What does homeschooling mean to me? It has become such an integral part of who we are as a family, that it would be difficult to analyze it separately. It truly has become our way of life.
Homeschooling means I spend more time with my children - all of them, not just the little ones. My older kids attended a "regular" school for several years before we started homeschooling, and I always felt out of touch with what was going on in their lives. We were growing apart, both figuratively and literally. Why has society accepted that parents should want to be with the babies and toddlers, but once the kids reach school age, we're supposed to prefer to not have them around? I didn't have children in order to send them off to spend their day with some other adult. I didn't feel that way when they were born, and I don't feel that way today. I deeply enjoy each and every one of my children, and I love having them with me every day.
Homeschooling means we are free to discuss our faith openly, and apply it to all areas of life and study. God is not relegated to only Sunday school, or even only Religion class. History is full of faith-filled people whose actions and ideas were directly related to their faith, including the founding fathers of our country. I really don't see how one could teach about how America began without mentioning God. Science is in reality a study of God's creation. How can one look at such an amazing world and not appreciate the Source of all? Writing and reading can include faith-related topics. When dealing with discipline issues, God and His teachings can be included in the discussions. It would seem unnatural for a person of any faith to spend their entire day forbidden to mention their God.
Homeschooling means I have an incredibly open and close relationship with my two teenagers. They will talk to me about anything, and are not embarassed to be seen with me or our whole family. We laugh together, and actually enjoy each other's company. My sixteen-year-old daughter and fourteen-year-old son have become great friends to each other. They have not been made to feel that parents are irrelevant, or the enemy. More time together means we know each other much better.
Homeschooling means I know, and select, which books my children read and learn from. I am also aware of, and guide, the topics of discussion. I don't have to wonder what "life lessons" they are picking up at recess, on the school bus, or even in class. I choose when they learn certain things, when they are ready (and it has been at a different age for each of them). I plan and direct their education, a level of involvement which is very important to me.
Homeschooling means my children can progress through their studies at their own pace. When they learn something quickly, they can just move on. When they need more time with something, we can slow down to make sure they master it. And I know right away when they need more help. Problems are not hidden until they become major issues; we can take care of them right away. I know and love my children better than anyone else, so their success is paramount.
Homeschooling means my older kids get to see the younger ones grow and develop. They were just as amazed to hear the youngest laugh for the first time as I was. Everyone is learning more about child care, and patience, and putting the needs of others ahead of their own. These are life skills that are important for anyone.
Homeschooling means a more relaxed daily schedule - OUR schedule - which results in less stress. Our day is flexible; we can schedule appointments at less busy times. We don't have to get up before dawn to catch a bus at 6:50 am. I really don't think anyone should have to be out of bed while it is still dark out. :)
Homeschooling means more free time to pursue other activities. We can finish a day's work in less time since we don't have to continually organize a classroom of 20 or 30 students, or spend time walking up and down long hallways.
Homeschooling means we can visit DisneyWorld during the off-peak times, instead of fighting crowds of people stuck to school vacation schedules.
Homeschooling means, on the other hand, living in a house that is never quite all clean. Having six children home all day, every day, creates more mess (especially in the kitchen), and makes it more difficult to keep up with the cleaning, laundry, etc. It doesn't bother me as much as it did at first, because I had to set priorities. The education and growth of my children come first. They do help with chores, but not at the expense of schoolwork. Every couple of days, when I reach my limit, everyone takes a break and cleans up. But until they all move out, there will still be some mess.
Homeschooling means I can slow down and live in the present moment when necessary. I have grown to really appreciate the time I have with my younger children, taking a few minutes at any time to watch them take such joy in each new skill they learn. I definitely feel less rushed since we started homeschooling, and I am able to be there for each small, yet monumental moment in the life of a child.
Homeschooling means, in short, more time and opportunity to fully live out my vocation of motherhood.
[Please don't misconstrue my words to imply that these things are not possible for anyone who does not homeschool. This has been a discussion of what homeschooling means to ME. Every family is unique; every family has their own path to follow in finding what is best for them.]
Cynthia Brandolini has been educating her own children at home since 2000. Her homeschooling informational website can be found at www.BestHomeschool.info