Though I’m brutally honest about the drawbacks of homeschooling, there are enough positives to keep me going. In fact, once I sat down to write about them, I realized that I’d need to break this into at least two blog posts to keep from overwhelming you—and I’m sure there are many aspects I’ve failed to mention! But without further ado, here is Why I Love Homeschooling: Part I.
Remember that look of smug delight when your little one first said, “Ba!” and you understood and got him the ball that was stuck under the couch? The triumph on your preschooler’s face when she first successfully hopped on one foot? Would you have wanted to miss those moments? They don’t end at age five, you know. Your child is always learning, delighting in their achievements. As a schoolteacher, I had the privilege of witnessing some of those brilliant “aha” moments in the lives of other people’s children. As a homeschooler, I have the joy of being present for my own children’s big-kid successes. Sounding out their first words? Successfully completing that first really long subtraction problem? Deducing why they can’t hear me whispering behind them until they put a hand in front of their ear? I get to see it all!
I take delight in watching my children, and anything that shows the working of their brains brings me glee. Thus, homeschooling is sheer glory for the nerd within. Get this: Both of my older children were working through the same math program at different paces. In one lesson, they were supposed to explain how they found the solution to a certain problem. When Peatie did it, he explained his work like this, “37 + 54… Well, 30+50 is 80, and 7+4 is 11, so it’s 91 because 80+11 is 91.” When Goober did it, she explained her work like this, “37+54. Well, 37+3 is 40, so I take 3 from the 4, and that leaves 1, so 41. And 41+50 is 91.” Is there another nerd out there who finds this as cool as I do? No? Okay, my husband isn’t enthralled by such things either. Don’t worry, there’s more to love!
You know that feeling of closeness you have when you’re working on a project—just you and your kids? Their eyes sparkle both with the joy of the activity and the certainty of their importance to you that your attention brings. Now imagine that happening every day. That’s why I stay up late to figure out the best way for a 5- and 6-year-old to experience cuneiform, the most engaging experiments to help them understand the effects of sunlight. Every day I get to introduce an activity that excites them, something for us to bond over. I love that for them, learning will be connected with the warm feelings of familial closeness and Mom’s attention.
Of course, not all of learning is rainbows and unicorns. Most things worth doing are hard things, and hard things often bring frustration. As a parent with only three children in my charge, I can immediately sense when things are going south. I can coach my kids through frustration, giving them personalized tools to help them. For Peatie, this means taking a deep breath and slowing down to re-read anything that initially seems confusing. For Goobie, this means something physical—a hug of reassurance or the physical act of walking away from a problem and coming at it again. Were I a parent trying to squeeze in an hour of homework per kid between dinner prep, evening clean-up, and bedtime routines, I’m not sure I would have had the time or patience to discover each child’s ideal way of dealing with frustration.
As a teacher, I remember the helpless feeling of watching a student who obviously wasn’t grasping the material. I could pull them aside for a few moments at the beginning of recess and hope an additional explanation would help, but there was no way for me to adjust the pacing of the class’s lessons to meet the needs of individual children. On the opposite end of the spectrum were the children who could expertly complete everything I threw their way without bothering to pay attention in class. With limited resources, I couldn’t do much more than offer them “enrichment work” or assign an alternative novel. As a teacher of three, I tailor the learning to my kids. We combine lessons if the work seems too easy or stop to camp on one if it’s a concept that’s just not clicking. I agonize over our subject matter, choosing materials I know will appeal to my kids and spending more time on the subjects they most enjoy.
“But won’t that spoil them?” some have asked. “Not everything in life is going to be perfectly tailored to suit them. And there are some things they need to learn about even if they aren’t excited about them.” As an adult, do you look for a job in a field you despise? Do you learn eagerly from activities you abhor? Children, of course, are the same. Not all of them will be incredible wordsmiths or stunning mathematicians, and that’s okay. I certainly want to give my kids a well-rounded education, but they will learn far better and far more eagerly if they can do so in a way that appeals. And what is the ultimate goal of education—teaching children to suck it up when they don’t like something, or helping children to develop an understanding of the world and the ability and eagerness to learn more about what interests them? So I lean more heavily on the things my kids love best when they’re young, and I teach things in a way they will enjoy. There’s plenty of time for expanding our horizons and learning the harsh realities of life down the road.
Stay tuned! There’s more to come in “Why I Love Homeschooling: Part 2”!