When we started homeschooling, I read many of the obligatory how-to books, trying to figure out just what I needed to do and how our lives would look. The books ran the gamut from school-at-home to unschooling, yet they still shared one common element: the perfect family.
These amazing families, all with well-adjusted highly gifted children, lived on extensive acreage, homesteading without electricity, learning calculus while baking cookies, delving into Shakespeare while barn-raising, visiting every museum/historical site/place of interest in a 200-mile radius, running community service projects, teaching themselves violin/piano/classical guitar, writing extensive and poetic musings. And all the while, the multiple children got along famously, the parents never angered, the extended family and community particpated in multi-generational learning. Chores were completed with a deep appreciation for the inter-connectedness of the family. And all the children were accepted into top-level colleges, with nary a worry from the parents. Happiness and peace pervaded their idyllic lives, and the authors, whose children were now embarking on adulthood, looked back with loving eyes and warm hearts at their amazing accomplishments. If only the rest of the world would embrace the never-ending joy of homeschooling.
No pressure there, folks.
The lesson I took away from all this was, regardless of homeschooling ideology, one rule pervaded the homeschooling community: Do not speak ill of homeschooling.
Whether in books, online chats, or at park days, rare was the person who said, "I can't stand my kids today" or "Sometimes, I wish we weren't homeschooling." Perhaps because homeschoolers already feel embattled, they don't want to give anyone ammunition to shoot holes through their reasons for choosing their path. Many have experienced this with non-supportive, but well-meaning, friends and family ("Maybe you should try school for a while, to give yourself a break.").
We have officially homeschooled for three years, although we've been truly homeschooling for nine. We have many years ahead of us, but let me be perfectly, soul-baringly honest with you: Homeschooling is not for the feint of heart.
Now, I believe anyone who loves their children can homeschool. Maybe they can't do it full-time, but any parent who pays even the remotest attention to what their children say and do can guide them toward a life filled with a love of learning.
That being said, homeschooling, especially full-time, is not easy. Siblings argue; after all, they have the opportunity to interact much more than when they attend school. Some days overflow with learning; others, well, we're just lucky no one rings the doorbell. We want to fill our homeschooling lives with travel, unique experiences, community connections, and more, but life (and money) don't always accommodate those desires, certainly not as frequently as we'd like. We want our children to learn naturally, but sometimes we're faced with learning or emotional difficulties which challenge our preconceived notions. Modern parenting techniques, used with the best of intentions, fail miserably, especially in the face of exhaustion, frustration, and plain ol' reality.
It took me a long time to find a few friends within the greater homeschooling community who really understood the need to vent. These moms struggled with their own idealized visions of homeschooling, the realities of their children's needs, and the expectations of the society in which we all live and participate. What a relief to spend a couple of hours talking about our challenges with each other. No judgement, only acceptance, with a sprinkling of advice and heaps of laughter.
So, if you're thinking of homeschooling, just beginning, or have spent too many nights lying awake with a guilt-ridden conscience, relax. Realize that homeschooling, like any other endeavor, follows the same crazy roller-coaster ups and downs of life. None of us is perfect, and those that claim to be are the least helpful on our journey.
If you still have doubts, I want you to think about one of the worst times of your life. For my husband, it was probably being in the Navy. Now, think of the stories you tell over and over from that time. My husband hated being in the Navy: the endless regulations, the hierarchy based on time-served more than ability, the endless endlessness of it all. Yet, his Navy stories are hilarious (and a bit frightening, especially when you think of the multi-million-dollar equipment these none-too-sane Navy boys oversaw). If you didn't know he depised his six-year stint, you would think he couldn't wait to re-enlist. Yet, he mainly remembers the good, because that was what was fun and entertaining. The other stuff fades away.
And so it is with homeschoolers. Looking back, it's easy to recall all the joyous times, the successes, the reassuring moments. What we humans are so well-designed to forget are the painful, frightening, and frustrating moments. Perhaps that's ultimately for the best.
But, we must all remember that perfection is not the goal. Raising children into an adulthood in which they have the ability to pursue their own happiness is. That's it. Nothing more. And, really, isn't that quite enough?
Article by Sarah J. Wilson