Homeschooling advice from graduates who have been there

advicepicmo

Written by contributor Jena Borah of Yarns of the Heart

I‘ve been writing here at Simple Homeschool, off and on, for the past four years. What an awesome community this has become! It’s a place of encouragement and inspiration on this bumpy road we call homeschooling.

Back in my day (we’re talking the 90s and early 2000s), I would have loved to find my “tribe” like this. So I send hugs, smiles, and a raised coffee cup to all you courageous parents reading right now.

This will be my last regular post here, so I thought it would be nice to give you a voice from the future, the voice of a grown homeschooled child. I asked my grown kids this question: What advice would you give homeschooling parents?

family big but cropped

Peter (25) says this:

“To me, the mospeter headshott important parts of a good homeschooling experience are freedom and independence, tempered by responsibility.

Homeschooling is at its best when children are given the respect and trust to set their own path, with whatever encouragement and support the parents are able to give. Our biggest advantage is being free from the rules and structures of traditional school, and it would be a wasted opportunity to simply replicate them at home.

In college and the working world, I’ve found that the confidence, skills, and interests I developed as a homeschooler have served me incredibly well.

After graduating college with an interesting-but-useless degree, it was the most natural thing in the world for me to teach myself computer programming and turn that into what looks to be an excellent career. And perhaps most importantly, I had a great time doing it.

Homeschooling parents don’t need to be afraid of freely chosen structures and responsibilities – their children certainly won’t be! Some of my best memories are the times I spent playing in a junior orchestra, or filming TV shows with Dallas Community Television.

I even chose to spend a year at a traditional school, which was a very good experience, if not one I would choose to repeat.

Similarly, freedom should not mean spoiled or sheltered. There will be times when your child’s wanderings take them somewhere expensive, impractical, or dangerous. Don’t hide this from them, but bring them into the conversation. The summer film camp I attended meant that much more because I had to spend a semester working to pay for it.

Above all, children simply need love, trust, and respect. Treat them as you would like to be treated, and you can’t go far wrong.”

Peruse my Peter posts here. 

From Meg, 22:

Meg, our middle child who is Meg22 and in college said her only advice was to let me homeschool everyone. That’s sweet, honey, but really, what advice can you give?

She said this: “Patience is the thing, I think. You always listened and treated us with respect and caring. I remember you losing your temper like … once. But most people just can’t be as patient and smart as you.”

Well, the patient and smart thing is subjective, but I think we all can be respectful of our children. To me, respect is seeing our children as human beings with ideas, and dreams that need to be taken seriously. If you’d like to know more about Meg, my posts about her are here. 

Missa (20) just finished her sophomore year of college and says this:

missa headshot cropped“Growing up is one of the hardest things a person does in their life. Everyone takes different paths to get there, but I know mine was so smooth and so easy because my mom made the brave decision to homeschool me.

I was homeschooled until high school when I decided I wanted to be adventurous and see what public school was like. My experience in public school was a good one, but only because of the social aspect. Not that you can’t have that when you’re homeschooled, I just wanted to know what it was like seeing the same people every single day.

Looking at my classmates who had been shuffling through the public school system their whole lives, I saw a bunch of burnt-out clones. At home, I never had structured classes or subjects (besides math), but I had so much more knowledge about how the world works, simply because I had always been able to explore it at my own pace, on my own time, using my own inner curiosity.

I think every child is born with a hunger for knowledge and a passion to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, the public school system is too big to give the proper attention each child needs to maintain that.

The four years I spent in public school are a blur of pointless assignments and busy work that kept me from reading books and exploring things I actually cared about.”

cowboy
Photo by Jan

“The beauty of homeschooling is that your child can be exactly who they want to be without the pressure of peers or teachers. I wore a cowboy outfit for a large portion of my childhood, and I didn’t even know that was weird. That’s because I wasn’t surrounded by a system that only functions smoothly when all kids are the same. Had I been enrolled in school, I’m sure I would have been picked on for dressing weird.

I remember in 3rd grade I was hanging out with a neighborhood kid who was telling me about all the bullies in his school. I remember thinking “Wow, my mom must love me more than his mom loves him, because she would never make me go somewhere like that.”

I know for a fact I would have hated sitting in a classroom all day being forced to read and write things that weren’t interesting to me at the time. The best kind of learning is hands on.

When I got to high school biology, it wasn’t that hard because I had spent most of my childhood outdoors. I would get curious about something and my mom would jump on that opportunity and get me books, take me on field trips, and answer all of my questions.

Homeschooling was such a stress-free learning environment that I associated learning new things with fun and feeling good about myself.

So the advice I would give to parents deciding whether or not to homeschool their kids is this: Do it. Your child’s individuality is the most important thing you can give them, and that’s almost impossible in the public school system.

Who knows, if I hadn’t been allowed to express myself and wear my cowboy outfit, I could be a serial killer. Or worse, I could be boring.”

Read more about Missa here.

I want you to know that I didn’t coach any of them about what to write for this post. And as a mom, this brings me to tears. This is exactly what I wanted for them.

I had my eyes on this day when they would look back, understand, and be glad that we homeschooled in an unconventional, interest-led way. Along with the tears, I’m putting down my coffee cup and spiking the football!

Homeschooling is over for me, and what’s next? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write a book. I’ve always wanted to do that.

Whatever it is, I promise not to be boring.

What do you hope your kids will say when they grow up?

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.

Comments

  1. What a sweet tribute to you from your children, and what encouraging words to the rest of us! Thanks. I wish you well in the next phase of your life!!
    Anne’s latest post: Assessments 2014–S11

  2. Oh Jena – all the best in the next season of your life – and all the best to everyone in your family. You’ve all inspired and helped and gave encouragement in so many ways – a very heartfelt thank you!

    I hope you leave YOTH up – there is so much wisdom there – or maaaaybe write a book???? :)

    • Somehow I missed the bit where you said you might write a book (probably didn’t see it through the tears and smiles while reading this lovely, lovely post) – so yes please, and I’ll buy several, no matter what it is you write your book about. You are a writer who is a joy to read!

      • Penny, you are so sweet! Will you buy it even if its about my favorite brand of breakfast cereal? :) And yes, my blog Yarns of the Heart will stay up. It’s like my family scrapbook. I might even post once in awhile.

  3. This was so beautiful and inspiring. It actually brought tears to my eyes! God bless you and your new journey. May it be filled with peace, joy, great writing, and an always warm cup of coffee.
    Amy Caroline’s latest post: Get Ready

  4. Yes, please write a book! Posts like this always remind me not to fear the interest-led learning route. And pray! :)
    Sarah M
    Sarah m’s latest post: What I Read in April

  5. Marianne says:

    I loved this post! What a wonderful tribute to your hard work. While my oldest is just 6, your post is an encouragement to me and a reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

  6. Wonderful words. Thank you!
    Laura’s latest post: Leaving Little Love Letters

  7. I feel like my best friend is moving away! Bless you on your new adventures ❤️

  8. Aw, you guys are awesome. Keep up with me on facebook if you want.
    Jena’s latest post: What the Kids Think About All This

  9. This is possibly the most inspiring post on homeschooling I’ve read. All these things that your kids talk about are my reasons for doing it. Thank you so much for the inspiration!
    Amy Simpkins’s latest post: The Glorification of Difficulty

  10. I was homeschooled from first grade through twelfth. I would say that I loved every minute, but that wouldn’t be quite honest considering the tears I shed over Algebra 2. :)
    I did love being homeschooled, though. My mom was strict on academics; I give her full credit for the easy transition between high school and college. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in two years, start to finish.
    But the best gift my mom gave me was her full-time presence. Just by being around her all the time, I learned so much about character, love, and what’s truly important in life. She gave me and my younger sister time– years of her life– and from where I stand, that was the best investment she could’ve made.
    Marissa’s latest post: Blog Disenchantment

  11. I graduated as a homeschooler and am educating my students at home now. I hope my boys grow up and can know that while teachers can always make mistakes, we worked as hard as we could to give them the best education possible.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: BlueBonnet Bride by Coleen Coble

  12. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this. It is so hard to make the decision of what is best for your children… I always afraid that one day they will tell me they hated the way their childhood was spent. But I know the only thing you can do as a parent is what you believe in your heart is best for them and hope they’ll like it too. Good luck to you in whatever road you choose to take. And soon maybe you’ll have some grandchildren. Then you can be the principle and make sure the teachers (your kids) are in line ;-)
    Lee @ Lady Lee’s Home’s latest post: Farming, Here I come!

  13. Kristen says:

    My children, 2nd and 1st grade, are finishing up the last 5 weeks of the school year and then I am bringing them home. I’ve thought about homeschooling since they were born. I was just too afraid. I’m still scared, but ready to take the jump. Thank you for the long term perspective. It is very encouraging.

    • Morag G says:

      Do it! It’s scary, I know, but it is a fascinating choice, even if it is only for a year. When my boys started at school, I told them I was only interested in them learning to read and learning to think. I never checked their homework or tested them on their spellings. The trouble was that classroom-based learning is (in my opinion) specifically designed to create clones who can’t think for themselves. I ended up with two super bright children hampered by the system. Son #1 was bored and slept through everything. A boy who is bright and bored is a boy on the verge of disaster. Son #2 dallied in the lower part of the form.

      So I took them out of school and home educated them. It was a very child-led process. My boys were 8 and 6, and the older boy taught himself how to play both chess and poker on his handheld gaming device. Thereafter, we met up with the local home ed group, but our reason for home edding (we can do better than this) did not appear to be common in the group and we got rather bored of meeting up to go ice skating….yet again!

      One year one, I was worn out because my children had retained their love of learning and tired me out completely. There was no way I could do it any longer, so I took the opposite approach and signed them up for boarding at a good prep school. I liked their attitude and the way they encouraged the children to accept responsibility for their behaviour. Even now, at 15 and 13, I don’t regret one minute.

  14. HI! I am a homeschooling mom of 4, and I just wanted to quickly say how cool it was for me to see the differences in your children’s answers. They each got what they needed out of homeschooling- The oldest? Confidence. The middle? Your patience and a solid relaionship with you. The youngest? Individuality. (Who wants to be boring?) This is just great, and so encouraging.

  15. Such a fabulous and inspirational post. Am sharing on my page – thank you! All the very best. xx
    Ross Mountney’s latest post: Treasure at the library

  16. Lindsay says:

    Oh, Jena…this is amazing!!! Brought tears to my eyes, too. You inspire me every single day. I hope that one day my children will say the same things about their homeschool experience (though I know the patience part would currently be omitted, sadly! But I’m learning, too!). Thank you for your wealth of wisdom and encouragement for the road ahead!! Lots of love from us all!!

  17. I love this post and it gives me some more encouragement to homeschool our kids. The problem is that homeschooling is not legal where I live, so deciding whether to take this route or not is even more difficult. I must add, that it is not illegal either. Law says that kids must be schooled (it doesn’t specify what scholling means…) if you are caught, it will really depend on the social worker or judge in charge of your case… some people have been forced to take their kids to school, some have been granted the right to continue homeschooling. But as I was saying, it makes the decision all the more difficult, but this kind of stories, give more strength to give it a try!

    • Morag G says:

      The law in the UK is that schooling is not mandatory but provision of an education is. That’s why I prefer the term home education over home schooling. When the person from the local education authority (LEA) came to see me, they asked NO questions about how I planned to educate my children. They simply wanted to check they weren’t buried under the patio!

      • I’m from Spain, which along with Germany, are the most reluctant countries in Europe regarding home schooling.

  18. What an inspirational post! I’m pinning it.
    I’m just starting on the homeschooling journey with a bright 4 year old who begged me to teach her to read while she was still 3. Due to her birthday, she would not have started kindergarten until she was nearly 6, and I just can’t imagine stifling her excitement to learn for that long! I can’t wait to see what amazing things she has learned by the time our public school system says she is ready to “start” learning!
    I’ve also got a mechanically inclined almost 3 year old, and I would hate to make him sit behind a desk all day instead of letting him get his hands dirty figuring out how things work!
    Homeschooling is so exciting! Just getting to see- and celebrate- the individualism is awesome!

  19. I love reading this as so many people that I have talked to seem to be more outspoken about the negatives of it!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Book Review: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson

  20. Thanks for sharing, Jena. I’ve enjoyed perusing your blog and other posts on simple homeschool. What a blessing you are to your kids! It’s lovely to see how they can already appreciate the benefits of their homeschool education.

  21. Wow! Thank you for sharing. I think this is one of the best posts that I have read on a while. We get a lot of advice from homeschooling parents but not much from those kids who were homeschooled. Beautiful!
    Sharon’s latest post: Getting Off of the Grid

  22. What a wonderful, inspirational post. Probably the best article on homeschooling I have ever read. Many thanks for posting and sharing their thoughts.

    My elder child has only just turned 10 and our little school is still only in its second year. I feel blessed to be see my children’s growth and development daily. Hopefully I am as patient and respectful as they need me to be.

    On a side note, my husband works in IT, and it is a fabulous well paid career with lots of amazing opportunities. I hope Peter enjoys it immensely.

  23. I’m a 22-year-old grown homeschooler myself, and I love Missa’s bit about the serial killer vs. boring. When I look at the kids I grew up with, we certainly did not end up boring.

  24. Thank you for sharing this was very insightful and encourage, my three are approaching high school.

  25. shannon says:

    I have serendipitously found you at the end of your home schooling journey as mine has just begun. I can’t tell you how inspiring and hopeful it is for me to read your children’s comments about their experience of being home schooled. My 7 year old son just finished his (our) first year of freedom-based life learning (home school) and it has been the most incredible year I could have imagined, thanks to letting go of all my expectations and fears about short changing him somehow be not “doing enough” to ensure he learns. He has shown me that children learn becaus ethey were born to be curious and to learn all they will ever need if given the chance and the encouragement and support to follow their passions. Thank you for giving me this look back at the road you have traveled as proof and encouragement that we are indeed on the right path. Thanks and all the best in the new chapter ahead of you!

  26. What an awesome post! It’s always encouraging to me to hear from those who have made it beyond homeschooling and have launched their kids into the world. I know in my hear that homeschooling is the best way to educate kids… but the proof is in the pudding. So great to hear these thoughts from your kids. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    And yes, if you’ve always wanted to write a book… now would be a great time to do it. Take care and God bless you in your future adventures! :)
    Michelle Caskey’s latest post: 4 Benefits from Allowing Your Child to Make Mistakes

  27. Jodie B. says:

    Jena,
    Thanks so much for the update, Jena…I first found you when you still had kids at home. Your blog was a huge encouragement to me to keep doing what worked for my daughter and our family, even when the best meaning friends promoted a ‘school at home’ approach. The public school mentality is hard to get away from…even as I enter my final year of home education! This was so helpful. :-)

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