Expectations and reality
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to ‘play school’. I also played ‘house’ and with baby dolls. My younger sister and her friends were usually willing to play school and house and store and I was usually the teacher. Naturally I began babysitting for neighbor kids when I got old enough. I quickly got many customers and some of them even entrusted me with infants. Not only did I get paid, I got to play house and school! Later, during my college years, I happily worked in day care and preschools.
With all of this experience, I thought I would be a good mother. Having been raised with two brother and two sisters, I thought it would be fun to have a big family. My identity was centered around being a mother. And when I discovered that homeschooling was a legal option, I knew that was what I wanted to do! I could be a mother AND a teacher.
This is hard!
I expected ‘fun’ and got ‘hard work’. The days were long and exhausting. Children have endless needs, are naturally self-centered, and go through easy and difficult stages of development. This normal childish behavior was not really a problem before because babysitting and working in day care is just not the same as parenting your own children. You get to send them home to their parents at the end of the day!
Homeschooling Requires a Mature Parent
But after 27 years of parenting and homeschooling, it’s clear that I had some misconceptions of motherhood and idealistic visions of teaching my own children. I discovered that I lacked some essential parenting skills , such as establishing rules, having a consistent routine, providing age-appropriate discipline, having reasonable expectations, and enforcing consequences for behavior. My own immaturity became evident. Being patient and compassionate with other people’s kids also turned out to be so much easier than tolerating my own kids’ immature behavior and needs. I had to work on myself.
As far as being a teacher, I found that my own kids didn’t necessarily want to learn what I was teaching and they learned how to get away with doing as little as possible. Some days were better than others, and we did have fun sometimes.
Do I regret choosing to have a large family or to homeschool ? Not at all! I only wish I’d had more realistic expectations.
Learning Styles Differ
- Some kids learn by working with their hands. Children are unique human beings and deserve to be taught in the ways that they learn best. Not all children are going to be academically inclined.
- Some kids love workbooks and textbooks and school type stuff, but many homeschoolers think those things are horrible and should be thrown out. But we shouldn’t eliminate what might work for an individual child.
- ‘Unschooling‘ also called child-led learning, can be a great way to learn, but it does not work well with all kids. Kids can and do learn best when they are interested in the subject matter, but it takes resources and the right family atmosphere, one where the parents demonstrate curiosity, encourage independence, and reward initiative. However, no matter how great the environment, some kids just need more structure and guidance than others.
- Teaching boys is very different from teaching girls.
- Some kids thrive in a group setting while others do better with a tutor or by teaching themselves.
- Allowing children to learn in a way that matches their personality will help them be more successful.
- Homeschooling doesn’t work well for every child.
A few things I loved about teaching my children at home.
- Being with them and watching them learn new things.
- Teaching them to read.
- Reading aloud to them.
- Flexibility of schedule and subject matter
- Teaching from a Christian worldview
- Spontaneous field trips and days off
- Learning happen anywhere and anytime
- More time with siblings, relative, and Dad
- Lots of discussion time
A few difficulties
- Establishing and keeping any kind of routine with a newborn and/toddler keeping me up at night.
- Making sure they were exposed to different cultures and experiences.
- Figuring out how to teach each child according to their learning style.
- Being patient through the Terrible Threes, Elevens, Fifteens, and so on.
- Finding time for myself didn’t happen until they got older, which is when I became a runner.
- Kids always home. No days off. 24 hours on duty.
- Paying for all the curriculum ourselves.
- Not being able to afford extras like classes and activities on a single paycheck.
- Not comparing my family to other homeschool families.
- Stress. Making time for my marriage.
Advice from a Veteran
If you are thinking about homeschooling, I urge you to do a lot of research and some deep thinking and soul searching, then:
- Make a list of your reasons to homeschool, your expectations for your kids, yourself, and your husband if you have one, and your concerns.
- Think about what you are excited about and how each child might learn best
- Consider your learning style and worldview. What is your guiding philosophy of life?
- Learn about the many different options available including online schools and co-ops and homeschool classes.
- Once you start, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many plans or outside activities for each day.
- Give yourself time to experiment and find what works for you and your kids.
- Don’t try to copy public school.
- Enjoy the freedom to revise, adapt, and throw out things that don’t work!
- Don’t start with the most difficult subjects or curriculum style. You’ll need time just to get your routine going.
Once you make the decision to homeschool, give it your best shot. Don’t give up after a bad day or bad month. Be ready to spend time teaching yourself subjects that you might not remember from your own school days unless you plan to outsource those subjects to videos, co-ops, or classes. Consider taking Fridays or Mondays off from book work and use that time for real-world experiences.
Beware of letting social media consume your time. Kids will gladly skip doing their work if you do not make them do it and it’s hard to make them if you are sitting on your computer or scrolling your phone all day.
Books about Homeschooling
As I see young mothers just starting to homeschool their kids, I get excited that another generation is willing to make the financial and personal sacrifice that it requires, and I hope that they will seek advice from older moms to avoid unnecessary stress and problems.
For example, many young moms (and professionals) have the idea that with learning, earlier is better. However, some research has shown that early formal education can be harmful. There may be a few gifted children who can handle it, but most kids will do better in school if allowed to develop and learn according to natural timetables. I’m so thankful that I was exposed to the books about this topic by The Moores early in my homeschool journey. Better Late than Early may seem a little outdated by now to some readers, but I think it has good ideas. .
I was also greatly influenced by John Holt of Growing Without Schooling. A few others that shaped my educational and child rearing philosophy are John Taylor Gatto, this child development series by Ilg, Ames , and watching Penelope Leach and T. Berry Brazelton on cable TV . Those names are not heard much these days. There are tons of old and new books available on this subject. Don’t overwhelm yourself, but do read some of them. Homeschool bookstores are a wonderful source of wisdom. The older books are still worth reading!
Parenting is the most important job in the world. After all, how we raise our kids will greatly influence how THEY relate to their kids and spouses and other people. Just because having children is a natural thing doesn’t mean parenting always comes naturally. No matter if you choose to homeschool or not, it is important to do all you can to be the best parent you can be. Your children, and theirs, deserve it.
What do you think? Is homeschooling a good idea? Are you a homeschooler? Please share your thoughts.