The first question I get when I tell people I’m homeschooling my oldest daughter this year is Why?
And the second question is How is it going?
I actually wanted to homeschool my daughter ever since I started researching kindergarten options. I ended up putting her in a great public school once I found out I was pregnant with my third. I didn’t think I would do a good job as a homeschool instructor with a newborn baby and a three-year-old. So the first thing I tell people is that I always wanted to do it. I had already done a ton of research and attended seminars three years ago.
This past summer, our trip to Gleanings for the Hungry was confirmation after confirmation. I talked with a few encouraging moms on staff who told me I could really do it, and I could do it well. After talking with three or four homeschool students while we were working on the peach line together, the Holy Spirit filled me in on a very important truth. I watched the ninth grade homeschool students serving the Lord at Gleanings. I saw how they might have had some social quirks that public school kids wouldn’t have. But God clearly told me, What’s wrong with some little quirks? Is that what you are saving your daughter from by keeping her in public school? Little social quirks? Who cares about that when you are talking about your daughter’s education, her future, her family, her soul?
After I came home from Gleanings, when I was praying about the decision to homeschool, the Holy Spirit gave me another word of confirmation:
You don’t understand now but you will understand in the future why you have to homeschool.
Next I visited two lovely homes of lovely friends who homeschool their kids so I could see their set-up. The first set-up consisted of a clean kitchen table, a bin of curriculum, and polite, smiling children. The second consisted of shelves of curriculum, three small desks, a few bins of educational toys and games, and polite, smiling children. These moms helped me so much by talking me through their favorite curriculum choices and telling me, “You can definitely do this. You will not regret it.” I was so scared at the thought of actually doing it, but I had an undeniable peace as well.
Finally, I called the homeschool co-op in our area that takes care of the paperwork and holds campus days for students in the group. Another wonderful mom spent over an hour on the phone with me, going over curriculum ideas and answering all my questions about the daunting step of taking my daughter out of public school and enrolling her in a private academy.
Ultimately, the answer to the question “Why?” is that I feel called by God to homeschool, and I have found the homeschool community to be a wonderful supportive community full of intelligent, energetic, inspirational people.
On August 19, 2013, the first day of the public school year, my oldest daughter didn’t go to school. My second daughter went to her half-day kindergarten class, but my oldest did not go to her third grade class. She stayed with me. It was so weird and it felt so wrong. Pulling her out of a great public school in order to give her the opportunity to have a private tutor (me) and a home education was such a difficult decision. Andy and I loved her school. We loved the families there. We loved the teachers. It made me cry tears that I had to hide from everyone around me. But I did it.
Even though I had one confirmation after another that God was leading me to homeschool my daughter, it was painful to keep her home from school that first day. I choked back tears when all the other kids went to class with their new backpacks, and my daughter stayed home. She didn’t really care about what outfit she was wearing, let alone the fact that she didn’t have a new backpack. That first day was a terrible feeling for me.
To my surprise, while I was a basket case, she was fine. In fact, that day she had so much peace. It was like a stress and a weight was lifted from her young life, and she was more happy and carefree than I had ever seen her on a school day. She was excited to try homeschool, knowing that she would get to do two or more field trips every month, library day every Monday, homeschool study hall with other kids on Tuesdays, Girl Scouts every other Wednesday, and Children’s Hunger Fund one day each month, as well as P.E. and art classes every other week with her homeschool co-op—in addition to her regular daily lessons with mom, who promised to teach her Spanish and do lots of science experiments.
I hadn’t even ordered the curriculum yet. The first day of public school arrived and I still needed to order curriculum. That first day we did some math worksheets and started working on some paragraphs about what she did over the summer.
And with a little guidance, over the next two weeks, her paragraphs turned into a 15-page essay. That was the first thing she did in homeschool. She’s eight years old. With mom as her teacher, she wrote 15 wide-ruled pages about her summer. Mommy and Daddy were so proud.
One thing I realized as I was searching for curriculum those two weeks was that I had no idea what information she had already learned and where to start teaching her. I had absolutely no idea what she knew about grammar, history, science—I mean, I knew that she had studied rocks last year and that she had done a diorama of zebras in the grasslands the year before, but I really had no idea what she had been doing in school for the past three years. That fact in itself was a wake-up call to me. I had been totally fine to have no knowledge of what my daughter was learning in school besides glancing at the papers she brought home at the end of the week or the end of the year.
Now, after 10 weeks of teaching her at home, I know exactly what she knows. I’d say public school did a pretty good job teaching her how to write paragraphs, read books, take spelling tests, identify the parts of speech, add and subtract, and seek out books on science and history topics that interest her.
But I can also attest that, previously, she was reading books that were purely entertaining and way too easy for her reading level. She was struggling with adding and subtracting quickly in her head. She had sort of learned to do the minimum when she was writing a paragraph, instead of writing everything she had to say. There was so much more that her young brain was ready for, and I had never taken the time, after dinner and homework, to challenge her beyond what she was doing in class.
When you ask me How is it going? I could brag about how many books she’s read in the past 10 weeks or tell you how confident she’s become in her weakest subject, but that’s not really on the forefront of my mind these days. What I have apprehended in this very natural teaching experience of tutoring my own daughter at home is something so wonderful that it doesn’t even make sense to brag about how smart she is. The most wonderful thing about homeschool is that my daughter and I have bonded with a new kind of love that comes from spending quality time together. We have grown so close this year as mother and daughter, laughing, playing learning games, baking pies, reading classic novels, making up projects, performing skits, writing journal entries about life, visiting the library. I get to be the teacher that she loves so much. I get to give her gold stars. I get to put her work up on my walls. I have earned her trust, devotion, and loyalty, which to be honest, I had lost over the years of taking care of my younger babies. I had sort of given up being close to my oldest daughter, thinking that it was normal for her to detach and drift away because she was older than the others. Now I see that I had unknowingly forced her to detach from me and attach to her friends and teachers at school—which isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t God’s natural design for a family either.
Homeschool has been amazing. It was such a hard decision to take her out of school and educate her at home. But just like everything that God calls me to do, what seems to be the most difficult choice can end up being the hugest blessing.
Here is one of her watercolor paintings that she did at the academy campus day. Isn’t it so pretty?