Let’s start with the backstory, shall we?
Two years ago, I would’ve sworn that I would NEVER be a homeschool mom. I could rattle off every reason (excuses for me, really) why it just wouldn’t work: I’m not disciplined enough. I’m terrible at math. My kids are 3 different ages/grades. I couldn’t run my business with kids and schooling every day. The list could go on and on and on.
The truth is that I had been following the homeschool journeys of a few close friends for a couple years and was continually curious. Mama friends with multiple kids choosing a different path and teaching their kids themselves. I loved asking questions about their schedules, spontaneous day trips, family vacations when school was in session for local public and private schools. I was curious, yet still convinced it wasn’t for us…aka: me.
Enter: March 2020. Pandemic. Everything closed – including our small, private school.
I am so grateful that our family was and continues to be in a place where I have the flexibility to stay home. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult that season was for families where both parents or a single parent had to juggle work/kids at home/childcare options/layoffs/etc. Not to mention how a global pandemic was wreaking havoc on and planting fear in so many families.
Our kids were sent home with packets of worksheets, assignments, and due dates. At first, it seemed like a fun adventure – getting the opportunity to gather around our kitchen table and work together and -at first – it was. We had our books and organized our assignments and the kids laughed at the faces I’d make when I didn’t understand what they were learning. But with a lack of educator help, the fun quickly drained and it just became overwhelming.
*Let me pause here and insert this disclaimer. We loved our small, private school. We loved our teachers and our classmates. I 100% acknowledge that this was a time none of us had walked through and we were all doing our best with what we we had while trying to manage the tidal wave of uncertainty we were completely unprepared for.
Our assignments (with the exception of my Kindergartener at the time) kept up with the gradual progression of the school year. They continued learning as though they were still in school and it was a normal school year. Parents were made aware that assignments/grades would not count towards or against, yet I was spending countless, frustrated hours at our table with my kids each day. My 4th and 2nd graders were in tears as we tried to keep up with a pace that would allow them to turn in all their work – correctly – and on time. While our teachers were reassuring they were there if we needed them, we never had a single Zoom or Google classroom scheduled. Trying to teach my 9 year old improper fractions was what finally broke us. We were both in tears and I took a picture of my firstborn as her daddy tried to explain it to her.
Ultimately, we all felt defeated. I watched my kids’ confidence in themselves and their joy in learning new things slowly fade until I finally said “We are done. We’re not doing another assignment.” We ended our school year, shoved assignments completed or not, into the manilla packets and the day we dropped them off at the school, we rolled down the windows and all yelled as loud as we could “WE’RE DONE!!!!” I didn’t know then that would be the last time we drove through the campus.
I had been confessing to one of my best friends (a homeschool mama, herself) about my frustrations with what I now call “Covid-schooling”. I quickly became more curious about what her days looked like, what our state requirements were to homeschool, the costs, etc. The serious conversation about homeschool started about a month later, when I mentioned it to my husband.
To say he was skeptical and resistant is gracious. He’d tell you he thought it was a terrible idea. Our kids were attending the school his family had attended – literally cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings were all alumni – and like I said earlier, it’s a great school – the best option in our small rural community, no question. But as my curiosity grew, I had more conversations and asked more questions.
Through the summer months, I prayed like crazy as I had more conversations with my homeschooling friends. This was a huge decision and I wanted to be absolutely sure that I wasn’t jumping into the deep end of a pool I knew absolutely nothing about…especially when it came to making a decision on behalf of my kids. I talked to them about the possibility of homeschooling and all three cheered! They were on board and excited to try something new. (The potential for field trips was a BIG perk!)
My husband and I didn’t come to our conclusion to homeschool without a lot of hard conversations. A LOT. I had to own up to my own shortcomings that could potentially make homeschooling difficult. I hate schedules. I love flexibility and fun. I’m not the most disciplined and it’s true that I would not be the first choice to teach anyone math beyond the basics. I did value my “free time” during weekdays to meet a friend for lunch or stroll through Target just because I could.
Homeschooling would actually mean a lot of sacrifices for me. I was committing myself to being with my kids 24/7. I would have to design a daily schedule and be intentional about opportunities for our kids to be around other kids, find extra curricular activities, etc. I would have to maintain the house, prep all the meals, run errands, basically do all the things I was normally responsible for while also facilitating learning for three kids. It felt like a big task, but for the first time ever…I was eager and ready for the challenge.
We honestly didn’t fully commit to the option of homeschooling until our school released their guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year. My husband and I wanted to see what the protocol would be regarding masks, potential shut downs, etc. We had a good idea of the experience our kids would have with homeschool, but wanted to know what our current school was offering. Full disclosure: my husband wanted the kids back at school. But by the time the school released their policies, it was only a week or so prior to the first day of the school year and my conviction that homeschool was the best option for our family was rock-solid. I had no doubts and as soon as he said we could try it for a year, I had the curriculum ordered within 20 minutes.
If you read all of that – bless you! Maybe you just like a good story or perhaps you’re finding yourself where we were a year and a half ago. Here are 5 of the top reasons we decided to homeschool.
1. To Take Back Control
If I could sum up our Covid-schooling experience with one word, it would be helpless. I didn’t feel equipped and didn’t know how to help my daughter when she was overwhelmed with assignments that covered new material, that wouldn’t be graded or even matter, when it came down to it. Watching your child struggle through something as you see the light draining from her eyes is the most helpless feeling ever. It wasn’t until I came to the conclusion that I am the one who decides what’s best for my kids and family that I was empowered enough to say “we’re done.” My husband was afraid that Covid-schooling was just a glimpse at what homeschool would be like for us and was genuinely concerned for myself and our children. Let me reassure you, the two couldn’t be more opposite.
In fact, the idea of taking back the control we had given to others over how/when/why our kids were taught was life-giving. We could choose curriculum that reflected our goals as parents. We could set a schedule that allowed our kids to enjoy their childhood – with tons of outside playtime, learning life skills like meal planning or doing laundry, and time to be creative with crafts and imaginative play. Not only could we control the learning atmosphere and style, we also were free of the concern of another outbreak, shut down, or closure.
2. We Know Our Kids Best
It’d be a difficult task to find someone who doesn’t agree that the best learning experiences are found when the student-teacher ratios are lower. The closer you get to one-on-one learning, the more personalized the teaching can be to the student’s need, learning style, interests, and strengths. Every kid is different. With my three, one excels at math, one excels at creative writing, and one loves to learn about animals. I can tailor our lessons to what my kids are interested in.
3. Personalized Learning
When the ratio is low, you can customize your child’s learning to what interests them! If my youngest needs two weeks to complete a lesson in reading, we can take our time and move at a pace that allows him to learn without feeling overwhelmed. If my middle wants to spend her class time reading 5 extra chapters in her new book – she can! We’ll check her comprehension before she moves on, but I can fan that little reading flame while it’s there.
My oldest loves to cook and bake. I can include her on meal planning, let her find a recipe she wants to try, teach her how to shop for fresh produce, have her measure ingredients, help cook the meal, set the table, wash the dishes. None of this work happens at a desk and she’s learning home management skills, practicing practical math, and learning the joy of serving others, and I’ve reinforced her importance as a member of our family.
4. Encourage Curiosity
I’m convinced that curiosity is the fuel for learning. Even as adults, we learn the most when we’re curious about something – whether out of necessity or interest. I love watching that spark in my kids’ eyes when we start learning about something that they become curious about! They ask questions that don’t necessarily pertain to the lesson…a sign that they’re thinking about the topic and it’s extending beyond what we may have discussed. In a traditional school setting, you may or may not have the ability to chase that rabbit, but when you homeschool, you can chase it as long as you want – and you can incorporate other subjects into the learning.
I discovered this early in our homeschool journey. About a month into learning about habitats and migration, our science lesson mentioned Blue Morpho butterflies. There were only about 5-10 sentences, but my little guy was fascinated. A little research and I found one of our favorite places, Callaway Gardens, was hosting an event during the month of September, that featured none other than Blue Morpho butterflies! Mimi treated us to an overnight trip where we spent two days discovering more about bugs, birds of prey, and woodland habitats. The highlight of the trip was walking into the Day Butterfly Center and being surrounded by countless iridescent, bright blue Blue Morphos fluttering through the air! My kids still talk about our trip and all the “Blue Morphas” we saw.
We continued to feed the curiosity by learning about pollinators and how they help our gardens and daddy’s fields of crops on the farm, and what we can do to create space in our yard for pollinators to thrive. That led to trips to local nurseries to pick plants and flowers and vegetables for our yard, which led to prepping the soil, hands in the dirt, watering the plants, and the joy of harvesting veggies and flowers for our friends and family to enjoy.
Curiosity that was sparked with extra questions during a science lesson was fueled by intentionally spending more time investigating and getting outside the “classroom” and learning together. And in the process, we created memories as a family. That’s a win in my book.
Farming is a full-time job. Not just for the farmer, but the family, too. We know there are seasons when we have to pick up dinners and deliver them to the field, tag cotton modules, or wait until 8pm if we want to eat supper as a family. The flexibility that homeschooling offered us was that during busy season, we could meet my husband for lunch, my son could ride the tractor in the afternoons, or we can take a vacation just the five of us in the middle of February when things are slower. We have more time to be “us” – and a lot of that happens when our local schools are in session.
We also have the flexibility to meet up with friends for a playdate, lunch, or to pick strawberries when the season opens. We can throw our school work in a tote bag and head to a place like Callaway or the beach or the library and change the scenery or our “classroom” for the day, weekend, or week.
We’re also not tied to a timeline. Like I mentioned earlier, if one of my kids is struggling with a particular concept or lesson, we can slow down. If they’re catching on easily and I’m confident they grasp the concept of that lesson, they can move on. There’s no pressure to “keep up or be left behind” when you’re homeschooling. Your children can learn at a pace that is tailored to them in that season. It’s such a relief to know that there’s actually no right or wrong when it comes to teaching and learning in homeschool!
Those are just a handful of reasons why we chose to step into homeschooling. Honestly, there are so many more! Obviously, homeschooling isn’t the best or most practical option for every family, so I don’t share this to put any pressure on you! Whether you choose to go the traditional school route with public or private school, or decide to venture into homeschooling your kiddos, YOU are by far the most equipped and educated person to make that choice for YOUR kids!
A new-to-me author, Durenda Wilson, provided so much insight and encouragement for me in her newest book, The 4-Hour School Day. Two of the most eye-opening concepts she shared were revelations for me and I want to share those with you, too!
“Perhaps you are familiar with the so-called 10,000 hour rule. It states that 10,000 hours (on average) of “deliberate practice” are required to become an expert in a given field. Did you know that the average parent will devote 16,000 hours to their child by the time that child reaches the age of 6? This makes the average parent an expert on their child right around the time that child school age.
“Consider this same metric in the context of the traditional school system. To reach the 16,000 hour mark with a child, a schoolteacher would have to have that child in his or her classroom six hours a day for all 180 days of the school year for fifteen years. And that’s just to reach the point parents reach by the time the child is six.” pg 32-33
And then this quote from page 68:
“They don’t know our kids like we do. They don’t love them like we do. And yet they determine how our children will spend the bulk of every weekday – for twelve years. We all want our kids to have a good education, but we err when we think of education as being “neutral”. Education is never neutral.
“Education is discipleship.
Discipleship is relationship.
Relationships take time.”
We are grateful that we have the means and opportunity to homeschool our kids. We’re also thankful for the time our children spent in the traditional school setting and for the handful of teachers who taught and nurtured them while they were in their classrooms…some we consider dear friends! No matter what you decide is best for your family, my hope is that – through sharing our experience – you might feel emboldened and encouraged to consider an option you once thought was impossible.
Two years ago, I would’ve laughed out loud if you told me I’d be blogging about the benefits and blessings of being a homeschool mama. Yet, here I am…a living testimony of fighting for your convictions, ignoring the voices that doubt whether you’re equipped, and simply trusting God to walk with you and your family down a path you never considered…
and loving every minute of it.