Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things
My fifteen year old son is taking several classes outside our home this year.
Japanese, Language Arts, Marine Biology, Political Controversies Throughout History, and Guitar.
Honestly, I was not sure how he would do. This is a child who has struggled in every single classroom environment and enrichment class. This is the child who prompted my desire to begin homeschooling in the first place.
And yet, here we are.
Last week, he submitted a final project as part of his Marine Biology semester course work.
I knew it was due. I asked him about it a few times, but tried not to hover. I offered assistance if he needed any. I waited.
The weekend before his project was due, he asked me to take him to get a poster board and some office supplies. He spent the weekend in and out of his room, walking to and from the printer and occasionally asking me to make sure the colored paper was glued straight on his display.
Then, just like that, he was finished. He did not bring it to me to show me his work. He simply put it in a safe place until the due date.
I asked him if I could take a look and take some pictures. He shrugged and said, “Sure.”
Y’all, it was excellent.
I am not just saying this because he is my son. I am saying this as an educator and writer. I was actually taken aback.
I share this, not to brag – not even a little. Those of you that have followed my family here for a while know that we have dealt with some pretty significant set backs and challenges over the years. No, I share this because I want you to know this homeschooling thing – it works.
I have been homeschooling for eight years now. Honestly, up until that moment in my son’s room with that beautiful poster board, homeschooling has felt more like a grand experiment than anything else.
Maybe you can identify?
We jumped in, with more prayer than experience and figured it out as we went along. Some years were better than others. Some subjects have been much better than others. (I see you algebra. Stop mocking me.)
All along, there has been this vague fear mixed with hope – this will all work out, right?
What Has Surprised Me Most
The longer we have been at this, the more I see that the true benefits of homeschooling are so much more than what I expected. Eight years ago, I would’ve said that individualized learning is by far the best reason to homeschool.
I still think it is a good one. But as we get closer and closer to my oldest son’s entry into adulthood and graduation from our homeschool, I want you to know that the real benefits are even greater.
The Hidden Benefits Of Homeschooling
This is what has surprised me most about the advantages of homeschooling my children:
1. The Advantages Of Strength Based Learning
I know I wrote about this years ago. I firmly believed the data and proceeded with a strengths-based approach in our homeschool, despite my children’s learning differences.
But the truth is, I am a little taken aback at how well it has actually worked.
Here, in my own words a few years ago, is what I knew about a strengths-based approach:
Before I had my boys, I worked in corporate training and development. As part of my work, I was invited to attend a session at Gallup, as they introduced the concept of “Strengths Based Training.” It was based on the book, StrengthFinders, and the basic premise was this:
Managing and teaching to an individual’s strengths, exponentially increases productivity and learner satisfaction.
Moreover, the research showed that a learner, when allowed to progress in a ‘strengths based’ fashion, increased their overall capabilities, even in the areas that are weaknesses.
I wrote this and yet I still worried. I still doubted. I still forced my kids to do unnecessary remediation just in case I was wrong.
Please, let me save you the trouble. All of the research has proven to be just as true in my own home. The more we focus on my boys’ strengths, the more they progress in all areas of development.
2. Less Is Sometimes More
I read an article a few weeks ago about the educational system in Finland, now ranked #1 in the world. In it, the teachers described an average day for their students.
In the upper grades, a school day is about 3 hours and 45 minutes long, including breaks, outdoor time and lunch. In the lower grades, the average day is anywhere between 2 – 3 hours, but with more built in play and outdoor time.
It struck me as I read it – this looks a lot like what I feel guilty about all the time in our homeschool.
The truth is, less is actually often more in education. I have certainly seen this in my own children and am grateful that the country of Finland is an example of this as well!
3. Confidence Matters More Than Expertise
Oh my goodness, this might be what has surprised me the most in this homeschooling journey.
It makes sense, intuitively, but it goes against everything I was ever taught, and everything I was raised to believe about how education should work.
Confidence and the ability to pursue interests matters so much more than expertise or subject matter that could ever be taught in a traditional school setting.
My son asked to attend outside classes this year. Why? He wanted to hang out with more teenagers and learn Japanese.
While there, he has easily been able to keep up in his classes – even in the areas that are struggles and actual disabilities.
Why? Because he believes he can.
Because he wasn’t in a classroom all these years, being told how far to go in the book, that math drills needed to be completed before he could leave for recess, and that all subjects are created equal.
He wasn’t bullied for his differences but instead, celebrated for his strengths.
And, despite my feeling like I was failing him all along, he is succeeding.
For those of you just getting started or still struggling to figure this homeschool thing out, please let me encourage you. What you are doing matters. It may look different, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t working.
All of the things I have worried about the most or felt guilty about on a regular basis have had no real impact on my sons’ overall performance or success.
Please let me repeat myself. I want you to know this homeschooling thing: it works.
Shawna is sharing more about Strength Based Homeschooling all this week on her site, Not The Former Things. This week-long series includes a real life look at how strength based homeschooling works, along with plenty of behind the scenes examples of strength based homeschooling in action.
How about you? What has surprised you most about the benefits of homeschooling?