We haven’t always home-schooled. My kids, 13 and 10, spent their school years in public schools until January of this year. After much research, many discussions, tears and intense family meetings, my husband and I decided that it was best for our family to pull our kids from public school and start home-schooling them.
It was one of the most rewarding, warming, on-the-verge-of-breaking-down craziest decisions we have ever made as a family, and it’s taught me a few things so far.
1. There is no division between home and school. I find myself asking, “Is this how you acted in public school?” at least five times a day. As much as you want your kids to just behave like they did in school and treat you like a teacher during their learning time, they won’t. You’ll still be Mom, which means that if they want to whine about five math problems, they’ll whine about five math problems. They have no qualms about looking at you and asking why they even have to learn about quadrilaterals, and they will take 77 bathroom and snack breaks without asking.
2. You will get it wrong, until you get it right. We started out with one of those school-at-home online programs. They sent us everything, assigned my kids teachers, scheduled the kids for testing — the whole nine yards. Two weeks later, my kids were miserable. They were “in school” from 9 in the morning until 5 at night. We all hated it; it wasn’t for us. Home schooling, to us, was supposed to be about taking charge of the kids’ education — not plopping them in front of a computer for 5-8 hours a day. So, we sent everything back and started such-and-such curriculum. Then we tried another one. Now, almost four months later, we’ve finally pieced together a program we are all happy with. You definitely won’t get everything perfect in the beginning, and you may never get it perfect, but when you finally find that beautiful balance among curriculum, time and happiness, you’ll know, and it puts you on cloud nine.
3. Joining one of those home schooling groups or co-ops is necessary for your sanity … and one of the best decisions you could make. Because my kids had been in public schools, I wasn’t too concerned with the socialization aspect of home schooling … until about two weeks into it. Spending 24/7 in a house with your kids is not healthy — for you or for them. I quickly found a local home schooling group that met weekly, and the kids and I love it. Most home schooling groups plan field trips (groups get discount prices, too) and park days/picnic days/potlucks. They are a great way to get your family out of the house, get them around other home schooling kids, and be around moms who really understand what you are going through. I even managed to find myself a group of what I call Misfit Moms — we cuss, we drink, we let our kids dye their hair blue and purple. My kids have found friends, I’ve found friends, and we’re out doing things I would have never thought of doing.
4. When you let your kids explore their interests in learning, they surprise you. After we ditched the school-at-home program, I printed out a list of curriculum subjects by grade level, so we could still cover what we needed for each kid. I started out by telling the kids what specific topics we’d do in history and science, and all I heard were groans. There’s something about being told you have to do something that takes whatever fun there could be out of it. So I showed the kids the list and told them to pick. Their eyes lit up. Topics they rolled their eyes about were now on the table again, because they could choose them. After that, they started branching out, wanting to learn, which amazed me. My 13-year-old, who watched CSI with me for fun, was now checking out books from the library on crime scene investigation. My 10-year-old started his own YouTube channel after he taught himself how to make stop motion videos with his Legos. Since the moment I let the kids choose lessons they were interested in, we’ve covered the Colonial times through the Revolutionary War, dinosaurs and prehistoric life, the human body, the Italian Renaissance, ecosystems, the environment and conservation, and nutrition. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
5. Home-schooled kids are weird. Since becoming part of the home school community, I’ve met some pretty amazing kids. I’ve met a 15-year-old enrolled in college classes. I’ve met a preteen so passionate about LGBT rights that she could talk any anti-LGBT adult under the table with valid, eloquent responses. I’ve met teenagers who taught themselves computer coding, and other kids who have started their own businesses. These kids are not “normal” by the definition of “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.”
These kids are the next problem solvers of our world, and they are free thinkers who walk to the beat of their own drums. I’m not saying these types of kids don’t exist in the public school system — they do. I just think the home schooling environment gives the kids a little more freedom to pursue their own interests. These amazing kids are not “usual, typical, or expected,” — they are “weird,” as in “quirky, eccentric, unconventional.” And I’m happy my kids are among the weird.
Since we started home schooling, we’ve had our smooth days and our rough days, but one thing has always remained constant: Home schooling is a learning experience for the whole family, not just the kids. Give me another few months, and I could have a whole new list of things home schooling has taught me. Amazing, fulfilling, rewarding, crazy, chaotic and trying: this is home school.
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