hike.
God, or your original beliefs are just an added perk to homeschool. No one else is swaying, influencing or withholding from your kids every day. You can include your family’s beliefs and practices into your daily routine.
Because with homeschool…you choose.
Learning all of your options
The first thing to do when you are looking into homeschooling is to find our what rules your state expects you to follow.
Then take the time to research different types of homeschooling:
- Online learning
- Partial public school learning
- Regular ‘ol homeschool
Based on your needs and desires you can decide how you want to run your homeschool. They are your children after all!
Finding your community
One of the best resources I had available to me was Heppner’s Legacy homeschool store in Elk River, Minnesota. They help people from around the country, but having them in my backyard has been an amazing resource.
Thankfully, two of my best friends also chose to homeschool their kids. So we have been able to take field trips together, go to homeschool functions together and be a mini suppopr group when times get tough.
You can find TONS of amazing homeschool groups on Facebook. If you are a part of one, feel free to leave it in the comments below!
Oh yeah, socialization
The dreaded question.
What will become of my children if they aren’t surrounded by kids their own age all day long every day for 9 months out of the year?
Answer: they have the chance to meet people in a wider age range, learn how to co-exist with a variety of people and have more opportunities to meet more people in a year than just the 25 kids they are in one room with.
Socialization will depend on the parents. For sue. Some parents don’t like socializing themselves. But, if it’s important to you, and it should be, make it happen.
Here are some of the ways my kids socialize:
- Playing with neighbor kids
- Spending weeks at a time with grandparents
- Going cross-country during the school year to visit family
- Talking to the men and women at check out counters
- Volunteering with 2-year-olds at church
- Visiting my grandma in the nursing home
- Having lunches with their great aunt
- Going on camping trips with other homeschooled friends
There is no shortage of humans on this planet and plenty of opportunities to volunteer and be a part of a community. You just have to make it a priority.
Letting go of pre-conceived ideas
Your child does not have to live up to a pre-determined standard that was set by a room full of adults.
Some people’s minds on who people should be, what they should be, how quickly they should learn just go to show how small-minded they are.
When I first started homeschool I read or heard somewhere that most homeschooled children don’t have a solid grasp on reading until they are 8 (compared to 5 year olds in public school). However, their reading skills and comprehension are show to be better and more comprehensive for the rest of their lives!
I was instantly reminded of the fact that Einstein didn’t speak until he was 4. Cool. But what are the chances, you’re harboring another Einstein right? After all, a pediatrician might tell you if your child isn’t speaking, they might be deaf. They might have a learning disability. Maybe they are on the spectrum.
Maybe. Maybe. Or perhaps they are just taking their damn time. This mother puts it perfectly in her story of her son who wasn’t meeting speech requirements.
“I had been worrying more about Vincent not graduating from the programme than his real speech development. Is this something that all parents have to face in the modern world – that our children have to meet more and more standards, otherwise either we, the parents,the children themselves, or perhaps both, are considered by professionals to be failing?”
Now, for anyone contemplating homeschool, here’s what I don’t want you to do. Go into full-blown panic mode.
Don’t starting thinking about high school if you have a 6 year old. Let go of the idea that you are going to need to carve out 6 hours of your day and dedicate your entire life to homeschooling.
When you don’t have an entire classroom to manage, places to transfer them to or needing to give individual attention to 25+ students, you suddenly have a lot more time on your hands. This article says 3-4 hours per day. Personally, ours is closer to 2. At least hands-on, sit down, workbook time.
We play games, bake, cook, travel, read. All of which contribute to their learning but none of which is recognizable as a “typical school day.”
So start small. Even if that means focusing on teaching just reading and writing for one month. Then add in some baking once a week for a little bit of math. Put your focus on quality of time versus quantity.
What you can teach that school can’t
Another major benefit of homeschool is that all day can be a learning experience. My children have learned to manage money, start their own dog poop scooping business, bake banana bread, brownies and cupcakes. They make their own breakfasts, flip their own eggs.
Yes, this takes time and hands-on teaching, but eventually, they get it and they have developed a major life skill.
Homeschooling my kids didn’t mean I added one more thing to my already long list of things to do. (I mean, it kind of did.) Really, it gave me the chance too remind our kids that we are family and work as a team.
I cook, they do dishes. They make a mess, it gets cleaned up. When my son pees all over the bathroom like it’s Mardi Gras, you best believe he’s the one who cleans it up! Gross.
There is so much to be learned outside of books. Of course, this doesn’t just end with housework.
When we get in fights (yup, I’m included in this), we get the chance to talk it out. We can discuss our feelings and reassess how we should handle things better next time.
If a family member falls ill, we can reach out. We can visit. My children are able to fully learn and experience major life events like grief, loss and joy without interruptions.
When Covid-19 lockdown struck, we took a few weeks to and process. There was no learning outside of learning how to cope. How to pay attention to why we were crying more. Allowing my kids to grieve that we didn’t make it tot grandma’s before lockdown orders were in place.
They were allowed to exist and be human. I can only hope this allows them to be quicker to be in tune with their emotions as life goes on and encourage them to slow down when they need to.
Maintaining your independence
Ok, so, if you are an independent mama (or dad) reading this and you’re in panic mode because you don’t want to be a 24/7 mom let alone teacher, I get it.
While this was tougher when the kids were younger, I promise it gets easier.
My best recommendation is to schedule time for you to be independent. Gym time. Girlfriend time. Date nights. Alone in your room with no one knocking time.
One of the best things I did for my independence was to star this blog. No, I don’t just write out all of my feelings. I actually get paid to run this blog that helps others improve their financial lives while learning how to simplify and enjoy their life.
I take my independence very seriously, while still putting care and love into helping my kids grow into the best version of themselves. It’s possible, I promise.