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Stories of what homeschooling is really like! This series of interviews with homeschooling Moms tells it like it is.
1. Tell me a little about how and who you homeschool. Why did you decide to homeschool?
I am a homeschooing mom to two boys - one who will be 15 in May and one who is 6, and we’ve been homeschooling for 9 years ever since it was time for my oldest to attend kindergarten.
I categorically admit I was not ready to let go! After years of infertility treatments and finally success, the years went by too quickly and before I knew it he was supposed to be “off to school”. He still seemed so very young to me to be put on a school bus or to walk to school a few blocks or to even be “dropped off”. I questioned myself daily if I was being overprotective when it seemed to me so many other people had no problem doing so.
My sister had pulled her kids from the public school system as well we had friends who homeschooled so we knew it was a viable and pleasing educational option for us. We liked the results (mostly in character) that we saw in their kids. We did investigate a few choices but came to the conclusion that we could try it for a year and if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t have done too much “damage” that he could still attend Grade 1 the following year without too much negative impact.
Well that year went so well that we have never looked back. And in case you think it’s because that year I was the homeschool super mom – let me enlighten you. That year we tried all the wrong curriculum and all the wrong methods for both my child’s learning style and my teaching style.
That year we very often would do 4-5 field trips A DAY!! Can you say too many outside activities? Can you say quick way to burn out? So why did it go “so well”. Well that year we experienced just some of the serendipities of homeschooling that are available and also recognized all that it could be.
Quality family time and relationships; truly individualizing an educational plan and method to suit the teacher and child; being able to change course on a dime and take advantage of real life opportunities that came along. These are just some of the things that we experienced and like I said we’ve never looked back.
To us homeschooling is more about a lifestyle of choice than an awesome educational opportunity (although it is that as well). My husband works from home, we live on an idyllic 6 acre hobby farm so work ethic which we believe is a part of a good home education is a big part of our lifestyle as well. We are together all the time – and yes some days that drives us utterly insane….but truly….we wouldn’t want it any other way. We know each other well, the good, the bad and the ugly!
2. How has your homeschooling approach changed since you began? What is working for you now?
The biggest thing that has changed over the years is I now truly believe that there is no “one way” to homeschool. Each family, teacher and student is so unique – how could there be “one way”? Even within a family the most unique blessing we have as homeschoolers is to fine tune a child’s education which will allow them to be all that they can be.
In the beginning I believed “one package” would be a lifetime solution, for all the children in the family. For us it doesn’t work that way. We are constantly encouraging our kids to follow their passions, give them opportunities that we know fit their personalities and gifts and we try to add a strong dose of work ethic and discipline for those things that just need to get done.
Yes this takes way more work, planning and discussions than picking a package off the shelf but they are truly getting an individualized education.
What works for us now – well the planner in me every year gets excited with all the possibilities – thankfully I don’t inflict them all on my children! But occasionally I find something that gets my kids really excited about something and then I give them time.
If that means using the power tools in the garage to make weapons so that they can use them in their imaginary battles with the bad guys of the universe so be it. What about reading and writing you ask? We do that too but if my child wakes up with a design in his head and he’s itching to make it come to fruition – then that is his “assignment” for the day, ok after math of course!
So what does our day look like – well for us no two days are alike. The only “constant” is the morning household routine and outside animal chores. Music practice for my youngest son (one of his gifts) and math for the older (and he would be quick to admit NOT one of his gifts).
We all read a lot (although I wish we read more), we do some outside activities with other homeschooling moms but I am careful not to “burn us out”, we discuss a lot of different topics but mostly we just spend time together and with other families, following gifts and passions and doing the occasional “school” type work. Yes my kids are literate and yes they hate math (well the oldest does, the youngest still enjoys it).
3. What is your biggest surprise about homeschooling? Is there an unexpected benefit or drawback in it?
That there is no “one way” to do it. I haven’t met two homeschooling moms (even if they are using the same “method” or curriculum) that homeschool the same way.
Too many benefits to list and some I’m sure I’m not even aware of yet and probably as many drawbacks.
Like when you just want to spend time on the computer chatting with friends and you have one kid on your lap wanting to play Sid the Science kid on your computer and the other one (in a very deep voice that you are still in denial about) keeps asking you deep involved questions that require a quiet and meaningful time together to fully appreciate the worries he has about growing up.
4 What is homeschooling REALLY like?
It’s hard work and you worry…a lot – hey that sounds like parenting doesn’t it? Yeah I would have to say homeschooling is really a lot like parenting.
So just like parenting there are really great days like when they are devouring books and can’t wait to tell you all about the ideas that are floating around in their heads. And there are the really bad days – when you have to remind them for the millionth time that their math lesson has to be done and you wonder if they will ever be literate or be able to have a conversation that doesn’t involve bad guys!
The drawback of homeschooling – it goes by far too quickly!
There is so many more cool things and adventures I wish we had the time and money for. I wish my 14 year old son knew what he wants to do with his life (something I swore I would never do to my kids). The “doing high school” pressure gets to me – and the busyness of a very outgoing 6 year old has me some days thinking it would be so much easier to “put them on that bus” some mornings. But the reality is I know in my heart that for our family that wouldn’t be “easier”, it’d be nice some days but not easier.
5. What would your absolutely perfect homeschooling day look like.
I think if anything I would like to be able to afford the time and money to include travel more in my homeschool. I really think that my kids are missing an important part of a well rounded education by not seeing the world. If we won the lottery that is one that would change.
6. Please dish the dirt on homeschooling! What is the problem with it, or what is your biggest challenge in homeschooling. What do you like least about it?
I think more than anything it’s the worrying – some days you really wonder if you are doing the “program” that is going to give you results or not. There are sooooo many choices out there that it becomes very overwhelming at times and you wonder what really is important the multiplication table or being able to make change, or returning to a store when someone has given them too much change? Sometimes I wish there was a “one package” that you knew would turn out great well educated kids.
7. What is your favourite homeschooling memory so far?
Oh there are so many but mostly I think seeing my almost 15 year old son still dress up in “costume” and using his well developed imagination and his weapons that he has designed and made brings a smile to my face.
8. What was the moment in time when you absolutely knew you had made the right decision to homeschool?
Again too many to count – but I do love in the mornings cuddling with my kids and they tell me about what dreams they had that night. Having a relaxed morning routine versus a “hurry up” no time for “engagement” is something that I still treasure.
9. What would you go back and change if you could?
If I was to do it over again I would try and eliminate my grade and subject box mentally sooner. The sooner I got over that the much better my homeschool journey was. I still get caught in breaking it down into subjects, I wish I had a bigger all encompassing “learning” mentally.
However I believe each of our journeys help us to help others on the same journey. It allows us to encourage others, which is a joy in and of itself besides homeschooling.
10. As a homeschooling mom, what is your own special take on it - or what have you learned that you would like to pass on?
I think the biggest thing is number 1 know that you have options. If you aren’t happy with your current education situation that there are choices – numerous choices – keep looking until you find what works for your family and then don’t compare.
If it’s working for you and your family and most importantly your kids – do that and stop doing what isn’t working. Stop doing what isn’t working immediately – it’s that easy – you have a choice. Fabulous curriculum – yup there is lots of that out there – but really what is the most important thing to you – and do that. Work on that every year.
And the second most important thing is find someone you can laugh with, cry with and worry with. Whether that is your spouse, another homeschooling mom or a bunch of homeschool parents. As long as they support you in whatever choices you make – it’s really important to have those people that you can really voice your joys and concerns to and they aren’t trying to convince you to do it another way.
And lastly, that the first year is the hardest and no one ever get their first year (or sometimes several years) “right”, but even then you and your kids will turn out ok, think of those years as learning what doesn’t work. Just keep focusing on what is important to you THAT year (and that may be just one thing like getting little Johnny reading and yes other subjects will be on the wayside for that year) and each year it will get easier and eventually you do find things that work and are important enough to you that you might want to do it again the next year and the year after that.
Many thanks to homeschooling mom Lori for agreeing to be interviewed.
If you are a homeschooling Mom (or you used to be!) and think you can contribute, then please ask ask me for an interview. I would love to hear your story.
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