Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Afraid to Homeschool?

I think the comment I get most often when people find out we homeschool is, "I could never do that." I often read about people getting mean comments about homeschooling, but I don't get a lot of that. The people I talk to seem to want to homeschool, but are afraid of failing, or maybe afraid of succeeding. Marianne Williamson had some words profound enough to be quoted by Nelson Mandela, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Whatever is the fear, I understand. This is our fifth year homeschooling, but we had to start somewhere. The beginning of our journey really started in 1998 when my oldest son was born. We immediately began teaching him how to eat, how to smile, how to love, how to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, talk, make animal noises, and more. You get the idea. We discussed homeschooling at that time, but didn't really know much about it, and just filed the idea for something to think about later. At two and a half he was reading letter flash cards. At three we sent him to preschool, but did not stop teaching him. Just before his 6th birthday, he started Kindergarten at the government school. He had a great teacher there. The next year, he started 1st grade. That was the longest year of our life. The homework they sent home really should have taken about 15 minutes three times a week. It took us about 4 hours. I had to reteach everything, and it was a constant fight. He was tired after being forced to sit in a box for 8 hours, and we were miserable. We knew something had to change. We once again brought up the idea of homeschooling. However, with the experience of just helping him with his homework being so miserable, the idea of homeschooling scared me to death. Instead, we started looking into private schools. That was not to work out. I would've had to return to working full time just to pay for it, and then my little one would have to go into daycare. My whole paycheck would be paying for school and daycare. Plus, I would have a lot less time to spend with my children. I would be paying to have someone else raise my children.

If you recall, a few sentences ago, I mentioned that we started teaching our children from the time they were born. Everyone does. It is a natural parenting instinct. But what finally convinced me that I could homeschool? Well, I started researching a bit more, and then God led me to the path of a great homeschool mom. Up to that point, we knew no one that homeschooled. It was this foreign, scary, uncharted territory. Now we knew someone else who did it. It encouraged me to do more research. I started looking at curriculum, and started thinking maybe it wouldn't be as hard as I thought. No, not really. The days and weeks leading up to the time to start brought many tears. I was scared to death, and I felt backed into a corner. I didn't see another way to get my son the education he needed. I started anyway. I bought some curriculum, and just started. The first year was difficult. I was trying to make it like school. What else would I do? I copied what I knew. Clearly that was not the answer. After trying a few different curricula, I was getting more and more frustrated. However, I was still not nearly as frustrated as I had been with the homework in first grade. I was very thankful for my afternoon exercise class with the other homeschool mom. Then, in the middle of the year, we did something crazy. We moved across the country.

That move led me to find an incredible group of homeschoolers. That's when I really started to learn. I learned that each family's homeschool experience is very different. Really the only requirements to homeschooling are knowing how to read and loving your children. The rest is completely up to you. Some families get a complete boxed curriculum with all the workbooks planned out in order. Some families don't use any curriculum. Then, there are all kinds of families on the spectrum in between there. We kind of use a mishmash of curriculum. I have found books that I really enjoy for teaching science and history. I do not get all my books from one certain company, and sometimes I just make things up as we go along. You know the best part? It's all O.K. The bottom line is that we teach our children character and give them a love of learning. If they love to learn, they will be able to accomplish anything to which they set their mind. The other thing that we can give them is a program suited to their specific gifts. A classroom with 20 - 30 kids cannot tailor a program to suit every child's needs. They can only teach a preplanned program suited to the "average" child. If my child expresses an interest in science or drawing, I can look for extra materials in those areas to encourage them and help them excel. If my child is struggling in an area that is vitally important, I can look for the best way to help. Sometimes if they are struggling in something not vitally important, it is better to just move on and come back to it later.

My best advice if you think you want to homeschool, but are afraid or "don't think you can do it", talk to someone who is living it. I would even recommend you talk to more than one person. One person may use a method of homeschooling that wouldn't work for your family, but the next person may use a totally different method. You have to find what will work for you and your child. That is different for each family, and most of the time for each child in the family. Most of all remember, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10 and "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5. Therefore, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." If homeschooling is the path that God wants you to take, He will be with you for the journey. Keep in mind what God says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." We are each responsible for training our own children, and as long as we ask and seek God, He will be with us. I leave you now with some final words of encouragement, "Let Go and Let God."

1 comment:

All's good. said...

Beautifully written Gidget...you summarizes it all so well. Homeschooling needn't be such a scary endeavor. It's all joy.