Many of you know me as “The Busy Homeschool Mom.”A few of you have heard me speak, heard me on the radio or read one of my books. Most people know that my husband and I have seven children ages 2-21, and that we’ve been married for about twenty-four years. And you probably know that I like to laugh.
What you may NOT know about me is that I used to be 100% against homeschooling. Yep. You read it right. I was the mom that all the homeschool moms I knew ran from. I just didn’t get homeschoolers. After all, WHY would anyone want to stay home all day with their kids when they could have the luxury of dropping them off at school and giving the job of educating them to someone else? (in my best Grinch voice, “Why, why , why, WHY?”)
I just didn’t get it.
Besides. I didn’t have the uniform. The dreaded “denim jumper” which was being worn by almost every homeschool mom I knew at the time made me wonder if homeschoolers were part of a cult rather than a movement. A girl needs to consider these things! I mean, I like jumpers but I really like my jeans. What was the point of the uniform? I figured it must have something to do with identifying other homeschoolers. No one at the small private school where we had enrolled our first child was really sure.
Truthfully, I felt judged by all those jumper-wearing homeschool moms who, I was told, were making their own jumpers and growing their own wheat while I was buying Wonder Bread on sale and following (dare I say it?) a fashion trend or two now and again.
I felt guilty every time I ran into a homeschool mom at church. I did my best to avoid the topic of education. After all, we had sent our first child to *gasp* PRESCHOOL, and I knew for a fact that this wasn’t going over well in the homeschool mom’s coffee club.
I did have a few friends who were homeschooling. So I did what any good friend would do: I tried my best to help these poor, tired moms “see the light.” I invited them to plays and open house night at my daughter’s school. I was sure to talk about how great it was to drop Savannah off at school and spend “quality time” with her little sister. I even went so far as to take their children to “bring a friend to school day” at the school. Looking back, I’m a *teensy bit* embarrassed by my behavior. These homeschool moms, bless them, were patient with me. Never once did one of them tell me to take a hike; and heaven knows, I had it coming.
Of course, I had my own doubts about having our daughter in school. I noticed that because of my husband’s job, he was missing our daughter during most of her waking hours. When he had a few free hours, she was in school. When he came home, she was in bed. I also noticed that the attitudes of the siblings toward each other were hindered during the school week; I felt as if I was having to “overcorrect” because of the attitudes and actions that Savannah came home with after school. There were conversations Savannah had with older students on the playground that I would have PAID to have wait another ten years, too.
In the mid 90’s, we ended up in the small town of Wilsonville, Oregon. We enrolled her in a small public school in the little town of Canby. I loved her 2nd grade teacher. The schoolbus came right to our door every morning at 7:30. I thought I had it pretty good.
Meanwhile, Sierra, who was eager to join her big sister, wanted to go to Kindergarten. Trouble was, she missed the age cutoff by a week. A week! I decided to console Sierra by telling her I would teach her some things at home. This seemed to do the trick so I set about trying to find workbooks and other materials in order to give her something like “school” to do at home.
I avoided using the word homeschool. I avoided it like the plague.
But even though I was avoiding it, God was working. God has a way of bringing us around to His way of thinking.
I soon discovered that there was a homeschool supply store about 45 minutes from our house. I decided to “casually” go and check it out. When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the amount of materials and wonderful books available to homeschooling families. I asked the store owner what he would suggest for a “non-homeschooler” like me. He graciously pointed out a few of the curriculum choices. He asked what I wanted to accomplish with Sierra. I said I just wanted to help her get ready for “real” school. Then I ducked. But he didn’t flinch. I suspected he had spoken to my kind before.
I left the store with a copy of “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and a math workbook. I must admit, I was secretly excited to try my hand at teaching Sierra to read. I had no clue where to start the process, so having a book that gave step by step instructions was just what I needed.
It took about a week of teaching Sierra at home for me to begin to see that I had been totally wrong about homeschooling. All these years I thought homeschooling was about chains, but I was finding freedom instead! Freedom in the way we did school, freedom in when we did school! Even the school bus taking our daughter to and from school could not compete with the amount of time I was saving by schooling at home.
My relationships with my children began to be filled with a new sense of purpose as well; I loved seeing Sierra’s eyes light up when she understood a concept for the first time. Knowing that I was able to teach her made it even better. Before too long, we had vowel charts up in the kitchen and posters of the Presidents adorned the walls of the nook where we sat to read. I had to admit: I was an accidental homeschooler. And I didn’t care who knew it.
I could go on and on about how the Lord softened my heart and drew Jay and me closer together in the process of deciding to pull Savannah out of public school. But that’s another post. I could tell you about the richness that our family has experienced through homeschooling that we never even thought was possible—but that too, is another post.
I could also tell you that homeschooling is stinkin’ hard. But boy, is it worth it. And nothing in this life that’s worth doing, I have discovered, is ever easy.
Homeschooling is not for everyone. But I believe that there are more moms out there like me than not. Maybe you’re watching a homeschool mom right now, wondering what craziness came over her that she would choose to stay home with her children when someone else would take them off her hands for the day. Well, I’m here to tell you, you’re right. It’s crazy. it’s at least seventeen different kinds of crazy. Crazy good. Crazy hard. Crazy crazy. Crazy adventure. Crazy amazing.
Turns out homeschooling is not about denim jumpers. There are no uniforms. It is as hard as I thought it might be … maybe even more, some days.
And I wouldn’t change it for the world.