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I have been homeschooling for just over a quarter of my life. Eleven years to be exact! In that time I have used many different curricula and tried (and failed) many different ways. I have found things I like and things I don’t like. In that time, I have also struggled with whether to continue homeschooling — whether it was getting too hard! Every time, however, I decided to stay the course.
I didn’t start out my family expecting to homeschool. Both my husband and I went to public school and had full expectation of sending our children to school. That was just how it worked; it was what people did. I had only met two families that homeschooled at that point and I really hadn’t given it much thought.
But as the time grew closer for my son to go to school, I began having visions of putting my little boy on a school bus and sending him away for the whole day. That thought made me sad. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. At four years old, he was a bright boy; He knew his abc’s and 123’s. He was ready for kindergarten. But he wouldn’t turn 5 until November which meant him having to wait another year to start. So I took it upon myself to teach him to read and do simple math that first year. I hadn’t decided to homeschool fully, just that year.
Well I guess I enjoyed it. Enjoyed teaching him to read and add, and I loved keeping him near me. I loved knowing exactly what he was learning. So my husband and I decided to homeschool for another year. We went to a homeschool conference and learned the basics. The third year my second son, who wouldn’t turn 5 until October, began doing kindergarten work. It just became the thing we did.
The reasons my husband and I had for homeschooling became stronger and more defined as the years progressed. They had to. At that time my oldest was in second grade and, in addition, I had a kindergartner, a four year old and a two year old. Two more children would follow in the next couple of years. Those were fun times as I created history unit studies and read living books to them providing insight into the time period. Our kitchen and dining room became Education Central as maps of the world and the US, as well as a progressive illustrated time line, littered the walls. Science and math projects were also a prevalent sight in multiple locations around the house.
They were also hard times as the daily necessity of math and reading lessons were constantly interrupted by little people and their unceasing needs. I would constantly have to explain to my sons why the preschoolers got to watch Sesame Street while they had to sit in front of a workbook. There were days of my not feeling well due to pregnancies or issues with my thyroid which meant that sometimes school would be conducted from the comfort of my bed.
My convictions to educate my children at home had to be strong enough to carry me through those rough times: the days that I just wanted to quit; the seasons that seemed so hard that I just knew I couldn’t do it anymore; the child who just wanted to sit and stare at his worksheet all day because he hated the physical act of writing and couldn’t focus.
As my family has grown and matured over the years, so has my feeling of purpose. I didn’t start this journey with any expectations of doing it through high school. But as those years approached, and I considered the options, I knew that continuing to homeschool was best for our family. Homeschool looks different for us than it did in the beginning. Yes, I have a first and third grader. However, I also have two middle-schoolers and two high-schoolers. The needs and requirements for their education are more strenuous. Today, instead of figuring out how to entertain toddlers while teaching my child to read, I’m trying to make time to teach my youngest to read in the middle of discussing the complexities of Dante’s Inferno and Algebra. School is no longer conducted on my bed, rather it takes place all over the house with children in every corner pouring over their math and science books. It is no longer interrupted by the incessant cries of babies and toddlers, but rather by the teenager who decides to take a break from his or her studies to irritate a sibling.
Our house is a busy place during the day, with no end to the work to be done. But when I step back and look around, I am full of joy. I wouldn’t have it any other way.