Ten Years of Homeschooling

Claire and Aidan in our early homeschooling days.
Claire and Aidan in our early homeschooling days.

Happy Homeschoolaversary to us!  We began homeschooling in August 2003: 10 years ago.  As we enter our ELEVENTH homeschool year this week (wow!), I am reflecting on how very different our homeschool life has turned out compared to my expectations.  A few things I’ve learned:

::Homeschooling parents can be uncharitable too::

Most homeschoolers have to deal with arrogant and ignorant questions from parents of traditional school students.  Homeschoolers are often unfairly judged and criticized.  What surprised me, though, is the sometimes uncharitable things homeschool parents say about traditional school students, even in front of their kids.  It’s simply unfair to assume that only homeschool parents are passionately devoted to their children.  While I have found it easier to live out my ideals with my children while homeschooling, many non-homeschooling parents are just as devoted to their child’s education — both their head education and their heart education — as homeschooling parents.

::Don’t get too attached to your plans::

I always have a learning plan for each child in the beginning of the year and even a weekly schedule that gives us an idea what each child should be doing on each day. I come up with “Learning Blocks” on specific topics we’re interested in, complete with reading lists and syllabi.  See evidence of my mania here!  I’ve learned, though, not to get too attached to my plans.  My plans are only tools, not rules.  My plans are supposed to work for me; I don’t work for my plans.  Sometimes, things come up when you’re living with kids.  Sometimes it’s huge: an illness, an accident, a crisis beyond our doors.  But most of the time, it’s small stuff that comes up:  The dinner dishes need to be done in the morning, nobody has any clean underwear so a load must be done, or there’s no milk for breakfast.  Life can get in the way of our plans, and that’s fine.  Living our lives as a family is part of the homeschool equation.

I also relish those days when we just let go of the plan and go off on some tangent — a question to answer, an experience to embrace, or a project that emerges from conversation.  This is one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling — this flexibility in how we learn and when we learn it.  I think my plans give me confidence that my kids will live in a rich learning environment; my breaks from my plans remind me that sometimes they teach me what such an environment looks like.

::Babies will not bring learning to a halt::

When I was pregnant with my third child Dominic, I was still very committed to Classical homeschooling.  I worried that I’d fail to keep up with Aidan’s curriculum and that I’d fall short of my duties as a homeschooling parent.  Well, of course, we didn’t keep up with that curriculum!  I had a baby!  So what.  In the long run, Aidan more than “caught up” with the curriculum.  But more importantly, I learned that those precious weeks after welcoming a new baby into the family are very short but also very powerful in shaping how older siblings perceive new life and the sacredness of family.  THAT lesson is way more important that identifying all the parts of a flower.

::The best part of homeschooling is the lifestyle::

I started homeschooling because I wanted to provide my children a superb education — rich in content, interesting, and rigorous —  a kind of education that I felt we couldn’t find in any public or private school in my community.  I still think I’m giving my kids a superb education, but what I think that requires has changed.  However, quality of education isn’t the best part of homeschooling my kids, no matter how I define it.  The best part is the deep, enduring bonds we have forged through living and learning together every day.  We live an intensely close lifestyle, so we’ve had to learn about forbearance, patience, and forgiveness, but we’ve also lived an astonishing adventure together every week, month, and year.  We have fun.  We play together, explore, wonder, dig, build, create together.  All these adventures are now part of our family history.

As a mother and a woman, my own life has turned out better than I ever imagined.  I have grown along with children.  I have learned along with them.  I’ve also found a creative part of myself I never knew was there.  I didn’t expect that.With Lydia being only three, now I get to look forward to fifteen more years of homeschooling, God willing!

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