I first toyed with the idea of homeschooling when my oldest was just a toddler. And then I actually followed through and have been doing it since. Why?
Despite having a strong religious affiliation, that was not my primary reason.
Despite living in a state that historically hovers around number 49 for education in the US, that was not my reason.
I personally had great school experiences, having tested the waters of public, Catholic and Department of Defense schools myself. So it wasn’t to avoid the horrors of school in general.
I did remember being very busy starting around Middle School. And when I looked around me, I saw families running themselves ragged. I saw parents and kids working all day long and then spending all afternoon and evening in various lessons, at games, practices and rehearsals. Plus homework!
I wondered when they just spent time together. Did these kids get free time? Was it enough? Did they run around the neighborhood until it got dark? Was that even a thing anymore?
I also recognized that my kids wanted to be with me. I knew that wouldn’t last forever and that soon enough, they would be seeking opportunities to get away from ‘ol mom. They would want to hang out with her friends. That is normal and expected. So in expectation, I wondered how I could maximize my time with my kids and enjoy them while they still enjoyed me.
That is what led me to homeschooling – an evaluation of lifestyle. In a world where people seem to wear their busyness like a badge, I wanted to brag about how un-busy I was. I also wanted to enjoy my kids and my time with them. And then this seemed to dovetail with other priorities I found struggling in the world. Such as:
Siblings who hang out together, play, fight and figure it out on their own.
Opportunities to get bored. Unstructured playtime!
Life skills. I wondered how I could give my kids the gift of chores (yes, that’s right kids-you’ll thank me in a decade or two) if they were already booked up with school and other activities. I wanted our days to include family contributions such as cooking, tidying up, scrubbing dirty things and maybe even some gardening.
Independent Learning. I’m no unschooler. We definitely used textbooks and I put together curricula. But my goal was to help my kids learn how to learn. Over time, they gained more and more independence over their education. Eventually, they did as much as they could on their own and came to me for help when they needed it. And even then, I would ask “where could we go to find this information?”
I now have two in high school. One is only in her third weekend as I write this. She’s struggling in some ways with the adjustment. I checked in with the teacher who responded (sorry, brag moment here), “I really enjoy having her in class. She does advocate for herself, tries very hard, and has a great attitude.” I’m very aware she may not come out of the class with a high grade. But if she can self -advocate, try hard and keep a good attitude, the rest will fall into place.
Sustainable friendships. Kids love playing with their friends at school. But often, the new year brings new classrooms and less time with last year’s “best friends.” I found the homeschool community and our ongoing regular events made for friendships that lasted years. Yes, there were Ebbs and flows of course. But many of those families attended my daughter’s 16th birthday last year.
Precious evenings and weekends. When my kids were young, my husband worked a typical Monday through Friday schedule. I purposely sought out homeschool activities that met during the school day. With elementary kids, school does not take all day. So we were able to do drama or dance or field trips during the day. This left our evenings and weekends free for spending time together. And, if I’m honest, for Mom to get away for awhile and let Dad do his dad thing.
Grandparents and extended family. Looking back now, I see how many opportunities my kids had to visit with extended family. If visitors came from out of town, we could put things on hold and enjoy our time together. The kids had a weekly date with Grandma. There were overnight visits during the week. These were a blessing for everyone, including me, as I often also worked part time. Mostly, those are memories my kids will cherish as time goes by.
Creative industry. I have almost always run a small business or done contract work while homeschooling. My kids used to imitate my phone voice when I took a business call. I occasionally took opportunities to pay them (in some way, not necessarily cash) to help me with business endeavors. My husband would scold me for turning the lemonade stand into a small business lesson. But come on! Reading, Writing, math – economics they actually cared about! I couldn’t resist.
Health. Most importantly sleep and nutrition. According to plenty of articles that I don’t have appropriately cited here, our kids are chronically sleep-deprived. It was a blessing to adjust my kids’ schedules as needed. This is not to say they slept until noon. The younger ones often got up much earlier than I would have liked. But as they got older, they had phases of needing more sleep. Or, they would have a growth spurt or an illness and just need more rest. And when homeschooling, they could have it. This is probably what my kids miss most when they begin “real” school.
Being able to feed my kids at home was another big benefit of homeschooling that I embraced. Okay, I didn’t always embrace it. Feeding your kids 3 meals a day, mostly real food, takes a lot of time and energy. But I don’t think anyone can deny the health benefits.
Let me be very clear about this: I did leave the house and we did have seasons of busyness. We were not hidden away from the world. And I feel I managed to keep our extracurricular lives very reasonable. Once I had two teenagers, though, I surrendered to this season of life. I realized that my happy, active and engaged kids were age-appropriately ready to be busy and I donned the chauffeur hat that has been waiting for me all these years.
I am still very conscious of when I need to say no to their requests for the sake of our family. And I do. After all these years, they know when I’m serious and that I’m not making the decision in order to make them suffer, but to help everyone in our family. So while homeschooling might not be for YOU, it might be worth considering if you are worried about overscheduled kids or a harried lifestyle, as I was.