I’ve been homeschooling for twenty years and with each academic year, I discover new challenges. But that’s the adventure. To meet challenges head-on. Innovation is at the heart of homeschooling. But before I can look any scholastic year in the eye, I have to seriously consider three things.
First—What’s the big picture?
I had taught in private and public schools for years before I began homeschooling. And with any inside look, I knew there were serious issues in schools that needed to be addressed. I figured that, as a parent and an experienced teacher, I could do a pretty good job educating my children while swerving around some of the inevitable pitfalls of system failures.
One of my biggest goals was to give my family a sense of belonging and security. I wanted them to know where they belonged and understand their heritage and culture, as well as the bedrock of their religion. I hoped that academic success would rest on the shoulders of a well-formed secure personality. That also meant I had to reflect on who I was, what I believed, and where I belonged.
I thought this was a one-time research project. Ha!
Second—The Details…Oh, those pesky details!
I started out utilizing a homeschool template from an online Catholic resource that I figured knew more about home education than I did. It took me years and the reactions of several disgruntled kids to understand that I could no more accept a template someone else created than I should hand over the daily meal plan to a fast-food chain. I had to do research and apply textbooks, projects, and goals to each student individually. I also learned that there were a whole lot of online options and none of them were perfect. Picking and choosing became a way of life.
Third—Upheaval is a way of life—Accept it and keep going.
Ten years after I began homeschooling, my husband came down with Leukemia. Through the years he battled cancer, I still had to see that the kids could read, write, and calculate on grade level. It remained important that they measure with proficiency in academic exams. Organizing my priorities meant that though I had to focus on my husband’s needs, that didn’t give me permission to toss out my kids’ educational demands. If I couldn’t do the job I had to pass their academic education to someone or a system that could. I had to find a solution.
Turns out that the very flexibility of homeschooling and the nature of being able to follow an interest in depth allowed us to not only work around hospital visits, our grieving process, and manage our world in a whole new normal, but it gave us the opportunity to grow into our lives together.
The recent challenges involving a worldwide pandemic has only sent ripples along our educational front. Once again, we have been able to adjust as a whole family supporting each other through job losses, graduations without ceremonies, online internships, and bold new adventures away from home.
When I started homeschooling I had two young sons. Those two sons have graduated from their universities at the top of their classes and found productive opportunities for work. My eldest daughter is an award-winning senior, currently studying Math-Chemistry, and would dearly love to discover the answer to medical challenges that plague our human experience. My second daughter is in the airforce planning on a nursing career.
I have four more kids coming along, two in high school, and two in junior high. They have each done well—at least in my eyes. The world will judge them in time.
Going back to point Number One—The Big Picture. I have realized that the picture changes as we grow. The details come in and out of focus, but we chase them down to find the best way of managing the task before us. And upheavals are a way of life. Like the laundry, I don’t expect to “get it all done.” I’ll die with a to-do-list in my hand.
Homeschooling is a way of life—as much for me as the kids.