And now for the MOST popular blog post of 2015:
(originally posted: June 7th)
10 Things This Homeschool Mom is Sick of Hearing
I've been so very lucky in homeschooling because I have a wonderful support system. Both my family and my husband's families were completely on board with my decision to start homeschooling; which was pretty ironic because I wasn't sure I was completely on board.
I knew I wanted to give it a try but I was so scared and sure I was going to screw it all up. Luckily my husband, our families, and fellow homeschool moms I met didn't mind encouraging me when I needed it.
As a parent I only want what is best for my kids and while I knew public school wasn't perfect it wasn't horrible either. We had no real issues other than one kid who wasn't really being challenged and another who was becoming a mess of nerves (and if I'm honest; still often can be!).
Now with three years behind us I can't believe how much our lives have changed. I thought homeschooling was just another way to teach my kids; turns out it was a whole new lifestyle!
It's one that we love and one that we're quite proud of too.
Many people ask my kids if they miss school or miss their friends (as if I keep them home against their will!) and are shocked when my kids give a loud resounding "NO!" while beaming from ear to ear and often include "we love homeschooling!" And we do. We love it!
I don't always love all the questions and comments though; even when they're asked or said with good intentions. I don't blame the people who are asking; after all they don't know I get asked the same things over and over and over again. But I'm hear to tell you that it can get annoying.
In no particular order these are the types of things you should try to refrain from asking or saying:
- "Oh, I wouldn't have the patience to do that!" or "You must have so much patience!"-- Um.. in a word NO! I am not a patient person. Honestly, I'm not. Those people who make this comment usually have to wait five minutes for my kids to stop laughing uproariously before I can even say a word. Seriously, ask my kids (or my husband) they'll tell you I don't have any added patience. I get frustrated. I yell. I like to think that I don't yell nearly as much as I used to and I do feel like I have more patience now but only because we have a lot less family stress. I had no idea how much added stress we were taking on as a family when our kids were all going to school. Our life is lighter, freer and we have so many fewer time constraints put on us that we can all relax; myself included. There's a lot more smiling, giggling and fun now. It's hard to loose patience when you're having fun together.
- "Well, homeschooling is OK for you; you're a teacher." I can't refute the fact that I went to school to be a teacher. I worked for many years in daycare and in public schools. I was often hired as a long term substitute (so I was used to planning, filling out grade books and report cards, classroom management, etc.). I'm here to tell you that homeschooling is NOTHING like being a classroom teacher. I actually find my teaching to hamper me at times. It's so easy to fall back into that teaching mode and my kids rarely need a teacher. They need someone to share in their passions, help them find good books that they can't put down, answer their questions when they have them (or help them find a place to get the answers). They don't need someone to stand at a chalk or white board and show them problem after problem or ask them all sorts of comprehension questions about what they've read. Homeschooling is not much different from parenting; if you can teach your child to walk, talk, and go to the bathroom on a toilet then you can probably teach them to read, do basic math, and learn about the world around them. Even if you were not the best student it's amazing how re-learning things alongside your child helps them become much clearer the second time around.
- "What about their socialization? Don't you worry they won't have any friends?" I've mentioned this several times throughout my blog but this is the #1 comment all homeschoolers are sick of hearing. In all seriousness we have so many opportunities to meet people and make friends I have to pick and chose what we participate in or else we'd never get any book work of any kind done. We meet up with fellow homeschoolers at least a few times a week! Not to mention my kids already have tons of friends-- family, school friends, friends from team sports, etc. We don't shut ourselves in our home and lock out the world so they learn to make friends, talk to strangers (adults included), and how to deal with pretty much anything life throws at them.
- "I could never get my kids to sit and do schoolwork. I can't even get them to do their homework!" Don't get me started on homework; just don't. I have horror stories about getting my kids to work on their homework and I'm so very, very glad that those days are behind me. I can't say my kids come skipping to the table shouting with joy when we have schoolwork to do; but I do know my kids. I try to think of fun ways to teach; we use games, use their passions, and limit the amount of schoolwork we do. In all honestly most days we're done school in under three hours-- and that usually includes breaks for each of the kids as I work individually with one of them. They know they could be stuck at a desk doing a lot more work if they were in school. They know that at home they can have a say in what they're learning about and what assignments they need to complete each day. When kids are given a choice and a say they're much more willing to work and they are naturally curious about the whole world. They want to understand and become functioning adults. They are motivated to learn and I try to let them lead me as often as they can.
My youngest LOVES Star Wars so we spent several weeks on a Star Wars unit
- "You WANT to be with your kids all the time?" OK, so no one has said this exact phrase but it is often implied that I am crazy not to want to send my kids off to school for the day to get a break. I'm honest enough to admit that no I don't ALWAYS want to be with my kids that much. There are days (and usually in the middle of winter) when I longingly remember quiet days when the three boys were at school and the idea of putting them all on a bus holds a small bit of appeal. But then I think of the fun we have together, I think of the way my boys are becoming such good friends, I think of all the tears/ stress/ drama brought on by school and I think NO WAY do I want to send them back. I never thought I'd be a homeschooler. I never thought I'd be OK being with my kids 24/7 but in all honestly I find myself needing fewer breaks from them now than I used to. They're happy and happy kids are fun to be around. Of course I want to be with my kids; that's why I had them. If you're honest enough with yourself you'll realize that you had your kids so you could be with them too. Besides it's so rewarding to see your kids faces light up when they finally get something they've been struggling to learn. There are rewards to being with them all the time.
Look at that smile!
- "My kids fight ALL the time so I could never homeschool." I'll again admit I've never heard this exact phrasing but many of my friends make comments similar to this usually a few days into any school vacation. I usually reply with something along the lines of "HA! You think my kids don't?" They're siblings; siblings fight. BUT, I always do admit that my kids fight a heck of a lot less now. Mostly they just squabble and I've learned to tune most of that out. They've grown to appreciate one another and their strengths over the last few years and they've grown to be pretty good friends; especially my youngest two! I see my youngest two becoming best friends and it warms my heart. They ask to have sleepovers a few times a week and play with each other everyday. I too thought bickering, fighting kids would be the end of our homeschooling but I've found that when we're home alone and they have no one else to invite over they learn to get along and get along great! They have wonderful memories to share with one another and that strengthens their bond.
- "How do you know what to teach them?" Or "What do you DO all day?" Which also goes hand in hand with "So the school gives you books and their work?" Most people are stunned when they realize that the school has zero say in what my kids are learning. They're even more stunned when they realize we spend large portions of our day playing, going to parks, relaxing and doing all sorts of things that look nothing at all like learning. We don't sit at desks or the table from 8-3 working through books and worksheets. But it's so much harder to describe what we DO all day. Mostly because everyday is so completely different from the day before. Most days we spend some time in the morning just waking up, watching TV, and relaxing. Then we'll eat and get ready for the day. We typically work on a few math sheets or play a math game together. They'll read and we may even do some writing. We may or may not do a science experiment. We may or may not have a history topic we're reading about or watching a movie about or doing a craft project for. We may paint. We may build with Lego pieces. The boys might use the computer for something (playing a game, using design cad, or a coding program). We might bake a snack. We may go on a picnic. The beauty is we can pretty much DO whatever we want!
- "How do you know they're keeping up with their peers?" or "How do you know you're covering the same material as the public school kids?" The short answer is I don't. And while it may seem a bit weird most of the time I don't care either. I often don't want to teach the same material as the public school kids. My kids may be "behind" in certain subjects but I also know they're "ahead" in others. I struggle with not worrying about what would happen if they ever had to (or wanted to) go back to public school. I'm really not sure if we've kept up with their peers but most of the time I'm happy to see all that they are learning on and I focus on what they do know. The further we get into our journey the more I question WHY we teach kids some of the things we teach them. I often look through their math books (just as one example) and think long and hard about each topic "have I ever found this information helpful?" "Do we use this knowledge as adults?" "What if they don't learn this now-- can they learn it later if they need to?" We've been so ingrained to think of learning benchmarks in our country that we naturally assume kids need to learn certain things at certain ages but it's just not true! I've met homeschoolers who did not learn to read until they were teenagers! Those same kids are doing just find in college. I've heard of cases where people have learned all of the elementary math in just weeks not years--- weeks! I've learned to realize that I'm teaching my kids to teach themselves. I'm teaching them to seek out answers for the rest of their lives. I'm fostering a love of learning that will carry them into adulthood so while I try to teach most of the regular school subjects I try not to sweat it if we miss something. They can always learn about it later when they need to.
Learning about covalent bonds-- he's 7!
- "What grade are they in?" Seriously, this would not seem like such a difficult question. I'm never sure if I'm supposed to answer what grade they would be in if they were in public school or what grade level they're working in now. But it's never easy to figure out what grade they're working in now either. Often my kids span several grades depending on the subject. For example Evan is anywhere from a k-2nd grader for reading if he's the one doing the reading but loves listening to young adult books like Percy Jackson or The Lord of the Rings. His comprehension is amazing! He's using a third grade book for math but we'll throw in anything from simple addition to reading clocks to learning coins every now and then too. Alec knows so much about animals the only questions he has left are usually ones that even the zookeepers can't answer! He stumps the "specialists" wherever we go. He's doing 5th grade math and has yet to find a book that's too difficult to comprehend. I have no idea what grade he's in. I'm pretty sure he'd be going in to fourth grade if he was in school. Since we don't go along with the schools I often have to stop and think about what grades their friends are in and sometimes I just don't know what grade that is! Then I think what grades they were in when we pulled them out and how many years they've been homeschooling and come up with an answer that way. Really, I'd rather people just ask me how old they are; I usually get that question right... though not always.
Reading at the zoo; he's always intrigued with their resources
- "Wow! Teaching three kids you must not have time to do anything else. How do you keep your house clean?" I'm not sure how I feel about complete strangers assuming my house is a mess. I often want to ask them if they have kids and work outside the home because then the same could be said for them. My answer is actually pretty straightforward; my kids help! It's amazing to me that my kids are some of the few we know that have regular household chores. I also know my kids have lots of chores. Whenever their public school friends are starting to look super envious about all the free time and play time my boys have they begin to feel mollified when they hear about all the housework my boys can and do help with. My boys regularly cook their own meals or help me cook dinner. They often do their own laundry (though I will fold it they typically wash and dry it). They help vacuum, dust, and scrub toilets too. They know that if they want to be home with me and continue homeschooling that I can't possibly do everything myself. In getting them to help we've found some things they're becoming quite passionate about. Alec LOVES cooking on the grill. Seriously if we cook on the grill without informing him he'll get upset. He may not always choose to help but he wants the option to choose. Evan has become quite good at cooking eggs and asks when he can make us all breakfast. Ian loves baking and trying out new recipes.
What would you add? Do you have any questions or comments that just make you grit your teeth and smile? I try to always answer honestly and not snap at anyone since I've never had anyone ask me any of these questions antagonistically but it's funny how much we have to repeat our answers over and over and over again.