Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homeschooling, Like Motherhood, Is Not a Sprint

As I mentioned, I get questions here and there from readers of my blog, fans of the IH facebook page, or posted in the IH support group.  Every now and then I get a question from someone that I think is a concern that is worth answering as a blog post on the chance that it may help others.  The topic for inappropriate discussion today is multi-faceted.  How can we know as homeschoolers that we are doing enough to teach our kids?  How can we know that they are learning what they need to learn?  How much worry is too much worry about whether it is going 'right'?

The first part of my answer is that we need to remember that homeschooling, just like motherhood, is not a sprint; it is more like a marathon.  It is a bit of a long road from start to finish.  There really is no way to know in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc... year how far you have come until you are in the 4th, 5th, 6th, etc... year looking back.  I know that this is not the answer we would all like.  We want to be comforted and given assurances that we are doing the right thing, the right way, for our children.  The hard truth is that there is no handbook for living and despite what the book stores might lead you to believe, there really is no handbook for parenting or homeschooling.  Which, I know, kinda sucks.

Homeschooling is uncharted territory.  Period.  That is not to say that there are not books you can read, support groups you can join, advice and help to be acquired on the journey; because there are.  What is not available is that which we crave the most; assurances.  Just like life, there are no guarantees for homeschooling.  Again, I know, that sucks.  Homeschooling, despite its rising trend, is still an 'alternative' educational choice and as such, it is a scarier road to travel being void of the worn, comfortable path of more traditional education routes.  There are not nearly as many road signs on this journey or available road side services.  When you get a flat on this road, more often than not, you have to change it yourself.  If you are lucky you have a friend, or two, that you can call that can help walk you through it, but in the end it is you staring at the tire wondering how to get it fixed so you can get your car back on the road again moving along down the path.

The first step in acquiring peace of mind is acceptance.  Ironically that is the first step of a lot of life experiences.  Accept that this journey is not a sprint, but a marathon.  Allow yourself to breathe and relax.  Seriously, take a breath.  Next, create two lists.  First is a list of all the reasons you choose to homeschool.  Keep that list close, you'll need it more often than you think as a reminder on those days where you want to have the kids dressed and ready to catch the bus for public school.  Second, create a list of all the goals you want to accomplish on your homeschooling journey.  I am not referring to educational goals, as in "This year Sally will learn fractions."  I am referring to the BIG, over-arching goals that might include:  Spending quality time as a family.  Influencing and guiding my child through the pre-teens years.  Allowing my child to grow and bloom at his own pace.  Traveling as a family more.  Using real world experiences to guide our educational goals.  Things of this nature are what you want to have on your second list.  Then, keep that list handy too, for the same reason you have list one close.

After you have these two lists, you now have all the answers you need for when the doubt creeps in and you ask yourself, "How can we know as homeschoolers that we are doing enough to teach our kids?"  If you are homeschooling for reasons that are important and valid to you and your family and you are meeting your homeschooling goals, then you are doing enough in teaching your children.  Period.  Let that become a mantra you use when ever you need to.  Just as we are 'enough' as the mother of our children we are 'enough' as their educators too.

Next, think back on your own educational experiences.  Talk with your spouse, other family members, and friends about their educational experiences.  Did everyone learn everything they ever needed by the 3rd grade?  What about the 6th grade?  What about after graduating high school?  College?  The answer is no.  In fact, for a lot of us who were the product of a public education, we learned about as much as we needed to pass the test and anything else that stayed with us was because it happened to be something of interest to us at the time.  None of us left high school having learned all we NEEDED to learn, let alone learning all there was to learn.  The most we can hope for, for our children, is that we give them a solid foundation - which to me means being able to read well, communicate well (verbally and in written form) and have basic, living, math skills.  Furthermore, if we teach our children HOW to think, HOW to learn, HOW to problem solve then they have a better foundation than a lot of graduating seniors from P/S systems.

Not only does it not matter if there are holes in their education, for there will always be gaps (Hell, I still have gaps, but that's okay because learning is life-long) it does not matter *when* they learn what they learn.  There is that old expression, one must learn to crawl before one can walk.  Not true.  Many children never crawl but jump right to walking.  Of course, their parents were scared because their child was not crawling at the 'developmentally appropriate age' so they feared there was something wrong with them and then BHAM, one day at 9 months they stood up and walked across the floor.  It can and often is the same with all the other sorts of learning a child can do.  Your child does not read and by age 8 mom and dad are freaking out.  Then one day, they pick up a book and start to read and two years later are reading on a high school level.  These are true examples from folks I know personally.  What children do *not* need is unnecessary pressure to learn because that kills the love of learning that is instilled in them from the very beginning.  There is no point to 'what if-ing' yourself to distraction.  What if I forgot to tell them 'this'?  What if they never learn 'that'?  At some point you have to have faith in your children and yourself.


A homeschooling veteran told me the story of her 9th grader coming home from high school complaining that she had never taught the child all the states and their capitals.  This veteran, who had homeschooled all of her children until high school, looked at her child and said, "Are you capable of learning them?"  "Yes, of course", says the child.  "So go do it", said the veteran.  And the child did.  See?  If a child knows how to learn, they can easily learn something that they need to learn.  So, when you are haunted by the question of " How can we know that they are learning what they need to learn?" remind yourself that even you are still learning that which you need to learn to live and it is a never-ending process.

As far as the question I was asked, "How much worry is too much worry about whether it is going right?", my answer would be, when it interferes with your ability to enjoy your children, live in the moment, and be confident in your choice.  When that starts to happen, pull out your two lists and review them.  Read uplifting stories about homeschoolers who, like you and me, struggle daily but still get it done knowing they are ultimately doing the best thing for their children and above all else remember:

We are preparing our children for a future that we, ourselves, will never know.  That is a mighty task, but again, this journey is a marathon not a sprint.  Every year you can look back and if you see progress, not compared to anyone else's child just progress in your child, you should call that past year successful.  Then, before you know it, the marathon will be over and you will look back on the culmination of all those years and see the wonderful journey you took with your child, the meaningful time together, and the person they have grown into and all will be well in your heart.

~Mari B.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this! Im just starting out in my homeschool adventure and i'm scared to death! Lol! This post gave me a new perspective and a little relief from the stress!:)


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