6 Lessons from a Homeschool Pioneer
~ Written by Kari Patterson
An inquisitive 4-year-old sitting on my mom’s lap for the cover of The Teaching Home magazine, Dec. 1985, I had no idea the honor and privilege bestowed on me, being born to a mother like this one.
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Thirty-eight years later, as I homeschool my own children, I find myself continually drawing upon my memories of her and the lessons she taught me through both word and deed.
I’m grateful for her life and her legacy, and so I wanted to share six lessons I learned from this homeschool pioneer with you.
6 Lessons from a Homeschool Pioneer
1. Accept your children for who they are.
I’ve heard it often since my mom passed away: “Your mom accepted me. She made me feel loved and valued. She welcomed me.” She was a woman of strong convictions, and even strong opinions, but none of those kept her from unconditionally accepting and respecting each person in her path.
As her children, we felt this. Though she challenged us and required excellence from us, I never experienced rejection or condemnation.
2. Study your students.
While she was still a public school teacher, my dad (also a teacher) recalls a conversation in the teacher’s lounge. My mom was saying how each child learns differently and we need to study our students so we can discover how they learn best.
Another teacher scoffed, “How am I supposed to do that with 28 students? It’s impossible!”
My mom remained quiet. Later, on the drive home with my dad, she said, “Isn’t that our job? Isn’t our job to teach students so they can learn? Then we must study them.”
3. Respect the process and pace yourself.
My mom says I was an early reader, sounding out letters and stringing them together at 2-years-old. My brother (a child genius!) didn’t read independently until around 9-years-old.
Mom never panicked or pushed. She had read up enough to know that earlier reading doesn’t equal greater proficiency later on, and she patiently went the pace my brother needed.
4. Insist on kindness and character.
Though my mom was a warm and accepting person, there was no room for rudeness, disrespect, or disobedience in our home. Swift and thorough consequences were given for these infractions.
The overarching moral of this was clear: Academic achievement is nothing without virtue.
5. Homeschooling is a full-time job.
While our lives were full of science fairs, sports, dance classes, homeschool play-dates and family vacations, my mom’s life wasn’t full with a lot outside of home. My parents decided when they got married to always live on one income (a teacher’s salary), and keep expenses low so that Mom could devote herself wholly to mothering.
I recognize this is a privilege and a personal choice, but as the recipient of such devotion, I am deeply grateful.
6. Recognize when or if it is time to transition out of homeschooling.
I have enormous respect for my mom when I realize she gave up homeschooling when she felt it was no longer the best option for us. Homeschooling wasn’t her identity. It wasn’t about her.
She made decisions based on what was best for us.
Back then kids couldn’t play sports while homeschooled, so in order to give us athletic opportunities, my parents prayerfully decided to enroll us in the public school where my dad taught. My mom then began working there as well, so our first few years of public school still included Mom and Dad.
Every single day I miss my mom. But even though she’s gone, I’m so grateful for these six (and countless more!) lessons from a homeschool pioneer.
May we be educators who also inspire and encourage those who come after us.
Do you know a homeschool pioneer? What have you learned from those who have gone before us on this journey?
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