Homeschooling- Dream vs Reality
Homeschooling and the culture of my home now is so different from what I imagined it would be. The whole journey from the first year until what is now my 18th year has been an ever changing, always evolving home culture to fit our needs at the time. When my first three were little, I had certain goals. As our family grew and as the first few kids got older, we have adapted and changed, and my goals as their main teacher have morphed. Let me take you through our family’s progression as we went from homeschooling three children, to six children.
What I wanted a day to look like when I had three young children…
I wished that we would all get up with eager and pleasant attitudes. I wished that my children would always choose a good book over a tv show. I wished that my kids would have the best manners of ANYONE’s kids. I wished that my kids would wow people with their knowledge. I wished that I could own a copy of every good book ever written. I wished that my children followed a well-organized schoolwork and chores schedule with checklists and wall charts and reward systems and…
And I really, really hoped that they would turn out alright.
What it ended up looking like…
My kids diligently did chores. I knew that training to help with things around the house would serve them well later, so I did not veer from them having assigned chores. It wasn’t a lot, but it was consistent. I figured if they could learn responsibility that way, it would serve them well.
My kids did their math lessons daily and learned how to read well. I knew that if they could read and do math, they could learn just about anything else they chose to put their mind to throughout their lives.
We spent time together. I kept the activities to a minimum, and they played together and used their imaginations so much of the time. I read aloud to them while they sat around the living room eating bowls of ice cream or cups of warm tea….
We hung out with Laura and Mary in the big woods. We cheered for Louis the mute swan as he learned to play the trumpet to impress Serena. We laughed at all the antics that took place on the farm where Freddy the Pig lived. We learned what it felt like to grow up Jewish in the lower east side of New York at the turn of the century. We spent time with the d’Aulaires and let them show us with their beautiful illustrations and perfectly written tales, the people from history that must be discovered. Oh, the places we went and the characters we met together through the books we read together each day!
I taught them how to be thinkers, communicators, and researchers. I didn’t worry that they weren’t filling in blanks in a history workbook. They retained more about history through reading excellent books than I ever did by memorizing facts for a history test in my school days. I had mastered short-term memory, test taking skills. They were mastering knowledge. How to analyze and weigh information, absorb it, make it part of yourself, and present it to others. I didn’t know how that “turns out” or what high school or college looks like on that path, but I couldn’t imagine how that wouldn’t create some sort of positive outcome!
I tried to trust the process, use my instincts, and pray a lot. And then there’s grace…lots of grace to hopefully cover my continual imperfection.
And they turned out better than alright.
What I wanted a day to look like with three young and three grown children…
I simply wanted it to stay looking like the above. I wanted it to stay JUST LIKE THAT. I had that way figured out. It had been so dreamy, and even though I didn’t have proof back then that it was a good plan that would pay off, we enjoyed that life immensely. And to continue adapting and changing is work! It’s so nice to get something figured out, to master it, and then be able to move forward on autopilot. But that would make life easy, wouldn’t it? And an easy life is not reality.
What it looks like…
This morning I had the girls each do a math lesson. As if I weren’t already a laid back homeschool mom, I’ve found myself even more relaxed with my remaining three kiddos. But since it’s not my strong suit to teach math on the fly and in an impromptu and natural “real life learning” kind of way, it’s important they stay on track with their daily online math lessons. The driven girl did two lessons and was sad she didn’t have time to do a third, the girl who enjoys math did two lessons, and the one who frowns each time math is mentioned did one lesson. No two days look the same around here, but the math is always done.
The thing that makes each day different is that because I have a husband whose work is very close to our home and adult children who either live at home, near our home, or come home from college on their breaks. Besides all of them, my son’s fiance pops in to surprise us, and boy is she a welcome and beloved guest! And the kids’ friends who used to hang out at our house as teens still hang out at our house. I call our home Grand Central Station because it seems there is always someone coming in or going out. That’s a major difference between the old days with younger kids and these days with young ones and the rest of the village that has joined in over the years.
The loss of concentration and schoolroom atmosphere that comes from having my home be a bustling hub of activity that is non school related, is replaced with a multitude of valuable relationships and life lessons. The fact that we might be reading a book together and are interrupted mid-chapter by Daddy showing up for lunch earlier than usual with treats for the girls puts our story off for a bit but gives us a chance to hear how things are running at City Hall. I choose to see the interruptions that come in a busy and active home as an opportunity to build relationship and teach the girls flexibility. Being surprised by a visit from the darling young lady that will soon be my daughter in law during science class means she brought a fetal pig for my girls to help dissect. Staying up entirely too late on a school night, even though schedules are lofty goal, just means that they’re watching my daughter’s dog have her puppies. When I can’t find them to get them started on a language lesson, they might be in my daughter’s room helping feed the lizards and tree frogs. When big brother comes home on break from school, all bets are off, and the whole house adapts to the college schedule, even though it’s much shorter year with longer breaks than the usual school year. When he is home, we might not be doing our language lessons, but we are all around the piano singing with him as he sings and plays the piano like not many people can.
I am using the same frame of mind as when I we homeschooled in those earlier years. I’m still trying to trust the process, using my instincts, and I’m praying a lot.
Not only are these homeschool days different from earlier ones, they are also very different just from one day to another.