As another year comes to a screeching halt, I am feeling a bit reflective about lessons I have learned in 2012.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What was I thinking when I decided to homeschool my kids?” I’ve had my share of those moments this year. They occur primarily when I forget to take my own advice. A long time ago, I decided that developing self-directed learners was the biggest gift I could ever give my children. When I lose my way, it generally has to do with my own insecurities about how much my children “ought to know” versus what they “already know.”
My oldest just turned thirteen and has never been to school. Up until recently, I rarely had to remind him to apply himself to his studies. Lately though, it seems he would rather wander around the house contemplating the walls than follow a structured path. Feeling panicky (and again, failing to take my own advice) I would nag him several times a day, asking peevishly if he had started this or completed that.
One day, he looked at me in obvious irritation and said, “Mom, I’ll do it, okay? I’ll get it done.” I decided to trust him and to remember why I homeschool in the first place. It wasn’t to re-create school and it wasn’t to create a “have to” environment. I’m not enjoying myself when I’m looking over his shoulder and neither is he. I’m giving him the space he feels he needs, and we seem to be getting back into our normal groove.
I also spent an enormous amount of time this year growing and developing a program for homeschooled children that meets once a week. Unlike many homeschool co-operatives, we offer a drop-off solution for homeschool families that provides academic enrichment in core subjects such as math, science, literature, writing, and history. In addition to the administrative tasks involved (facility concerns, website design, and maintenance), I facilitate two 90-minute classes back to back — my lesson planning alone takes several hours per week. While I have found it incredibly rewarding and stimulating, some days I also wonder, “What was I thinking? Is it worth it? Are my kids benefiting enough from our involvement in this program? Am I focusing enough on our own homeschool journey?”
These questions inevitably lead you to a sort of self-reflection that is both healthy and necessary. It allows you to make changes, if necessary, or to continue on the chosen path.
It’s great to be a teacher of children other than your own, especially this time of year. You get the sweetest gifts. My youngest student (an 8-year-old girl) shyly presented me with the loveliest gift a couple of weeks ago. It was a handmade pillow that she had crafted and sewn all by herself — adorned with mittens and hearts and a star button.
In those moments when I ask myself, “What have I gotten myself into? Am I crazy?” I look at my pillow and smile.
In those moments, when I wonder if homeschooling works and if it’s worth it, I think about the families affected by the horrific, inexplicable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and become humbled and thankful that my children are close by my side, each and every day.
In this season, when we are too easily stressed over things that will make no difference and that people will hardly remember this time next year, take just a moment to remember The Why. Why do you do what you do as a homeschool parent? When you decided to homeschool, what was the reason? Is there anything you can do to make it easier? Is your schedule packed and cluttered with non-essentials? Is there just one thing you can eliminate in the coming year?
My challenge to you in the New Year: choose one source of stress in your homeschool life and decide to part ways with it. Decide to do more of something you enjoy. As for me, I’m going to teach one class next semester, not two. And I’m going to enjoy that pillow.