I have a Valentine’s Day confession.
Yes, on that day when we send out cards and candy, show our "special someones" how we feel about them, and extol the virtues of true love, I feel the need to, well... spill the beans on the truth about a love in my life.
You see, it’s only recently that I have fallen in love with homeschooling.
I know, I will wait while you collectively swoon over the fact that a blogger for TheHomeSchoolMom hasn’t been madly enraptured by the very thing about which she writes.
Need I pull out the smelling salts?
Unfortunately, it’s true. Yes, I know a number of happy homemaking homeschoolers whose dreams from the moment of their first child’s conception consisted of the opportunity to make merry with their children and just delve into the joy and wonder of developing those little minds, bodies, and emotions from the moment their little bundles came squalling (surely showing evidence of determination and eloquence from the beginning?) into the world. They relish finger painting and letter-making with pasta and teaching numbers by bouncing balls and tracing in sand. They are adept at little people talk and make-believe and simplifying the complex into the easily understandable.
Me, not so much. While I enjoy parenting during the little people years, teaching is a bit of another matter. [Insert comments about how teaching and parenting are part and parcel of the same thing here…]
Teaching toddlers and young children is not my strong suit. I much prefer the critical thinking and rhetorical abilities of older students and teens. My interests lie in areas of philosophy, history, literature, and policy, so, as much as I wish it did, teaching colors and shapes just doesn't float my boat. I did it, because, you know, I sort of have to if I'm their mom and teacher and all, but I secretly wished I could engage my 4-year-old in a debate about how Marxist philosophy has impacted modern public policy. My desires to enlighten their minds with timeless lessons from history or critical analysis of literature classics were being eclipsed by counting blocks and learning how to tie shoes.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children, and savor the opportunity to teach them. But the early years of homeschooling were, in reality, much more of a struggle than a joy. Much of the time (that I just knew would be spent filling their malleable minds with amazing academic excellence) was spent helping my children organize themselves, endeavoring arduously for their attention, emphasizing obedience and disciplining when it didn’t occur, and vastly adapting my expectations to reality. Those little people have to learn, well...everything. How to eat, how to dress themselves, how to poop in the right spot...and on top of that I was supposed to somehow give them the ability to read, write, count, and interact appropriately with the world.
You might say that the first few years of homeschooling for me were, shall we say, a lesson in adjusting my perspective.
In spite of the challenge and my over-exuberance, we have made it through – and my kids can even (mostly) read, write, count, and interact appropriately with the world.
But I didn’t love homeschooling, then.
I kept at it because I felt it was the best choice for our family, and because I love my children -- but not because I loved it.
That, I’ve realized recently, has changed.
Third grade -- that was the magic number. Something about my oldest daughter’s third grade year just clicked, and I discovered that I wasn’t just doing homeschooling…I was enjoying it. I’m not even sure exactly what changed, but somehow I made the transition from teaching my children out of my own sense of self-discipline and duty to looking forward to teaching them each day.
What a blessing that has been...
I have fallen in love with homeschooling.
Reflection has helped me recognize some significant factors in this change, some of which have to do with my children and some of which have to do with me. I attribute my falling in love with homeschooling to:
- My kids' increased emotional and behavioral maturity over time, particularly in their ability to better engage and attend to whatever academics we are doing.
- Having a well-established, yet flexible "system" for how we "do school" (schedule, routine, and approach) that came through trial and error, and which works effectively for us.
- My children's ability to read independently. Wow, does the Mom-intensive factor reduce once they become readers!
- The opportunity, due to my kids' increased intellectual maturity and ability for critical thinking, to engage, as part of our schooling, in subjects and topics of discussion that interest me.
- A greater sense of familiarity with and comfort in doing this homeschooling thing, due to having more experience with it. And, along with that, the freedom to give myself more grace.
- The ability of my students to work independently, and not need me every. single. moment. Can I get a "woot woot!" for kids who can work on their own?!
- Being able to tailor academic materials and my own teaching style more effectively to the specific needs of each child, as a result of having greater understanding of who they are and how they learn.
- Having more realistic expectations of what my children and I can accomplish, and a better focus on what really matters when it's all over, thanks to lessons learned from this little thing called life.
- Making a conscious shift away from a public-school-and-standardized-test standard for what, how, and at what pace my children should learn to a standard based on priorities and values my husband and I have for each of our children individually.
- A greater appreciation of just how little time I have left with my children, to impact what they know and who they become, due to...I don't know, age? Let's just call it wisdom.
- The benefit of knowing, over time, homeschooling friends, to help me see that everybody does it differently and nobody does it perfectly.
- The shift in priorities and perspective I have gained over time, partly due to having greater experience in parenting/homeschooling, and partly due to losing my son three days after he was born.
- God's incredible, unfathomable grace.
So, yes, it happened. In spite of myself, and thanks to growth in both myself and my children, I have fallen in love with homeschooling. My former relationship of commitment out of duty has blossomed into a relationship of joy and fulfillment.
And yours can, too.
If you are toughing it out in the early years of home education, take heart. Every year of homeschooling is different, and that brings hope. Time, experience, life's lessons, and maturity usually enhance the homeschooling experience; without a doubt, homeschooling has, for our family, only gotten better as time has passed.
A little perseverance, a teachable heart for life's lessons, and a bit of patience, and -- even if you don’t love your homeschooling experience now -- you, too, might enter into a new love affair.