Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Do I like homeschooling?

I've been asked a number of times recently, "Do you like homeschooling?"

It's a big question, and not one that has an easy answer, especially when it's asked by a parent who is considering homeschooling her own children.

If I were to reply simply, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" But it's not that simple.

A more accurate response might be, "It depends on which day you ask me."

In general, I love homeschool. Ninety percent of the time, when I reflect back on the day I've shared with my daughters, the same thought recurs in my mind: "I love homeschool!" And I truly do. Each day is a blessing. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done... but, as with parenting in general, there are days when I have to look very hard to see that blessing.

All children occasionally behave in ways that make their mothers wonder what planet they were born on, whose womb they came out of, because it certainly couldn't have been theirs. We shake our heads in confusion and bewilderment at the emotional outbursts, the displays of poor behavior, the absurdity that pours forth from our children in a seemingly random way. When you are a public schooling parent, you have the benefit of simply shaking your head, kissing your child, wishing them a wonderful day and sending them out the door, saying a silent prayer for normalcy to return before school gets out. Homeschool moms don't have that option. We shake our heads, kiss our children, and then pray fervently over the breakfast dishes that some Divine Intervention takes place in the hearts of our children before we lock ourselves in our bedrooms for the rest of the day with a basket full of the kids' Easter candy.

But after a miserable day, when we put them to bed and check in on their calm, peaceful, sleeping little bodies, we breathe again, and realize how blessed we were that we were able to stay with them through the rough spots of that day, to be the ones who helped them deal with their emotions... even if it means a few extra gray hairs.

And then the next day, our love and calm renewed after a good night's sleep half a night of interrupted sleep, we are rewarded with "The Lightbulb Moment". This is the greatest reward of any homeschool mother - seeing that concept, the one they have been working so hard to understand, finally "click". The eyes widen, a smile spreads across their face, and Mom breathes a sigh of relief as she lets go of the fear that her child may go through life never understanding how to do long division. On these days, I am energized, my belief in my own ability is renewed, and I say prayer after prayer of gratitude for these children I have been entrusted to teach.

Do I enjoy homeschooling? Absolutely. But then, I also enjoy hard work, and nothing is harder than teaching your own children. There is the planning of lessons. The constant nagging to "get to work or you won't get any free time." The fear that they may not learn enough, may be behind, might not ever have solid friendships, might turn out socially inept, may never learn to spell "conscience", may hate you for making them miss the prom...

And then you have a little conversation with them where the five year old explains that if you'd just let the plants in the garden bolt, you'd never have to pay for seeds again, and uses words like "apparently" and "inconceivable" in casual conversation. And then your ten year old presents to you her business plan for an animal shelter, gives you a history on extinct and endangered animals, and calculates the amount of feed she'll need for the two horses, fourteen dogs, eighty snakes and four hundred and twenty two birds she intends to care for. You go for a hike and they point out which plants are edible (just in case, you know) and puzzle out exactly what the outcome of the scuffle was when you see footprints and bits of hair scattered about on the trail. They go to the library and choose books about George Washington Carver and Thomas Edison. Your five year old walks along next to you off-handedly reciting "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost to herself.

And then you breathe. And you rejoice in how well rounded and positively brilliant these children are becoming... and not just by accident. Every moment of every day is lived intentionally. It's not just a walk down the road, it's a science lesson, a discussion about economics. It's not just collected eggs from backyard chickens, it's calculating profit and loss. Nothing in a homeschoolers life just happens. A homeschool mom seeks and finds every opportunity for learning... her job never ends. Do I enjoy it? Absolutely. Will you? Only you can answer that.

Homeschool isn't for everyone. And I'll say this right now - a child with a parent who is active in their education and life in general will do just fine. It doesn't matter where they get their schooling. What's right for one family may not be right for another, and no one but the parents know what is right for their family.

So... do I like homeschooling? You betcha. This is exactly what I was meant to do with my life. It's the hardest thing I've ever done on so many levels, and yet it's the most rewarding thing I'll ever do, too.

So there's the long answer to the very simple question... which really isn't all that simple at all.

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