What this Former Homeschool Student Wants Every Teaching Parent to Know
Every choice we make as parents feels significant. And some are probably even more important than the choice to homeschool. Just like every other important decision you’ve made, it comes after careful consideration, weighing the risk and benefits, and rigorous introspection to answer the gnawing question: “Can I even do this?”
Even when you know you have made the right choice for your child’s education, you may still have doubts. Your sacrifices, financial and otherwise, have undoubtedly been great and you have days when you feel unequal to the task. You may even be questioning if all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it.
As a former homeschool student and a parent (to the best 3-year-old in the world), I hope to share some insights from my experience with home education now that over a decade has passed.
Let me start by sharing my own homeschool story.
My Homeschool Story
My parents did not initially choose to homeschool, rather it was thrown at them like a curveball. Halfway through my kindergarten year, I developed acute esophageal paralysis. I was in the hospital for 5-weeks before I could even return home. Returning to school with a significant health issue my parents did not fully understand was out of the question.
Fortunately for me, my parents are both highly educated, and when faced with the almost certainty that I would need to finish my kindergarten year at home, they embraced the challenge with confidence.
My Positive Response to Home Education
Although my paralysis eventually subsided, my parents knew that my response to home education was evidence enough to continue. Eventually, my older brother and sister were homeschooled as well. I completed the 8th grade at home and went on to public school for my high school diploma. My observations are formed by both the homeschool and public school experiences.
Homeschooling in the ‘90s
I knew that my education was unique and because it was the '90s, the quality of my education was under severe scrutiny. Homeschooling was viewed as eccentric, and “home schooled children” were mocked fiercely.
A lot has changed since then but no doubt the fears that my parents faced, are the same concerns you face as a teaching parent.
Here are just a few insights from my own experience that may help you face these fears and embrace the challenge before you.
My Mom Made Mistakes and So Will You
I remember that in the early years our school schedule was jam-packed and we struggled to get to every subject every day. Halfway through the school year, we were behind and my mom and I both felt like failures for different reasons. I watched my mom respond to these curriculum crises with wisdom and discernment that I could not grasp the value of at the time.
She would sit down with her lesson plans and the curriculum and re-map the remainder of the school year. We would hit the highlights, cut our losses, and finish strong with smiles on our faces.
I’m not sure why we fear mistakes so much.
Not just as parents, but as human beings. Mistakes are powerful tools for learning and growing. My mom learned to be flexible and to set realistic goals for my education. I learned to manage my time, to speak up when I got behind, and to take ownership of my education.
You are going to make mistakes, neglect, miscalculate, underestimate, and overindulge. It’s OK. You will be OK. Your kids will be OK. Refresh, change course, re-evaluate, explain what happened, and apologize if necessary. Your kids will learn invaluable life lessons from your response.
You Don’t Have to Know It All
Both of my parents pursued education beyond high school. My mom went to nursing school and worked as a registered nurse until she had children. My dad graduated with his degree in veterinary medicine and owns his practice. My parents were and are intelligent, highly educated people, and yet, they still said “I don’t know” a lot during my home education.
…but let’s find out!
My parents chose to follow-up their “I don’t know” with “but let’s find out!” They leveraged their shortcomings to show me how learning can be a life-long process.
As adults, we don’t have teachers to go to for the answers, and we are out of luck if we have not learned how to, well, learn.
I understand that there are some aspects of education in math, science, and language where you want to be sure your child is getting what they need to succeed in life. If any or all of those areas are not your strong suite, there are resources to rely on. My parents opted to fill the gaps with Abeka homeschool curriculum, and there are dozens of other programs of high caliber available.
There are at least a dozen free or low-cost resources that I could share with you, but this isn’t a How-To post. (If you’re interested, here is the huge list of free homeschooling resources.)
The point I want to make is that when it comes to your child’s homeschool education is that how you leverage your “I don’t know” holds much more weight than the vast amount of information you do know.
Your Kids Will Be Different
As parents, we struggle with the balance between helping our children find their place in the community while also encouraging them to be individuals immune to peer pressure. Because the myth persists that homeschooled children will not be properly socialized, the fear that teaching parents will somehow sabotage their child’s experience still persists.
Even though I played recreational sports, sang in a homeschool choir, took piano lessons, performed in plays, went on field trips, and showed up for standardized tests, my experience was different. My education included Biblical studies, genealogy, and trips to my dad’s veterinary clinic to deliver puppies by C-section. I did my school work in the living room, at the kitchen table, on the piano bench, outside on a blanket in the yard, and in the car on the way to amazing destinations.
Yes, my education was different, and I’m a different person because of it. But different doesn’t have to mean less.
As the perceptions of homeschooling change (which change because of amazing teaching parents, by the way!), your community’s ability to see different as a positive are changing too. When I was younger, being homeschooled meant strange looks and awkward questions from others. Now, when I share that I was homeschooled with coworkers or friends, they take it in stride or even respond:
Oh, really? I’ve been thinking about homeschooling my kids.
So what does this homeschool graduate and mom want you to know?
Make mistakes. Say, “I don’t know.” Be different.
I am very proud of the education I received at home, and I would not change my experience for the best public or private school education.
Today, I work as an instructional designer creating professional development content for adult learners and every day I draw on the knowledge, skills, and abilities I gained from my home education. I am grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made and all the effort that went into my education.
So if you are a teaching parent, thank you.