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Like millions of other families in America, and around the world, we started homeschooling this fall with 2 of my 3 children. A month in, there are four things I’ve learned that have changed my outlook on homeschooling, what education is, and how I view myself.
I’ll start out by saying I’ve never been opposed to homeschooling (other than maybe when I was younger, not a parent and very uninformed). We made the decision pretty early in the summer, before our local district came out with its back-to-school plan. I even considered it for my 12-year-old son and my 7-year-old daughter even before all of this craziness started.
However, this brings me to my first lesson:
I have always loved school. All the subjects (well, except for calculus). All the books. All the things. Traditional school and I were made for each other. I’m a sit in your desk, fill out the worksheet, do your assignment and turn it in kind of person. So naturally, I always planned to put my kids in traditional school.
Over the past decade, however, my ideas about education, learning and school have evolved quite a bit. I know that traditional school isn’t always best. There are many avenues to education and for fostering a love of learning. Especially for kids with learning differences like mine–ADHD and gifted.
I’ve seen how my son struggled when he was thrust into middle school without the organizational, focus and other skills necessary to navigate multiple subjects and teachers well. But, my brain automatically wants to go the traditional route. It gets frustrated that he isn’t able to “do it the same way as me.” Ugh, and then I feel guilty because his brain is doing the best it can. We don’t have to sit in desks. There doesn’t have to be exactly scheduled class times. We don’t have to have “assignments.”
The old habit of how “school” is supposed to look and work is a hard one to shake, but one that I am working on every day.
You know how sometimes you think of something and picture it in your mind, but then the reality of it is so vastly different that you have no idea how you even thought they were related?
Like how you probably thought parenting would always be awesome, with lots of snuggles and story time and your child would never behave the way that other child is…. But as I’m sure you know by now, that vision is perhaps a tiny sliver of reality.
As I homeschool this year I am constantly fighting between my vision and my desire for my kids to be “prepared” for the future and college. The old habit of what my kids “need” to be learning and doing is strong. It is a constant back and forth. But I also want them to have fun, learn at their own pace, have time to explore, discover and get an education akin to the fun, magical one Julie Bogart talks about in her book The Brave Learner (This book changed my life!)
What I’ve learned is that they can coexist. Every moment doesn’t have to be magical and serious learning can also be fun. There is room for a math workbook and an impromptu poetry jam over lunch.
I have a wonderful character trait that causes me to get so excited about things that I want them ALL RIGHT NOW! (It’s great, I promise, lol) Like, I want to travel to all the places; I want to read all the books; I want teach them all the things…immediately.
It gets a little intense, until I remind myself to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember that as with most things in life, there’s time. We can’t (nor should we) cover everything we’re interested in all at once. The unit study curriculum we have from Gather Round Homeschool has such fun, awesome units that we’re so excited about. It is designed so we could finish one per month–but when I actually read through the lessons I realized there was SO much to talk about with each subject I’ve had to pause and reassess my timeline so that we’re not rushing through everything just to finish.
Deep breath. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and we can push some units back to next year if we need to. See…progress.
I have read a lot blog posts, books and websites about homeschooling in the past few months. One thing that experienced homeschooling families always say is a feeling of inadequacy; not doing enough; being behind; not doing the things you should be doing are all perfectly normal.
They’ve felt them too, and they continue to feel them, even though they’ve homeschooled several children into successful adulthood.
I know a lot of parents are feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of teaching their children this year. It’s a completely natural response to feel your skills are insufficient when something unexpected is thrust upon you. But, it does bring me much needed confidence, strength and hope that it seems to be a universal feeling. I’m not alone. I’m not going to mess up my kids. They’ll learn what they need to and be perfectly fine going into future years of schooling, whether its a home or back in traditional school.
I know that as this school year goes on, we’ll get into a better rhythm and routine. I’ll know more about what they need and how to make their education meaningful and fun. But as it stands, we’re only a month in and I feel like I’ve received quite the education already.
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