The following is a guest post by Rachel Turiel of 6512 and Growing.
I’ve been homeschooling two children for three years, which is to say, not much time at all. I’m holding space for a lot to come clear, shake down, shake out, and be revealed in the years to come.
And yet, with each passing semester, I find myself settling deeper, more comfortably, into the vast yet cozy chair of homeschooling, realizing that I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Here is what I’d tell my equally scared and nervous self, starting out on the homeschooling journey three years ago:
You will have doubts.
Being in charge of your children’s education can feel intimidating, like it’s all on you to keep the jumbo jet of their education aloft. You’ll look to your children’s peers to see if your child-students are measuring up. Sometimes they will. Often they won’t.
Some days you’ll be certain that your son will grow up to be a homeless lego savant, your daughter presiding over a MLM scheme involving stickers, glitter and tutus.
With practice, you’ll begin to recognize these fears, doubts and unhelpful comparative patterns before they take hold.
“Hello doubt and fear,” you might say to this familiar guest, “do you have a kind and helpful message for me?”
If not, turn your focus to the beautiful children in front of you. Let them lead you, because they are never not learning. Remind yourself that each day is new, that children learn on their own timetable, that it’s OK to call a free day and go play outside.
Your philosophies will change.
At first it seemed that keeping up some semblance of everyone’s “grade level” was important, but that faded into the intangible and irrelevant.
Next, you believed you had found The Homeschooling Rhythm: blocks of schooling interspersed with free time.
(Note to self: anytime you think you’ve “found the rhythm,” be suspicious).
Then, there was that freefall into unschooling called “summer,” which was glorious and fleeting, leaving an indelible impression.
Today, a mix: some workbooks, some child-led learning, a tremendous amount of reading aloud, much art, a homeschool co-op, unstructured nature immersion, and even planned lessons, including …(who’d have thought?) math tests delivered at the kitchen table.
This is now. Who knows what’s next?
You will need support.
Anytime you do something outside of the mainstream, you’re getting a chance to build your muscles of trust. Trust is not an island you inhabit alone. Call those other homeschooling moms when you feel stuck. They’ve felt it, too.
Read homeschooling books and blogs, especially the honest ones where doubt and frustration are not stashed in the closet, though inspiration and gratitude are always the bottom line.
You’ll find yourself laughing, nodding and knowing you are not alone.
Education for the masses (AKA: grade level) will fall away so you can truly see the individual.
First, let go of your guilt over drilling your son through reading when he was more inclined to engineer a forest’s worth of paper airplanes. Don’t gloat over your daughter who may be peeking into math a grade level ahead.
Each child is an individual with particular strengths and weaknesses. Build on their strengths! Let them marvel in what tickles their curiosity, what pulls them into its orbit. Everything else (that needs to) will come.
Perhaps the rest of 3rd grade America is memorizing state capitals and multiplication tables while your child creases another fold on a paper airplane. (And perhaps you one day notice that his airplane design is improving).
Flex your muscles of trust and check out some library books on the fascinating history of flight and see where it leads.
Reading out-loud counts more than you know.
Remember those homeschooling journals you’ve started and abandoned twenty times? Where you list the daily homeschool accomplishments, bringing a sense of quantifiability to your days … at least until the record-keeping begins to bore you, again.
What remains in the record keeping is simply this: an ongoing list of the chapter books you’ve read to the kids.
Why? Because reading encompasses history, vocabulary, sentence structure, elements of story, armchair travel, moral lessons, and plenty of snuggles together on the couch.
You’ll fall madly in love with homeschooling.
Some days you can hardly believe your good fortune to be snuggled up on the couch with your children, reading Charlotte’s Web at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday, knowing that beyond any quantifiable education, there’s this: closeness, connection and the gift of time to explore this wild, wonderful world together.
I look forward to what the next three years bring.
What have you learned that you’d share with your just starting out self?