Homeschooling is Worth It, Even on the Tough Days

Sometimes we have rough days. Sometimes we have rough weeks. Well, to be honest sometimes we have rough YEARS!  I have to admit that at times I find homeschooling hard. Much harder than I ever imagined.

I think  that the saying “anything worth having is worth working for” can be appropriately applied to homeschooling. But the truth is that the fruits of our labor can be hard to spot at times. It may be that the fruits are just small changes, small steps toward growth or that some fruit has an especially long growing season.

Our homeschool journey is coming to the end of its nineteenth year and some days I feel really tired. I have taught the same math lessons seven times. I have taught five children to read. I have had countless conversations with teen sons about the importance of finishing the journey strong. I have tried to teach consistency while I have struggled with it myself.

But for all the struggles, all the weariness and frustration, I still know that this is the right thing for our family. Truthfully…I have asked God on more than one occasion if He could possibly have been wrong about this call to homeschool. I know, God doesn’t make mistakes.  When I am thinking more clearly, I can see so many blessings that have come our way because we have remained faithful to this call. But sometimes I’m just plain tired.

A couple of things help me when I get in that place where I need to refocus. First, of course, I go to God. He never fails to reassure me that I am still on the right path. Then, after I get my heart in the right place, I work on getting my mind to come into agreement. An excellent way to quickly remember the benefits of homeschooling is to be reminded of what our kids are missing by not being in school. That’s right, I said what the are MISSING. I know we are constantly faced with people telling us what our kids are missing by being home but the truth is they are missing a lot of things I am glad they are missing.

I have gathered a list of  a  few resources I have found helpful in this exercise of refocusing.

John Taylor Gatto was a public school teacher who has written several books exposing the true foundations of our public education system. His book entitled  The Underground History of American Education can be read on his website.

Peter Gray is a research psychologist who has some very interesting ideas about traditional education practices that help me remember why I am doing what I am doing. You can read his blog here.

Another thing I find helpful is to read other homeschooler’s blogs. I have found several that I find helpful including  Why Homeschool Sometimes I just log on to and just read random posts. There is also a nice list of blogs on A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling.

Hopefully, if you find yourself needing a little boost to help you over a challenging season, some of these resources will help.

We’re hanging in there!

Why I Don’t Have a Schoolroom

I read an article today that talked about how the author’s family had decided the best way for them to “do school” was to “separate home and school.”  I read with some interest how this family had designated a room that they would use strictly for school and not allow their school to “take over the house”. I remember being of the same opinion several years ago.

When we began homeschooling in 1991 we used the kitchen table for our book learning and the living room sofa for the other activities, like reading aloud, that worked better in a cuddling position.  As the years went on I dreamed of a room that I could use just for school. A place where we could spread out our materials, projects and experiments and not have to move everything when the school day was over.  I dreamed about this for nine years and finally when my oldest student was 17 and the youngest a newborn, I got my schoolroom. It wasn’t just any old room, it had two walk-in closets. One I turned into a library and the other, a reading room with a futon mattress on the floor and  lots of pillows. It also had  a set of large east facing windows that let in the morning sun. I had one wall of cabinets with shelves to the ceiling and a filing cabinet. I also had several individual desks and a large table that had come from the local elementary school. The best part was the authentic 1950’s blackboard salvaged from the same elementary school. My husband hung the blackboard and even designed a chalk tray much like it must have had in the original classroom.

It was a great room, everything I had ever dreamed of. There was only one problem.  We didn’t use it. We still preferred to do our learning all over the house at all times of the day. What I had thought I wanted was what I remembered as a child; a classroom with lots of supplies and all sorts of wonderful things to explore. We had the supplies alright, we also had the space. But it wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. There was something rather sterile and squelching about trying to force learning to take place in that one room.

Something I had learned during those nine years of waiting for the perfect room was that you can’t confine truly exciting learning to a single space. We had discovered that we could learn anywhere and in fact, that was what we’d come to do naturally. We had our school room for four years and it mostly became a storage room for our materials. We still did our learning in the living room and at the table in the kitchen. We also learned on a huge quilt on the front porch and on the picnic table in the backyard. We learned in the van, at the library, at the park and at other people’s houses.

When we moved from Ohio to Iowa in 2005 we spent many hours looking at houses. The requirements that we felt we needed didn’t include a school room. We ended up in a home that has a room with bookshelves to the ceiling  on two walls and they are filled with books. We have space for the kids to play with their legos and build with other materials but we have no desks or other schoolroom furnishings. We do our schoolwork all over, just as we did in Ohio. Learning has become such a part of living that we really don’t feel comfortable confining it to a separate place as though it is something that we do apart from our everyday lives. At our house, learning is living, so we do most of it in the living room!


Firsts and Lasts

I think anyone who has been a parent has shared the feeling of excitement that comes when your child does a “first.”  By that I mean, the first time you watch your child gain a victory over some skill or do something by themselves.  We applaud wildly when our little ones take their first steps or say their first words. When they are older, it’s other things that bring that joy, like reading by themselves or riding a two-wheeler for the first time.  We all spend those childhood years cheering our children on from one accomplishment to the next.

But there is a different perspective that I wish I was more conscious of and that’s the “lasts.”  So many times we have no warning that something will be done for the last time and we wish we’d known so we could take a moment and savor the experience one last time.  Things would take on a different meaning if you knew that it would be the last time.  I remember how many years I was awakened in the night to nurse a baby and how I would sometimes wish that season would end. But if I had known which time would be the last time, I think I would have taken a moment to acknowledge the experience as one that often brought a sense of peace and a pause that sort of said “all is right with the world.” There was just something about that middle of the night experience that I now look back on and treasure. As that time passed I told myself with some relief, that the little fellow was finally sleeping through the night.  But after experiencing it with seven babies, I wish I’d known which time would really be the last, because now I know that I would have looked at it differently.

Most times we are just living life, focusing on what comes next and we aren’t at all conscious of the passing of time. We probably miss a lot of lasts and never even notice. But last night I had an experience that reminded me that the lasts are important and I would do well to notice them. My youngest son has been involved in a program called Royal Rangers. It’s similar to Boy Scouts but since it is part of the Assemblies of God Church program, it has a strong Biblical focus. Last night Alex’s group had their Council of Achievement where they are presented with the merit badges they have earned during the previous quarter. Alex had worked very hard for several months and earned several merits as well as an impressive number of rank advancements.  I was so proud of him and at the same time, I became painfully aware that he was the last of the boys to have this opportunity and indeed, he was quickly moving forward and would move on to a new season as the others had.  He is really looking forward to moving on to youth group and likely won’t be in Royal Rangers next year so he  only has one more quarter to work on badges and stand proudly before the audience to receive his awards.

You might say that focusing on the “lasts” just brings sadness and you are right, it does, but it also brings an opportunity to stop and savor moments that you would otherwise totally miss because of the pace of life. We move through life so fast that we are sort of on automatic-pilot, switching to the next season without thinking about what was gained in the previous one. We do have certain times where we have learned to take notice  like school graduations and marriage, when we recognize that our children will be forever changed, never to return to their former lives.  When those things happen we greet them with feelings that are bittersweet. We wouldn’t take those moments away from our children, but at the same time we grieve a little for what is passing.  But this is what parenting is, isn’t it?  A holding on and letting go, over and over.

I would like to suggest that there are many more subtle moments in life when our children are ready to move on to a new season and if we were aware, we would  have some wonderful moments where we experience joy in the passing.  Yes, it will be  bittersweet  and some tears are likely to be shed, but they will be tears of joy as we see what has been done in that child’s life to get him to this new season.  Firsts are great, but  lasts are the necessary stepping stones and are perhaps worth the pause required to acknowledge them.

Of course it’s easier to notice the lasts for the youngest child because there are no more to follow but the lasts in the lives of the older ones are worth acknowledging too. I am praying that God will help me slow down and take more notice of the lasts that I may be thankful for each one and appreciate more what comes next.