In Part 1, I described some difficulties that come with homeschooling and how to handle them. Now I think I should also remind those newer to homeschooling of all the advantages of this lifestyle.
When we began homeschooling, it was so nice for us to be able to stay in on a cold rainy day and read book after book while the neighbor kids stood out in the rain waiting for the bus. I remember my kids spending happy hours in the basement, using an easel my sister gave them to paint masterpieces while I put classical music on the tape player (“Peter and the Wolf” was a special favorite; I loved it because it introduced my children to the orchestra and the instruments used in it.)
Sometimes we took a day out to go to a children’s theater with a small group of homeschoolers we’d met (this was before there were any support groups in my area). The kids loved sitting at the play with their friends and then meeting for lunch at McDonald’s afterwards. All seemed very aware that it was a school day for other kids but they got to have fun.
We also learned to go to museums in the afternoon, after all the school kids had gone back to their classes, and we’d have the whole place to ourselves. The kids loved it!
On cold days, when the snow was blowing, we could stay in our warm house, and I’d let the kids have mugs of hot chocolate while they did their schoolwork. An extra-special treat was to have chocolate-chip pancakes for lunch.
On library days, they could spend an hour picking out books, then go home where we’d sit together on the sofa or the screened porch and read book after book, for as long as they wanted.
Sometimes we’d meet homeschooling friends at the park and the kids could play for hours, with no time restraints marked by whistles or ringing bells. They’d play for a while, come back to the picnic table for a juice box and a snack, and then run back out again. I’d bring them home sweaty, tired and happy.
When I first began homeschooling, I also had a job working as a proofreader/writer for a woman who ran a company out of her home and only employed freelancers. While we met at the office to go over a project and pick up our assignments (this was long before email!), our kids would hang out in the conference room and draw pictures together, or spin on the chairs. They thought this was great fun.
When the kids were 6 and 7, I had another baby. They had prayed for a little sibling, and because they didn’t have to go to school each day, they got to be there to help give her a bath or spoon-feed her at mealtimes. Since she was a spring baby, sometimes we’d just put her on a blanket and sit around her and marvel at how beautiful God had made her. The kids were so excited to see her each morning; how glad I was that I didn’t have to send them off to school!
These are memories from the first years of homeschooling. We made plenty more for years after that. The freedom that my kids had to learn and explore was something that shaped them and can never be taken away from them. It helped make them who they are today. They, of course, don’t remember as many of the details as I do, but I remember their happy faces. I also remember them watching them run out to play with their neighbor friends after the school bus brought them home in the afternoon, and thinking that they had the best of both worlds. They were free to learn and play all day, and to have fun with their neighborhood friends once they came home from school.
The messy house, the garden covered with weeds, the laundry basket that never stayed empty…..those things bothered me at the time, but now they’re distant memories, and I realize how unimportant they were. It was worth putting up with the mess and the difficulties so that the kids could grow up learning and playing on a natural schedule instead of an artificial one. They enjoyed years of unstructured play and pursuit of their own interests. Our family time came naturally; we didn’t have to schedule it. It was just our life.
Some of you reading this are going through challenges right now. It comes with the territory, and you may need to make some changes to make life less difficult. But don’t quit homeschooling just because it’s harder to juggle the kids and the house than you thought it would be. You need to look at the big picture. Think about the advantages you’re giving your kids by homeschooling them. Make a list of all the things they’ve learned lately, and of the things you hope to do with them in the future. And remember that nothing worth having is easy to obtain.
You’ll have to make sacrifices: of your time, of your energy, of your money. Speaking of money, you know, when I look back, living on one income all those years meant we didn’t drive expensive cars or go on extended high-end vacations. But that wasn’t important. What was important was that we had time together….. nothing can replace that. You’ll have that too. Concentrate on the positives, and enjoy this time with your kids. You won’t be sorry.
©2010 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank homeschooled three children to adulthood and continues to homeschool her youngest son. She’s the author of “Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers, “The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling,” and “Homeschooling Your Teenagers,” as well as two upcoming books. You'll find her on the Web at www.cardamompublishers.com and http://barbarafrankonline.com