When I tell people that we have (and are) homeschooling our eight children (now ages 12-26, 5 graduated) from K-12, I always get a little squeamish. I always have. It’s not because I am ashamed that we homeschool, it’s just that I’m pretty sure the first thing that pops in their minds are visions of me standing up in front of my mini-one-room schoolhouse group of children and lecturing them on the 3 R’s. Oh, and don’t forget the deep insightful science experiments and detailed timelines which we slowly fill in over our many years of history study.
NOT!!!!!!! I know it in my gut. Immediately. That. Is. Not. Us. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a public school setting, I have the tendency to see that as the “ideal”. And yet, in my heart, I KNOW it’s really not. Even though I would definitely call our homeschool experience “successful”, letting go of those expectations, whether they be mine or someone else’s is still a battle for me sometimes.
I started homeschooling with 2 educational goals in mind: 1.) To feed and nurture our children’s natural love for learning so they don’t burn out, but instead become life long learners 2.) Teach them to be resourceful. In other words, to know where to go to find out what it is they want to know.
What did that look like? I can tell you what it DIDN’T look like: I had eight kids. I couldn’t do it all. If I had two I could not do it all. I still can’t. I can’t spend all day looking over my kids’ shoulders making sure they are doing everything “right”. I didn’t ever do unit studies even though it would have made sense with the variety of ages I had. I didn’t do lapbooking. We didn’t study history or science intentionally (you know, go through a full study) together. AND GASP…I didn’t read out loud a lot to our kids. (Even though I firmly believe it’s important to read to our kids, our out loud readings have been very hit and miss. I did the best I could and all of our kids love to read.)
So there. I said it. With my luck, this post will go viral and I’ll get a phone call from some relative telling me that I have epically FAILED. Hopefully I can avoid that kind of misery, by sharing what I DID do.
I did get our kids to do their schoolwork independently as soon as possible (more of a matter of survival). So as they got reading and writing and basic math down pretty well, they were responsible to do a certain number of pages in their math, handwriting and language books each day. I checked those…most of the time. I made THEM read the directions in their workbooks and tell me what they thought they meant. They had a time to read(usually during quiet time after lunch). They explored outside A LOT. They picked up, looked at and read the good books we conveniently had laying around the house. I answered their questions. If I didn’t know the answers, we found out the answers in books or used Google. I had the older kids answer the younger kids’ questions. I had my husband answer questions. We listened for their interests and tried to encourage them and helped them find resources to learn more. They had time to play with Legos, jump on the trampoline, chase frogs, build forts, experiment. We had a consistent daily routine. I made them do chores. They took some enrichment classes (because I am not crafty.at.all). We laughed a lot together. They helped me grow gardens. We cooked and baked together. We did practical projects together. We held them accountable for their actions. We corrected their grammar, spelling, manners, and communication skills through daily conversations. We built a house together. We have dinner around the table together every night. We had countless conversations about endless subjects. And we didn’t do all of this in one week or even one month. This happened over many years. Right now our oldest two daughters are married to great Christian guys and are making wonderful wives and moms. Our oldest son is 22, graduated from college last year with a B.A. in Computer Science and a minor in Game Design and Communications Systems. He is working as a software engineer. He’s shared his perspective on being homeschooled a few years ago in this video… here). We’ve graduated 2 more sons who are both gainfully employed and have 3 still schooling at home. They are good (not to be confused with perfect) students. We receive compliments on a regular basis about all of our kids’ good manners, willingness to work and great, positive attitudes in general.
We live life with our kids. We share our struggles, pray for each other, learn how to encourage each other. We have each other’s backs. As our kids mature, we expose them to real life problems and ask them what they think about them and what God says about them. The most important thing we have ever done is to point our kids back to Christ. To remind them over and over again that they need Jesus and so do we.
At this time, all of our children have a personal, growing relationship with God (the 12 year old is still wrapping his head around what this is for REALS). They “own” their walk with God. And that is the key…helping our kids grow into owning their decisions, mistakes, actions, education, relationships, and beliefs. So there it is. In black and white. A reminder NOT to assume anything about what another family’s homeschooling looks like. We do best when tend our own little “gardens” (mind our own business/don’t compare) and relax and enjoy these years with our kids by finding out what fits our families best!
If you’d like more of this kind of encouragement, I recently published a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling called The Unhurried Homeschooler !