Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Perspective on Homeschooling

I'm now an official veteran of homeschooling.  Way back when we began our adventure, it never occurred to me that I would be one of the women that I turned to for support and information.

The following are simply my personal observations, based on homeschooling and shepherding our five children.  Our oldest three daughters are beyond our walls.  Our youngest two are in high school studies.  The choice, for us, to homeschool was natural, given our inclination to be independent.   So, here are some of those observations ... not listed in any particular order of importance, just as they roll into my almost 55 year old brain. :-)  Oh, and don't look for a grammar perfect essay.  That isn't my purpose in writing.  Tenses will be messed up, as well as several phrases will be marked as sentences.  Just consider that I am talking to you, in my own unique way.  ;-)

1.  Homeschooling really began before each of our children were born.  Not that it had even entered my radar back before our oldest was born.  While I listened to good music, sang songs (even badly) and  read passages of classic books and thought provoking articles aloud to my husband (when he was willing to listen) our children were learning.  The last might be a huge reason I love homeschooling.  I have had a captive audience to share with when I read something so good I can't keep it to myself. 

2.  Little ones benefit more from being in their home than being in a classroom.  Their natural rhythms aren't interrupted to fit into someone else's schedule.  They love to imitate mom's daily routines, and those in turn become beautiful learning opportunities.

3.  The realness of life is the best teaching moment.  When our children helped sort clean socks, they learn about sets, like/un-like.  When they set the table they learn about order.  When they put cutlery away, they practice counting.  When they listen to nighttime stories, they can ask all the questions they want.  They learn to trust when we love them for who they are.  When tantrums happen, and they do!, we can love them back into life, instead of having them disgraced with time in the corner, or having to have mom and dad called into the school.  When they go shopping for groceries with mom, they learn about interactions in the real world.  They learn how to discern, how to be frugal, how to have the occasional snack, how to pay for things, and finally ... that you can't have everything you think you want.

4.  Curriculum need not cost a lot of money.  In our own beginning, the public library (most were very small) provided wonderful resources.  In our present times, the internet has opened up vistas and opportunities that will expand your world beyond our borders.  (caveat ... you need to be completely aware of where you and your children are surfing .. it is also not a very nice world in many corners)

5.  The savings in not having to have our children tempted to dress in "the latest style", or to have plenty of clothes to wear more than helped us purchase books that we deemed worthy of keeping.  Same with fundraising~

6.  For each of our children, they were able to try out a huge variety of interests.  As each child discovered their unique likes/dislikes we were able to support them.  One of the first authors I read when discerning how we were going to approach school was John Holt.  That lead to John Taylor Gatto, Cafi Cohen, to name only a very, very few good mentors.  In our earliest years Mothering magazine introduced us to an alternative way of parenting our children.  Association with La Leche League, our various parish communities, and a myriad of other sources all contributed to what became our unique way of home educating our children.

7.  We tried on various curricula over the years.  Some years I wanted structure, then discovered it wasn't what I wanted.  So, I learned with our children (as did my husband).  Each of our children's final high school years benefited from using American School for their core, coupled with expanded reading and discussions to incorporate our Catholic faith. 

8.  Afternoon tea time is precious!  Mass, Adoration and family prayer are even more precious!

9.  We never had to ask permission for any child to stay in bed because of feeling unwell.  We never had to ask permission to take off on an adventure, whether a quick trip to the local park for a picnic, a drive to see a new exhibit somewhere, or a long distance drive to be with an ill relative.  Nor did we need permission for any of our moves or our 10 month adventure living in Peru.  We didn't have to convince a new school of the "worth" of our children's education (not even for University admission.)

10.  We learned to trust ourselves, as well as our children.  Children are hardwired to learn, you can't stop it.  By home educating we were able to maximize their time learning and exploring, and minimize their time waiting for learning to begin.

11.  Motivation to learn, never a problem.  Exposure to too early sex education, never a problem.  Protecting innocence, never, ever a problem.  Teaching by example our faith, never a difficulty.  Coping with teenage angst, well, that sometimes was hard, but we have managed to come through the first 4 pretty well.  Still waiting for our youngest one to emerge from her cocoon!

12.  Having like minded friends is very, very important.  It is nice to have extended family on your side, but if they aren't now, they will be.  Speaking from personal experience, with neither of our own parents being fans of our initial choice.  It was a bit long in coming, but each one has in turn expressed amazement at the beautiful people our children are.

I could go on and on.  I do hope anyone who is reading this can understand that how each family approaches homeschooling is as unique as each child in the family.  Will you make mistakes?  Probably.  Will you succeed?  Most definitely.  The one motivation that homeschooling families have is we want our children to grow into whole humans.  People who know how to think (as opposed to just what to think.)  People who feel free to make mistakes, and to learn from them.  People who contribute to the world, making it a much better place by their presence.  For parents, the sweetness comes when you watch your well formed children blossom into beautiful adults.  Adults who are eager to leave the nest, to try their wings, and to soar among the heavens.  How much I often wish our grown children were always right here so I could continue to share with them on a daily basis.  So, it is bittersweet.  Our blessing comes with listening to each of them in turn pursue their lives, listening to their challenges, their failures, but also their triumphs.  

Don't be afraid to homeschool.  Discover your own style, and be prepared to switch horses midstream if you need to.  Your time with your children flies by, without any of us realizing how quick it really does play out!  For us, handing our children over to others to form wasn't an option.  I am so very grateful that I have been blessed to watch over, guide and prepare them for the big world, and hopefully guide them in my small way toward an eternity in heaven.


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