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Dismantling the Homeschool Schoolroom

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After some 19 years of formal homeschooling – probably longer than that – I’ve begun to pack “it” up, sell it, give it away, or throw it out.

And I find myself standing in a tempest of emotions.

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the thing called homeschooling.  Back then, only “weird” people actually homeschooled.  The homeschooling industry or movement has changed drastically since then.  It’s even become normal; everyone knows someone who is or has been homeschooled at some point in their school career. Neighbors, church friends, the teller at the bank… someone is or knows someone who is learning at home.

Not that I’m normal.

We began homeschooling because what my oldest was learning at preschool, he’d already learned at home.  It seemed kind of pointless to put him in a kindergarten class then, to spend a good chunk of his day re-learning it all again.  Besides, I loved having him around; he was such a fun, quirky little kid.  But homeschooling still seemed like a huge undertaking – I loved him (and my other two) – but could I really spend all day, every day with him, let alone teach him?  We’ll get back to that in a bit….

At the time, I knew a few people that were already homeschooling their kids, and one of them invited me and another mom who was a good friend to a seminar about how to begin homeschooling.  With all that information ruminating in my head, I began to give it serious consideration.  Fortunately, my husband, who knew I’d be shouldering the bulk of the teaching, left the “should – should not” decision to me.  I prayed about it.  We prayed about it.  We talked to friends and family about it.  I waffled a little, and then one day I received a homeschool catalog in the mail.  (In hindsight, it probably showed up because I had attended that seminar a few months earlier, but at the time… mind blown!)  The following day a neighbor who was moving knocked on my door.

And guess what?

She was pregnant with her first, she was quitting work, and they were moving out of state.  Her job?  She was a kindergarten teacher. Although she had no clue I was even considering homeschooling (Why I didn’t ask her opinion earlier, I don’t know.), She brought me two boxes of kindergarten teaching curriculum and aids.

All I could think was that God wanted me to do this.  Everything, and I do mean everything, pointed toward me homeschooling my son.

Sometimes when you have to make a decision, there are no easy answers.  You either make one choice or you don’t.  And often, not making a choice, makes it for you.  This wasn’t one of those times.  It was just decided.

Fast forward 2 more kids, a decision to send the oldest to boarding school (!!!),  and boom!  Nineteen years later, the last child is done with school.  Homeschool.  All she and her next oldest brother have ever known.

Nineteen years of my life, teaching and molding and filling up my kids’ heads and hearts with information. Knowledge.  Wisdom, hopefully.

Remember what I said earlier about wondering if I could be with my kids all day, every day?

Well, honestly, that’s what I’m going to miss most about being a homeschool mom.

At first, when they were younger, I craved the moment I heard my husband’s car pull into the driveway each evening.  It was sheer joy that, for a short time anyway, someone else would be there to help me answer questions, stop the bickering and help defuse their energy.  After they grew older – calmer – I discovered what a gift and blessing it was to be able to intimately know my kids in a way that many of my friends didn’t know their own.  Teenagers being teenagers, I still don’t know everything, but I have a pretty good insight into the way they think, react, plan, express emotions, process information, attack goals and more.  But it was exactly because I spent all day, every day with them – my biggest fear at the beginning – that I knew them as well as I did.

Like how my daughter scrunches her nose when she’s really annoyed.  How she (unlike her brothers) tries to get all her work done in one fell swoop so she can do the things she really wants to do without worrying that something is waiting for her later.  How one son will put off tasks as long as possible unless he owns the task, then, he just plows through it.  How the other son shapes his opinions by always – ALWAYS! – playing devil’s advocate.

Sure, parents that don’t homeschool can learn these kinds of things about their children too, no doubt.  The point though, I think, is that I had a front row seat to all of it.

And the teaching thing?  Well, I did a fairly decent job of it.   Are we one of those amazing homeschool families where all the kids get scholarships to Harvard?  No.  That was never the goal.  The objective was to raise thoughtful, articulate, discerning, kind, unselfish, hard-working. responsible people who use their gifts and talents to fulfill their dreams and purpose in their own lives.

I taught them addition, how to read, facts about the Revolutionary War, the scientific method, how to judge perspective in a piece of art, and the list goes on.  More than anything though, I think I taught them how to learn.

But really, when it all comes down to the core, they taught me…. more than I would have ever thought possible.

And now that it’s all over, I’m really going to miss it.

That all day, every day thing I was so afraid of?  It turned out to be the BEST part of homeschooling.

So maybe now that it’s all done, and I’m somewhat fearing what comes next, I should heed my own advice and embrace the unknown.

Because often, it turns out so very much better than anything we can ever anticipate.

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Coming soon:  my thoughts on the best and worst parts of homeschooling,  what I’d do differently (or definitely do again), and advice for parents just starting the homeschooling journey.


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