Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The 10 greatest gifts of homeschooling

         Yesterday, while at the boys trampoline class, I met a new homeschooling mom.  She just started homeschooling her son one month ago and I started thinking about, and talking about, the reasons I first started homeschooling and realized how much I've grown and changed in the past 10 month since we started on this journey. 
    I was nervous, of course, when we took this big leap of faith to turn to ourselves to teach our children.  I was determined to find fun ways to teach the boys everything and was extremely motivated to tackle everything.  I had read all about unschooling and while that was my ultimate goal I did envision teaching them lessons and giving them assignments much like having school at home.  I knew, even at the beginning, that these two views of homeschooling were completely incompatible but I figured it would take us years to find our way into unschooling.   I was motivated to push my kids to be the best.  After years of stressing over grades and trying to be the best myself, I found myself getting caught up in the kids grades too.  When I read that the vast majority of research done on homeschools vs public schools find that homeschoolers are usually more advanced across the board than the mainstream public school kids; I'm honest enough to admit this was a HUGE selling point for me.  I worried so much at first (and yes, sometimes even now), that we weren't doing enough, learning enough, keeping up with the kids in public schools.
       But these past 10 months have really shown me that learning doesn't have to be linear, learning doesn't have to look like it does in the schools and, lately anyway, I don't even care if my kids are more advanced than public school kids.  I've come to realize that the world isn't going to come to an end just because Ian doesn't know all of his multiplication facts yet.  He'll learn them when he's ready and sees a need to learn them.  No one is going to snatch my kids away from me because Evan can't read on his own yet (thank goodness!).  I've come to the realization that if they end up having to go back into the school system and they're behind so be it.  They're smart, they'll work hard and they'll catch up, I'm sure.  Education, while still important has taken a backseat as my main motivation for homeschooling.  Don't get me wrong; it's very important and we're learning together everyday, but homeschooling has allowed our family to grow in so many other unexpected ways too that I can't even imagine turning back now.  I love our life.  Turning to homeschooling has given myself and my family some truly wonderful gifts I hadn't thought about before jumping into this new adventure together.

     1.  We have the gift of TIME!  We have the time to enjoy one another and life.  We have the time to learn about the world around us by going out into the world around us.  We have time enough that they can choose to spend hours, days, or even weeks learning about topics that interest them.   We don't have to conform to any one's schedule but our own.  And it's amazing how freeing that feels; for all of us. 
    2.  We have the gift of FREEDOM.  The boys are free from standing in line, asking permission to go to the bathroom, get a drink, eat, etc.  They are free to learn about what interests them.  We can skip school (for many days on end if we feel the need) without fearing truancy or reprisals from the school community.   We are free to teach wherever we are and whatever time it is.  I can wake the boys up in the middle of the night to watch the meteor shower (which I forgot I wanted to do last night!).  We can take off for a vacation and learn while we're in a different state-- or not.  We get to choose and homeschooling has given us the freedom to be in control of our family. 
    3.  We have the gift of TOGETHERNESS.  OK, I'll admit, sometimes this feels more like a curse, but I know it's really a gift.  We are creating lasting family memories everyday.  When my kids think of childhood they aren't going to think of a building with strangers and friends, desks and chairs, rules and regulations; they're going to think of forts in the living room, picnics in the yard,  trips to zoos and aquariums.  Other families' occasional fun has turned into our everyday fun.  Oh sure, we always made time for "family time" as often as we could when the boys were in school.  We tried to have weekly Friday night movies and popcorn, we took yearly vacations, we went on weekend outings.  But, we are together ALL the time now.  Our fun family memories happen almost daily.   We'll decide to have a sleepover at the spur of a moment on a "school" day.  Those spontaneous moments of fun mean so much more to us all.  After all, because they are unexpected, they are doubly treasured.  
   4.   We have the gift of LIFE.  No, I don't mean we've experienced another birth in our family and yes I agree that just by being alive we all have experienced that gift.  But I hope that whether my kids turn out to have higher test scores or not they will be well equipped on how to manage stress, they will know what is really important in life, how to enjoy what little time we have on this Earth, and how to live life to the fullest.   In our society we equate success with good grades, having a job where you make lots of money and living in a big house.  My kids have picked up on all of that already and honestly, I'm trying to deprogram them.  I, obviously, want them to have good jobs and be able to support themselves and their families financially and emotionally, but I also want them to be happy.  We only get to live this life once.  Why be miserable making lots of money if you can be happy making a little less money and having fun with your family too?
  5.  We have the gift of  HAPPINESS.  Speaking of being happy, homeschooling has allowed me to see my kids happy, thriving and smiling.  They're sometimes silly, they're sometimes crawling over each other in fits of laughter, they're sometimes just smiling and I get to see it all.  I can't argue they're always happy but overall we're happier now than we've ever been, individually and as a family.  We've slowed our lifestyle down to allow ourselves to find the joy in the everyday, find the wonder in stopping and observing nature, find the hope in the endless cycle of seasons and rebirth. 
  6.  We have the gift of CONFIDENCE.  I have watched my kids grow by leaps and bounds this past year.  I may not always have as firm a grasp as I'd like on how much they're growing intellectually but I can, most definitely, see how much more confident they've become.  Evan's shyness has almost vanished completely.  They aren't afraid to speak up and ask questions when we're out and about.  They approach kids on the playground or out in public and readily make friends.  They have much less fear of being picked on for wearing the wrong clothes or saying the wrong answer in class and getting laughed at.  They don't have to worry nearly as much about what other people are thinking or saying about them behind their backs.  The boys have a wonderfully large group of family and diverse friends that accept them for who they are and all that combined with our love and support of one another has helped them develop a wonderfully healthy level of confidence.
   7.  We have the gift of HEALTH.  This past year of homeschooling has been amazing as far as health.  Between the three boys we almost always had someone sick in this house from October until April.  Partly due to not being in one classroom sharing everything, including germs, with the same 20- 30 kids day in and day out.  Mainly, I think it's due to all the fresh air, exercise and reduction in stress.  They run, climb, jump and play in the sun, in the fresh air, and they're glowing, growing and thriving. 
   8.  We have the gift of CHILDHOOD.  Being with my kids day in and day out, watching, listening and teaching them I've learned to remember what it was like to be a kid.  Childhood is short and I think as a society we're making it shorter.  Kids are in school for longer days, more days out of the year and are required to do homework after school much earlier than ever before.  We're robbing our kids of the happiest times of their lives and I'm glad homeschooling has allowed us to recapture our children's youth.   My kids ask me to participate with them and I have to admit I have often felt like a child myself alongside them when I give in to their pleas to jump on the trampoline or swing on the swings; things I haven't done since I was a kid.  They've helped me find my inner child while I'm supporting theirs.  It's a wonderful feeling. 
   9.  The gift of SELF DISCOVERY.  It's not just the kids who have learned a lot about what they do and don't like this year!  The boys have a lot more free time now and often are complaining of being bored.  This boredom has led them to new discoveries about themselves.  They're in charge of keeping themselves entertained most of the day and I love how much they're learning about themselves and each other.  In stepping back from all the demands on family life I too have learned a lot about myself both as a mom and as a person.  I've learned to adapt and go with the flow and find that most times I actually prefer that.  I've stopped saying "no" so much and find that saying "yes" leads to discovery, fun and memories most of the time.  I've learned that I'm not nearly as traditional as I thought I was.  I've always been a rule follower and have instituted many rules in this house.  Being home with the boys more has allowed me to relax with all these rules and I'm loving it. 
   10.  The gift of being UNDEFINED.  OK, so I'm not even sure that's a word but I couldn't think of anything else to describe what I meant.  My kids aren't identified as a pre-schooler, 1st grader, and 3rd grader; they all do work from a wide range of age groups and levels.  Some days we count, some days we add, some days we multiply.  They aren't defined/ labeled as smart, gifted, struggling, etc.  They aren't told they can't learn cursive yet because they aren't old enough (or that they should already know something because they are ___ years old).  They've learned to stretch the boundaries and assert their knowledge when necessary.  They are taken on their own merits for their own behavior and aren't held up to a standard of their peers.  They don't have to worry about following in one another's footsteps through school trying to meet the teacher's expectations based on a sibling's performance.  They are free to be themselves and know the joy in being an individual. 

    Today we're combining all these gifts with an early trip to the bowling alley.   We definitely did a lot of learning; after every turn and every frame the boys compared scores to see who was in the lead, how far in the lead that person was, how many pins they needed to catch up or get ahead.  It was great.  Even Evan was able to tell me who had the most points and who had the least.  We laughed, we played, we learned. 




        But that doesn't define our day either.  The boys also played Candy Land, Gold Mine, and built with the Clicks.  Evan pretended to open a hotel for pets and people that Ian and Alec visited with their animals.  Ian mined for gold while his brother's looked on enviously.  They watched Liberty's Kids, went to the bank, did laundry, listened to books on CD, and played Lego's.  The list of our days goes on and on.  Sometimes they're occupied with one activity for hours, other days they ping pong back and forth from one activity to the next.  It's wonderful.... most of the time.  Tomorrow, perhaps I'll share my "miseries" of homeschooling. 


If you'd like to read more about the benefits/ gifts of homeschooling check out these links: http://www.newswithviews.com/, http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com,

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