When I decided to homeschool, I became a lot of things, and one of those things is this: the woman in the grocery store in the middle of the day surrounded by her beloved kiddos to whom sweet grandmothers in the produce aisle say the kindest, most encouraging things about her life choices and to whom other mothers in the same age bracket often shake their heads and say, “You homeschool? I couldn’t do that. My kids go to school, and I can barely keep up with them.” And there are so many thoughts that swim around in my head as I think about those encounters, and so many directions I want to take this blog post right now, but here’s the concept I’m sticking with in this post, a short and sweet main point to respond to any mother out there who might want to homsechool or at least consider it, but who thinks that she can’t do it, because her life is already busy and crazy and hectic and her kids are even at school for seven or whatever hours a day: “You could absolutely do this.” We homeschooling Mamas are not some rare mutant form of mothers. We are just as broken and tired and loving and happy and stressed and empowered and questioning and on and on and on as everyone else out there who wants the best for their children. But from the outside, I know this choice can look so much more hectic and daunting than it actually is because many times we are trying to imagine how to fit homeschooling into the lives and school systems and days we have previously created for ourselves. But we can’t successfully compare the two by holding up the same schedule and lifestyle and trying to decide how they would each fit into the same world. If I had to get my kids groomed and dressed and fed and packed up and studied up and all by 7:30 five days a week and then had to keep up with spelling lists from four different teachers at two different schools and practices and games and projects and signed forms and field trips and tests and making sure I have a purple shirt for purple day and a new pair of pajamas for pajama day and markers with caps that fit for tomorrow not the next day but tomorrow, then I couldn’t imagine adding homeschooling or any huge and new undertaking to my day either. Now, I’m not saying homeschooling is easy, because it is hard, often draining, and a full-time job with crazy, crazy overtime hours, YET there are so many bright spots in the week, so many rewards and sweet moments, and there doesn’t have to be a constant pressure pushing against you from the world outside. So here’s what I am saying, mother in the grocery store who is shaking her head at me and laughing at the absurdity of my day: if you remove all of the traditional obligations of the day and the constant pulls in different directions that often come with being a parent of a school-aged child, and then you start with a blank slate – a blank slate that you and your family can slowly and thoughtfully fill up in your own time and in your own way, then life becomes a different thing, a busy thing, of course, because parenting is always busy in a tedious and wonderful kind of way, but not so fast paced, unless fast paced is what you want. Homeschooling can mean setting the tone and the speed and the way your days work, and that is a wonderful thing. You can totally do this, if you want. And if you don’t, then I’m not saying you’re making a wrong choice. I just wanted to say that homeschooling isn’t adding one more thing to the already established family life; it’s a whole different life, or that’s how it felt for me. My intention isn’t to claim that one life is better than another; I’m just trying my best to stress the difference in my world since homeschooling became a part of it. We decided to homeschool, so we started this journey and haven’t regretted it for a second. Our plan for this life began with hope for our kids’ present lives and their futures. I hope to prepare my kids for work, for college, for life. And that’s what I try to model our day after. I want them to be socialized to speak with people of all ages and to be a part of different classes we sign up for with more than one set of kids. I want them to be helpful members of our family and of the community, and I want them to know what they are good at, what they enjoy, and what they struggle with. And I keep using the word “I” here because it’s so important in the world of homeschooling to realize that there isn’t one way to do this. These are my personal goals, but yours may be very different. Schools can be very different, and so can homeschools. Maybe you have a full-time outside of the home job, and your goal is to homeschool in the evenings and on the weekends, and your kids are learning how to be independent and patient and creative. Maybe your goal is to homeschool on a shoestring budget, and you make part of that a big part of your lessons, so your kids can learn to keep a budget and how to thoroughly research their lessons and can learn the value of time verses stuff. Maybe you are an artist who paints with your child in the morning and then uses the afternoon to pursue studies in logic and math and science, which you delight in learning your way through with your child at the library. There are so many examples of great families and learning models. It’s pretty amazing, and I think it’s okay for homeschooling parents to free themselves of sticking with the routines and standards of a traditional school setting. I’m not saying that public schools are bad, not at all. I’m just saying that it would be silly for a public school to try to be a homeschool, and so homeschools shouldn’t have to try to be public schools. Both types of schools should evaluate their students and resources and then do the best they can. And for me, I just have a few students, so my best can include breaks for tea time and grocery store trips in the middle of the day and extra long reading lessons from a musty classic off our shelf when the need arises. We can even pick up a cursive lesson after dinner time if we didn’t finish it earlier, and while that might sound excessive and tiring, it really isn’t because if we didn’t finish it earlier, then we were probably catching up on a mother-daughter chat about what’s going on in my girl’s sweet mind.
And so, cursive after dinner here and there just isn’t as tough as it sounds.
And, y’all, I know that not every parent who shakes her head at me and laughs at the thought of my day wants to homeschool. I know that. I’m just sitting here typing this in case one person out there who reads this and has said, “I would like to homeschool, but…” may be encouraged to know it isn’t as hectic/daunting/crazy as it may sound.