Homeschooling is Easy…Parenting is Hard
In the past, I’ve been fascinated, intrigued, awed, intimidated and inspired by homeschoolers. I love the idea of kids being able to learn at their own pace, study what they’re interested in, and have the freedom to go, see, and do things during the days and months that their peers are sitting behind desks in a classroom. My general opinion of homeschooling has always been that it could be an ideal way to learn…if it were done the “right way”. In my mind, the “right way” to home school consists of a confident, organized, and intelligent home educator, whose creativity and enthusiasm for learning gushes forth spontaneously onto her eager young stewards, who walk beside her, wide-eyed with wonder, through the magical forests of wisdom that she sets before them. Obviously, I could never be that woman. Thus, I could never home school my children. End of discussion.
Well, over the past one hundred twelve months or so, I have been undergoing the metamorphosis of motherhood. Being a mom changes everything. From the moment that first young spirit was entrusted to my care, I’ve experienced a heightened awareness of my own insecurities, doubts, fears, and weaknesses. My mind seems to be constantly harrowed up by concerns of, “Am I doing this right?”, “Am I giving my children what they need?”, “Have I ruined them already?” Trial and error seems to be the only way to navigate through parenthood. It doesn’t really matter how much Supernanny you watch, kids are tough to figure out. Knowing what’s “best” for them is a constant guessing game, for which no one really seems to have all of the answers.
Two years ago, when we moved to Jefferson City, we enrolled Brock, Austin, and Brandon into public school. After a few months, we determined that the school just wasn’t “right” for our kids, so over Christmas break we enrolled the boys into a private Lutheran School. Besides the obvious doctrinal differences of religion, and the $1,000 per month tuition bill, we were thrilled with the school, and it seemed like the “right” fit for our family. What a relief to have finally found a “home” in which my children would be “schooled”.
But life is busy. And I was finding that the majority of the time I spent with my children was rushed and hectic…scrambling to find shoes, gobble breakfast, make lunches, find keys and rush out the door in the morning….only to come home to afternoons and evenings crammed with homework, dinner, piano practicing, chores, cub scouts, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, etc. I was beginning to feel like 99% of the interaction I was having with my own children was stressed, negative, and excessively loud. I hated the way I felt at the end of the day…like I was a rotten mother, establishing a rotten relationship with my kids. Would homeschooling actually be a way to simplify life? If we had more time during the day to get all the extra things done, could we fit it all in and still have time left over to enjoy one another in the evenings? What if homeschooling actually helped me be a better mother?
This past year, my dear friend and sister-in-law, Allison, started participating in a homeschooling co-op here in town. She invited me multiple times to just “come and see” what it was like. I kept telling her that I would like to come, but it interfered with my gym time. Finally, on the very last day of co-op before summer break, I went…and came away utterly convinced that homeschooling was definitely not for me. I was happy to keep paying the $1,000 per month to let someone else do the dirty work of educating my kids.
Two days later, there was an informational meeting for new homeschoolers or anyone who might be interested in homeschooling. I wasn’t interested, but I thought it might be fun to go anyway, and I knew my sister-in-law was going, so I’d just go along to support her. As I was leaving, my husband commented sarcastically, “You know they’re just going to make you want to home school”. Yeah, whatever, I thought, and walked out the door.
Mavis Day gave a simple, yet compelling introduction to homeschooling. When she spoke, her eyes shone with the passion, love and enthusiasm she felt for her children, and the joy that she found in teaching them daily. The picture she painted of homeschooling life was one of endless possibilities, time well spent in pursuits of learning, while building strong family ties, and opening the windows of opportunity for her children. The experience she shared sounded exactly like what I wanted for my children. I felt my eyes start to burn, my throat tighten, and my breath quicken while my heart yearned for what I felt was surely the “right” thing to do for my family.
That night, I pulled into my own driveway and turned off the car engine. I sat there for a few minutes, wondering if there was any chance I could just shake the whole thing off and forget it ever happened. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I offered up a desperate prayer for strength to follow through with what I felt I needed to do. Slowly, I walked into the house and hung my keys on the hook. Justin asked casually, with one eye still on the television, “So, did they convince you to homeschool?” I hesitated for a moment, and then answered, “Yes”.
“Really?” Justin asked, his attention now fully on me. “Uh huh”, I replied. “All of the kids?” He wondered. “Yep.” was my answer. Justin was skeptical at first, worried more about my own sanity than anything, I think…and understandably so. As weeks wore on, we kept the idea in the back of our minds. I read a lot of homeschooling books, and asked a lot of questions. I researched curriculum, stressed, doubted, gave up, cried, took a breath, tried again, freaked out, and researched some more. I went to a used curriculum sale, and bought a bunch of books. I talked to more homeschoolers and decided that I needed to just pick a curriculum and go with it. I ordered a bunch of stuff online and actually started to get excited. Finally, I contacted the school and told them that we would not be returning again in the fall.
Four weeks ago, on August 1st, my eleventh wedding anniversary, I officially started home schooling my kids. We started early because, well, frankly it was too blasted hot outside to really do anything else, and I figured that if we got ahead of schedule, we’d have time to take off on nicer days to do things like go to the zoo and stuff. That’s the beauty of homeschooling, right? Make your own schedule? Go? See? Do? Learn?
We just finished our fourth week with the curriculum. It’s going….well…alright….I guess. Like all other things parenting, it seems to take a lot of trial and error. I wonder every day whether I should push to try and fit everything in every day, or take a more relaxed approach and let the kids learn at their own pace. I worry that if I take it too easy, they’ll get behind and lazy, but then, if I push too hard, we’ll get burned out and won’t enjoy the ride. I get tired and frustrated, and feel exhausted at the end of some days. I still go to bed most nights, wondering if I’m doing the “right” thing for my kids.
We are having a good time, though. We’ve had some great moments, and I’m learning right along with them. It’s an adventure, for sure. In many ways I’m having to redefine “school” and “parenting”. I’m not quite sure what to do with Eden and Kade while I teach the big boys. It’s a juggling act throughout the day, and I’m working on having more patience, and creatively finding new ways to get things done. I do feel like I’m a better mother now, though. I definitely spend more time with my kids. I listen to them more, and take time to really answer their questions.
I get frustrated with my own limitations. I wish that I had my own wealth of knowledge, so that I could be a walking textbook and just spurt forth answers effortlessly. But maybe that’s what Wikipedia is for. Maybe it’s good that we get to learn together. Maybe it will get easier, and my confidence will grow as we go along. Then again maybe it’s not supposed to be easy. Maybe if parenting were easy, it wouldn’t be such a great opportunity for me to learn and grow and be educated in my own life. Maybe it’s more than just the children who are being homeschooled after all.
Written by Bobbi Johnson