“What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all.”
- John Holt
The ultimate joy of educating your child at home is in the infinite flexibility. There are days my husband and I tag team, there are days we toil over book work until 3 p.m., and there are days we decide to head to the garden to see how our tomatoes are growing or pull all the kale eaten up by the flea beetles and then go inside to watch a documentary on sustainable living. Try as I may, I cannot discount one day of learning at home as unsuccessful.
When I first began, my primary fear was that they would not learn enough. I had been told several times throughout my life that I should pursue teaching because I love kids, but I shot it down every time. I knew I never wanted to be a teacher. The idea of being responsible for someone else’s education sounded as far-fetched as being asked to perform open heart surgery. The potential consequences are dire, aren’t they? When we make the decision to educate our own child, we are literally proclaiming that we can do it without the help, the services, the regulations, and the resources that the local school already has. I kept getting visions of my future adult children standing before me—dull, dumb, and illiterate—dragging me into their therapy session to ask why I made such a horrible decision.
All of our kids are adopted, and our youngest was the only one we were legally permitted to homeschool prior to their adoptions being finalized because he was under the mandatory school age. Our days were initially very simple. He’d spent four years amidst abuse and neglect, so our interactions were limited to a short list of things I could get him to do: roll a car back and forth on the table, vacuum, and help me with the laundry. One day after closing the door of our front loading washing machine, he asked if he could sit in front of it and watch the clothes spin. I, of course, indulged him, and he sat and watched the entire 47 minutes, asking questions like, “Where do the bubbles come from? Why do we wash clothes? How much longer?”
Right there, at our washer and dryer, in a simple conversation about how soap works, what germs were, and how to read a digital timer, we both started learning. That was the moment I realized that homeschooling wasn’t about math or language arts, but about questions. Life is packed full of questions, like a quarry waiting to be mined for knowledge and inspiration.
Thank God for laundry!
That was almost four years ago, and a lot has changed since then. After several months of being home with me, our youngest no longer qualified for his mental retardation diagnosis. All four of our children have made great strides academically, emotionally, and relationally, just as I have made in learning what and how children need to learn. Still, our children have some delays and disabilities that I occasionally get hung up on. I panic about whether or not I will be able to navigate their lingering emotional trauma or maneuver around their brain damage. After all, I am a mom, and I feel it’s my job to be worried I am not doing enough. At the same time, I have learned how to take care of myself in those times through stopping and looking at how far they’ve come, asking God for a reality check, and talking to other homeschooling parents who have the exact same insecurity.
For my husband and me, homeschooling was the most unlikely road to take, until we became parents and saw a need in our children greater than any school could meet. That was the catalyst of a life where anything is possible. Because we have freedom to be flexible in our homeschool, their disabilities are a non-issue. Because we homeschool, we’ve witnessed great strengths to nurture in our children beyond the common core. Because we homeschool, we don’t have to convince anyone to care for our child like we would.
Now, homeschooling excites me more than it scares me. Sure, there are days when I’m tired and overwhelmed, but the good far outweighs the hard, and I know I’m extremely blessed. We’ve acquired a rhythm of learning, playing, and resting, and after four grueling years of building a homeschooling foundation for our family, I want to have a space where homeschool parents can come together and share their experiences.
One of the most exciting parts of homeschooling is the diversity in families, styles, and dynamics. It may feel comfortable to collaborate only with people who do things just as we do, but we thrive in situations where we explore. Isn’t that what we’re helping our children to see? Go out and discover. Wrestle and grow. Live and learn.
Welcome, new friends, to that space. Pull up a chair and tell us about yourself. It is so good to be here with you.
Grace and peace,