We did it. We survived our first year as homeschoolers. Throughout the year, people would frequently ask me how things were going. Did we like it? Were things…good? When these questions were posed, I couldn’t help but visualize our old life standing beside our new- like two photographs pinned side-by-side to a board. In this moment of compare and contrast, I typically felt my heart swell. Because both pictures are priceless. The old life holds countless precious memories and is permeated with people we have cherished. There is so much about our years in public school that I treasure. The cute little programs that my children performed in, the beloved teachers, the field trips, the class parties, the back-to-school bashes, the book fairs, art shows, honors assemblies, the friendships and more. They were great. Really, they were.
But those moments composed the highlight reel, and there are many aspects that accompany the traditional educational model that I’ll never miss. Of course, ultimately, we desire to follow the Lord’s lead wherever He directs, so if He points us back to public school one day, we will grab our backpacks and go. But for now, we are just enjoying the ride we’re on.
So how do I feel about homeschooling? Sometimes downright giddy. True, it’s often crazy and wild- and with my crew of so many boys, sometimes I feel like a cattle rancher, trying relentlessly to herd them back to their designated tasks.
Still, this new slower, simpler pace of living has gifted us with daily rhythms that, on many days, flow more like a lively stream than the rapids-laced river we once knew.
But it’s not just the pace of life that I love so much- it’s the unity that homeschooling has provided. Being married to a fire-fighter has always presented us with some challenges when it came to family time, particularly as our children became school-aged. After working 24 to 48 hour stretches at the fire department, my husband, Todd, wouldn’t make it home from a shift until after the kids had left for school in the morning. And when they stumbled off the bus that afternoon, tired and loaded with homework, there was barely enough time to help them with their studies, eat dinner, rush to extra-curricular activities, and squeeze in baths. We tried diligently to fit in quality family time as much as we could, and sometimes we were able to strike some sort of a balance. But truthfully, it felt like we (the parents) and they (the kids) were operating in parallel dimensions- so close, but still separated by the never ending must-do’s.
Homeschooling has allowed us to feel like a cohesive family unit again. While Todd still works long hours, he is able to spend his days off work with all of the kids- school-aged or not. He’s right in the middle of the mix with the family- eating lunch with us, playing with the toddler, helping with the occasional phonics lesson for the younger boys or conducting chemistry experiments with the older two. There is still a long list of the requisite must-do’s, but he is here and we are here- all at the same time.
We can take field trips as a whole family. We can knock out our studies in the first part of the day and catch an afternoon matinee at the movie theater. We can pull out board games during breaks between lessons on quiet afternoons while the little one naps. He can take the boys out back and do things boys like to do- like toss a football or meddle in wood-working. Together.
And there’s more that I love: the community, the ability to customize education for each child, the freedom to map out exactly what our family homeschool would look like- from our schedules to our areas of emphasis.
Perhaps the most commonly occurring feeling I experienced this year was the invigorating sense of being FREE.
Of course, not every moment was beautiful and idealistic. I had to learn to juggle teaching four different grade levels- no small feat. Sometimes I had to push through my own fatigue or irritability. At times we had to battle laziness, grumpiness and poor effort from the kids. I’m not throwing in these realities as a cursory after-thought. There truly were hard days. Days that stretched me as a mother and as a person. Hopefully days that are refining me into the woman that God knows I can be.
But none of the struggles are insurmountable. In many ways, they are just the ordinary challenges that every mother is already familiar with. The struggle of patience. The practice of forgiveness. It’s just mom-life in extended mode.
These summer days that we are all relishing right now are flying by. The new school year is around the corner. And while today I am embracing the reprieve from the responsibility of educating my pack, I am looking forward to the new memories we will build over the next school year. In the meantime, as I continue to encounter those questions about how things are going- if homeschooling is good,- I can honestly say, “Yes. Actually, it is good.”