Like putting sore, tired feet in front of the fire, homeschooling has brought so much peace and rejuvenation to our hearts and to our household. And sleep! Ahhhh, did I mention sleep? We were running on caffeine and fumes for far too long, and last winter I finally saw the light.
We had a cold evening last school year that brought me to such a low, I felt as if I wouldn’t live to see another day. Or was it simply wishing I wouldn’t live to see another day? I envisioned my tombstone reading, “Here lies the tired bones of a mom who violently beat her head against the wall while attempting to decipher her child’s fifth grade math homework.”
I was afraid my relationship with my precious, sweet girl was starting to come down to three things: fighting as she was leaving for school because we were running late once again; fighting and lots of tears (mostly mine) over homework in the after school hours; and fighting as I always pressed us through our bedtime routine, in a desperate attempt to get a better nights sleep than the night before . . . only to start it all over again in the morning.
I knew we were in a very negative pattern and wanted more than anything to train up my child in the way she should go, but with the manner in which we were both coping with never enough sleep, on top of a seven or more hour a day, five day a week separation from one another, it was definitely not happening.
Around this same time, Collin was having chronic pain in his knees and we were going to doctor after doctor to figure out the problem. He finally had “minor” double knee surgery at the end of January 2015, and what was supposed to be a two to three week quick recovery, turned out to be close to a full year of pain, suffering, disappointment and tears (from all of us).
It was the second half of his senior year, what should’ve been his triumphant last season of high school baseball. God had other plans.
The very best part to come out of his surgery, for me, was all the one and one time he and I were blessed to spend together at home as he recovered. We had deep talks and deep laughs. So much love and sharing of ideas and dreams.
With one beloved son soon graduating college and this dear one soon getting ready to go, I felt in my soul that this was exactly what it was all about. Time together.
We watched movies, read books and shared many TED talks and thought provoking podcasts. He was working on his final year-end project for English, the topic being – how compulsory schooling was started and why, and why the fact that our educational system has not, in essence, changed since 1918 (when compulsory schooling became law in all fifty states) is doing most kids, and really our country, a huge disservice.
We read and listened to many writers and speakers that had wide and different theories about why placing kids in a physical classroom each day, school as we’ve always known it, is not what educates children. It’s life and more specifically, doing life with the people that know them the best and love them the most.
It’s also their God-given bents and innate curiosity that drives their learning. Collin questioned, and still does, the value of unending worksheets; test upon standardized test; and being confined to one building for hours each day with hundreds of same-aged peers.
I started questioning too, the adequacy of our system and opening up my mind to other possibilities. Did the way in which our kids were being taught, the way we’ve always known and accepted to be right, really allow for their creativity, and allow for the freedom to learn at the pace my daughter craved?
The discussion and thought process though, was not and never will be about criticizing teachers. All the hard-working, dedicated educators I’ve ever known are absolute heroes in my eyes. They do the very best they can with what they have, and inspire and change the lives of so many kids for the better.
This time of change, uncertainty and transition in our lives, though, made me see everything with fresh eyes. What I began to see clearly, was that my kid didn’t need more time in the classroom, more time doing worksheets or more time doing homework. What she needed was more time with me.
My sister, who had homeschooled for years in the past (when I was a doubter and a skeptic), was also homeschooling her daughter last year. When I heard about the rhythm of their days and the unlimited choice of curriculums, it sounded appealing and right to me.
I brought up the idea to Marina and she surprised me with how passionately she felt about wanting to learn at home. I had to backpedal and tell her I was just talking and not sure about it, because I wasn’t. I couldn’t yet envision what it was all going to look like and was really nervous about the idea of having her home everyday.
We, as a family, prayed long and hard and pressed forward. The idea of homeschooling kept coming up in our minds over and over again and went from something I never, ever thought I’d do, to something I absolutely had to try.
And I can say with all honesty that six months into our new journey, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done. Rina and I are so in tune to one another in a way we had grown away from, and learning and reading together is, most days, pure joy. Having the freedom away from the public school calender has allowed us to travel more often and for longer periods of time, to serve together and to learn as we go.
More than a few people have asked me in one form or another, “Don’t you think she should be in school?” Or, “Are you afraid she’s going to get behind?” And my answer in one form or another is “No, absolutely not.” We’re meeting our goals, day by day, by sharing love and meals and books and laughter and life.
Moms and dads instinctively know what is best for their kids, whether they have the means to act on it, or not: whether they have the courage and faith in theirselves to act on it or not; whether they can stand up to the opposition of popular culture or not. Parents know their kids better than anyone else, that’s why teaching them at home is such a beautiful thing.
Our daughter has just completed her sixtieth novel since we started schooling in September. Along with reading, writing and arithmetic, she’s also had the opportunity to learn french, computer animated design, computer coding, and take piano, drama, horseback riding and voice lessons. Math is still our least favorite, but luckily Dad saves the day because Craig loves word problems. Huh?!
We’ve gained wonderful friends in our new homeschool community who are loving, open-minded and unique. The commonality for all of us is a desire to live a slower paced, God and family centered life.
More than anything, I’m just thankful to have more time with Marina than I’ve ever had before and know that when she’s all grown up in several short years, we will cherish these minutes and hours that we’re spending together. I couldn’t be happier that the word hurry is (almost!) out of our vocabulary.
I’m thankful to God that I’m currently in this position to teach at home, and even if it’s only for a season, well, of course it’s only a season, I’ll look back on these days with such gratitude.
Ahhh, this amazing thing called homeschooling – I’ll keep stacking the kindling, adding the logs, poking the fire and feeling the wonderful warmth.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”