The time has finally come. After 16 years I am finally hanging up my official “home educator” hat. My youngest is going to high school in the fall and our whole family will move on to a different phase in life that does not include homeschooling.
If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked “why homeschool?” and “do you have a teaching degree?” there would be Birkin bag in my closet. The simple answer is that after looking at the traditional school system, we thought we could do it better. Homeschooling parents and styles vary greatly, but this trait seems to be a constant. We all think we can do it better. Basically, if we were in an SNL skit, homeschool parents would be Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy.
What Is Homeschooling Like?
In my 16 years of homeschooling I have seen a wide spectrum of homeschool styles. There are those parents whose planners are immaculate and the minutes spent on each subject are documented. On the other hand, I have also seen the wild world of unschooling. For those who don’t know, the term unschooling or democratic schooling refers to a child self-directing his education. It is possible to successfully pull off unschooling if a child has a higher level of maturity, good self-discipline and there is proper oversight and guidance. I have never actually witnessed this perfect combination, so I usually cringe when someone says they are unschoolers.
Our homeschool dynamic does not fit into either of these categories. For many years we used a more structured format with most of the curriculum coming from one provider. Eventually, I chose curriculums from a variety of vendors and loosened up with how regimented our days were. My children always knew what needed to be done by the end of the school year and could choose to double up on certain subjects and then take longer breaks if their work was done.
Over time, critiquing my children’s writing became an exercise in hurt feelings, so they worked with a writing teacher I became friends with through reviewing young adult books. All of the changes I made were natural progressions for us and not part of any educational philosophy that I hold dear.
And Now We Are Done, But Not Really…
There were definitely times in the past 16 years when I really thought I would never be done homeschooling. These moments came mainly when I had all three kids at home and things were not going as planned. Sometimes there were too many questions, not enough time and loads of housework to do as well.
Now at the end of our homeschool journey, I can honestly say it was rollercoaster ride of high and lows, but mainly highs. I feel like I know my kids pretty well both from an educator standpoint and as a parent. They have developed a level of confidence and social competence that I don’t know would have been possible if they went to school in their formative years.
My job as a homeschool educator may be done, but I will still be a presence and voice in my kids’ academic careers. Now it will be solely as a parent and not a teacher. Will I question the wisdom of certain assignments and criticize the emphasis of particular teaching topics? Will I wonder how they can squeeze one more novel and two more Chemistry chapters in with one week of school left? Probably. Like I said earlier, the prevailing trait of a homeschooling parent is that we think we can do it better. It is never really over for those with this trait.
Some Homeschool Truths I Learned Along the Way
- There is no such thing as a perfect curriculum and there never will be. For years I have pieced together curriculums from different educational providers. I hit upon a formula I am about 80% happy with and that is as good as it will get. There will always be something you want to add, change or remove.
- Legos are the perfect toy. If there could only be one toy in the world it would have to be Legos. They can be used in many different areas of homeschooling as well as play. They will never let you down as long as you don’t accidentally step on one.
- Math manipulatives are super cute and super expensive. See the Lego recommendation above.
- Unless you are homeschooling your child because he is an art or music prodigy, art and music will always take a backseat to other subjects. Despite your best intentions to make Friday “Art Day” or whatever, it is just the nature of the beast. When the chips are down, art and music always lose. It is the same in traditional schools so don’t beat yourself up about it.
- If you let your kids watch too many episodes of Redwall in a row they will start battling each other. True story.
- Don’t get sucked in by “old-timey” curriculum options. You may think it is cute and “like when then did school properly in the olden days” but your kids will hate it. You will hear about how much they hate it. Then you will be offended because they don’t love their old-timey Laura Ingalls Wilder curriculum. While aspects of these curriculums do stand the test of time, you aren’t doing your child any favors using antiquated materials.
- Don’t get sucked in by the latest flashy homeschool curriculums either. They usually have high price tags and no proven track record. Would I love an entire curriculum made up solely of board games? Yes. If Settlers of Catan could somehow be used to demonstrate how various civilizations developed it would be cool, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would work.
- Watching Doctor Who does not count as a science curriculum no matter how much you would like it to. It does however, inspire creativity and lively conversations.
And now my final truth that only a homeschool parent can appreciate. We aren’t really done yet. My daughter still has a few Algebra lessons left and a final exam. She also needs to finish her research paper. She tells me she will be done “sometime next week…” as she scrolls through PromGirl looking at Homecoming dresses.
This summer I will spend time creating a resume that explains 16 years of being out of the workforce. My husband will be a huge help with this, but I am nervous about trying to translate my skill sets into a functional resume with no relevant places of employment. Job search here I come…
Have you entered the work force again after many years away from it? Any advice or job search tips would be welcome! Leave them in the comments below.