Now that I have graduated one homeschooled kid and successfully gotten her to college, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. Suddenly all the things I worried about are diminished and all the ‘mistakes’ I thought I made look like they were meant to happen.
The last few weeks have given me some time to look back on Kiley’s homeschooling and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and where I’d like to go with the remaining three.
Here’s what I think worked:
Allowing her passions to lead the way.
Kiley has always been a creative thinker, enjoying hours of pretend play and art work. She’s always enjoyed music and reading. I picked up on the fact that if Kiley was passionate about something she would absorb the information better.
I know, duh.
Still, that’s not how we’re taught, and that’s not how I thought. I believed that if the manual had instructions it was because the instructions must be followed, always. It took some serious trials and more than a few errors before I realized I could do things my own way, or better yet, that my kid could do things her own way
When Kiley was ten or so she fell in love with YouTube. We bought her a camera and she had her own channel. She taught herself to film, edit, and add music to her videos. Kiley taught herself how to do stop motion film. She learned more about computers than I was able to teach her, and now she’s heading off to college to study film. So all that ‘wasting time’ was actually her honing in on her passion.
Kiley has taught herself to sew, Laurel taught herself ukulele, and Spencer became a gardener because they each found joy in learning those things, not because I thought it would be a good idea.
I learned if it’s important to them it needs to be important to me, too.
Letting her decide when she would work.
This one was hard for this first born mama. I like to be in charge, and when we started school I had certain ideas of what I thought education would look like. My strong-willed first born was much the same, so her kindergarten year sometimes looked more like a round of Family Feud gone wrong. One day I got the bright idea to ask her what she would like to do first and was shocked that she had an opinion. She was never a morning person, ever. She’s always done her best work after being allowed to create and play and roam around outside. Kiley wanted to play first and work later. So we tried that and it worked. Getting out her creative energy gave her the room she needed to do seat work later in the day.
As Kiley got older I was able to turn more and more over to her. She learned to schedule herself and work on what she wanted to when she wanted to. Some years we had a homeschool schedule, but by the time she was in 6th grade it was up to her how and when she got her weekly work done. There were bumps in the road (like the time I discovered she had been watching Stargate Atlantis rather than doing her online math work), but we both learned what the other needed.
Allowing her to move on when something wasn’t working.
That’s not the same as failing. It’s knowing your strengths and weaknesses and deciding not to waste time with something that’s just filler. If it’s not something she’s going to use for the work God intends her to do it’s probably not a skill she’ll need to master.
That’s not to say if your kid doesn’t like doing basic math, grammar, or reading that you should just give up. Basics are important, but I do think that a lot of time can be wasted in an attempt to get kids to master every subject. I feel like the word average has obtained a wrongful bad rap. What is wrong with average? You can’t be awesome at everything, but you can be really, really good at some things. Why do we want kids to learn so much before age 18, seriously? Unless they want to know everything, then it’s fine.
It will come when it comes, even if they’re 42 when they decide biology isn’t horrible.
There’s only a few things I would change if I could turn back time…
Quality over quantity…
I wish that I had understood earlier that what they learn is way more important than the amount of time that they spend learning. I was educated in public school so I had this idea that ‘school’ had to happen between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., a notion that has been VERY hard for me to walk away from. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty that my kids played outside so much during their elementary years and only a couple of hours doing seat work. Looking back I don’t regret that at all!
What I do regret is that I felt like something was wrong with my children playing outside for hours, exploring nature, figuring each other out, and making outhouses.
Yes, they made outhouses.
They also learned about nouns and verbs, but I think the outhouse was more practical. 😉
Comparing our home educating journey to…anything else.
There is no comparing public school and home school. They are two completely different beasts. Things could have been easier in my earlier years if I had recognized that there is no comparing two homeschools, either. Just like each person is uniquely made, each family is unique. What works for us may not work for someone else.
We did a certain math program for two years (two very long years) even though it did not work for us. I thought that I had to because it was the best. It said so in the reviews, my friends loved it. Never mind that there was three pages of reading before the 100 math problems and after the timed math facts review, and that the pages were soaked with their tears 5 minutes in to the eight hour lesson. It was the best, darn it, so it must work.
It took my brother, Erik, cleaning my homeschool room, leading to us losing our math books for months, for me to realize that homeschooling without tears was possible. We got rid of that math and did other things and guess what? We were fine. Better than fine, in fact.
Our best homeschool years happened when I asked the kids what they wanted to learn about and combined that with what I thought was important for them to know.
Not making my mental health a priority.
Homeschooling is hard, there’s no way around it. It’s never ending, there are no days off, and you will be giving a lot of yourself. You’ll be student and teacher all at once, you still have to be a partner to your spouse, keep up with family relationships, friendships, make sure you’re growing spiritually, feed the dog, take the kids to the doctor, and don’t forget the dental checkups, and cooking balanced meals, and…
You see how important mental health is?
Seriously, though, I wish I had checked in with a counselor sooner. You can always find free Christian counseling or one that uses a sliding scale for fees. At the very least check out some self-helps books, take quiet time every day to meditate and pray, and talk to Jesus frequently, and by frequently I mean constantly.
Whew, that was way longer than I meant for it to be. Thanks for sticking it out to the end.
One of my favorite things to do is to do look back at the work the kids have done over the years, especially on days when I feel like I haven’t accomplished my goals. It makes me feel proud of the past and invigorated for the future. Is it the same for you, too?