The Hidden Gifts of Homeschooling

The idea of being with my children all of the time was one of the things that gave me pause when I first considered homeschooling. I was convinced of the value of homeschooling based on all of the logical reasons I outlined earlier, but I doubted whether I would be able to rise to the challenge of being the parent I wanted to be without the daily break that sending my children to school would provide.  I hesitate to admit it, but I sometimes find their company…tedious. At the same time, I worried that being with them would be even more challenging if we spent most of our waking hours apart and lost the rapport and understanding that comes from being together.

I took a deep breath, and we started homeschooling.

While it’s taken some getting used to, some relinquishing of the notion of what “homeschooling” looks like and some revising of the picture in my mind of what a “clean house” looks like, and while I do occasionally envy Julian of Norwich and fantasize about walling myself up in a cell and having people drop food (and books) through a hole in the ceiling (“What bliss that would be!” I think on the really challenging days), I’ve been surprised to find just how much joy I derive from being with my children. I revel in their creativity and imagination, the way they take the seeds of an activity and make it into something elaborate and unexpected.

I feel grateful for the chance to watch them struggle with a new challenge and gradually…gradually…meet that challenge and look back at the starting point, amazed at how far they’ve come and with greater confidence in their ability to learn and grow in the future.

The more I witness these little wonders, the greedier I am for them.

In addition, I’ve discovered unexpected benefits to spending a large amount of time with my kids. There are wonderful things that sprout during the extended “nothing” times.

The other day as we walked along the suburban streets on our way home from the library, my daughter outlined for me the steps she performs to make up and then act out her “stories” (her favorite pastime).

“Step One: Read, read, read,” she said. “Step Two: Gather all the information and decide how you want your story to be. Step Three: Put all of that into words and act out your story until someone tells you it’s time to eat or it’s time to do something else.”

She lamented that she’s not been able to teach any of her friends how to do stories using her method. She worried that she might not be able to teach her brother how to do stories when he’s older. We talked a bit and brainstormed ideas about what kinds of modifications she’d need to make to the plan for a collaborative story rather than a solo story. By the time we got home, she’d devised a five-step plan and seemed confident that this plan would lead to many hours of sibling story-making.

Yesterday on a walking errand to spend a small fortune on our elderly cats’ prescription cat food, we talked about hiking the Appalachian Trail. I told her what I knew about it and she got very excited about the prospect of taking on a family thru-hike when she’s 18 and her brother is 14. I think she especially liked the idea of carrying our food and shelter on our backs. She seems to really like the term “bedroll.” She decided we’d thru-hike from Maine to Georgia (rather than the more common south-to-north direction) so we’d finish the most difficult part first. We hashed out some of the details and made plans to pick up some Appalachian Trail books and see if I could find the National Geographic special about the trail that I watched a while back.

It’s on these walks that my daughter often reveals to me her secret fears and dreams. If we didn’t have this “boring” time together, if we were rushed by a schedule of ferrying from activity to activity in the few hours we had remaining between school and bedtime, would I get to share these fears and dreams with her?

I’m not always the parent I want to be, but I don’t fall too far short of the mark most of the time. On the balance, this choice feels like the absolute best for us in this moment. Logic and reason got me into homeschooling, but it’s the joy that’s kept me here.

2 thoughts on “The Hidden Gifts of Homeschooling

  1. This is a great post, and a well deserved kick in the butt for me. What you described it what I want homeschool to feel like, but with four kids, two of them toddlers, two playing instruments and 20 students of my own, I often feel like a combination cruise director and drill sargeant. I need to start pondering on ways to find more of those moments.

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    1. Thank you, Stacy, although please know that I didn’t intend to kick anyone in the keister.

      For whatever reason, these past two weeks of the “new school year” have been pretty darned nice, all things considered. Of course, my son painted on the wood paneling in the toy room and drew on three walls of my daughter’s bedroom and ruined two sets of blinds and this morning they were driving me so nuts that I called my husband at work and joked that I needed a babysitter for some time away from the kids so I could write a post about how much I like being with them. And the toddler thing…man, that is something that is nigh impossible to manage, even with just one. I don’t know how I’d manage it with TWO toddlers running around and trying to tackle their sister(s) while they’re practicing their instrument(s) (do yours do that? ’cause mine does). And the only extracurriculars I have are my blog, reading, and church, none of which take as much time, I’m sure, as 20 violin students. (And incidentally, I was looking at a homeschool planner system tonight online that follows a very detailed and (to my eye) ambitious plan for academic and character development for up to 6 children, but I noticed that in their sample book, they list as the daily schedule for the youngest child, a 2.5-year-old, “at Grandma’s until 1pm, then nap.” I thought, sure, this would be a cinch if the toddler threat was neutralized every day until 2 or 3pm. And I stopped feeling so much like I should be doing more.)

      But I guess my point was just that sometimes those moments of grace just kind of happen, and I’ve got to pay attention to them before the kids start strangling each other again. It seems to help me maintain my tenuous grip on sanity.

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