I’d like to tell you about homeschooling. About a unquenchable thirst for learning. About children who clamor to do extra math problems, write novels in their spare time and teach themselves Mandarin, just for the heck of it. I’d like to, but I can’t. Because I have no idea who those people are.
There’s this idea that homeschooled kids are some kind of special quirky weirdo geniuses. And maybe that’s true, sometimes. But for the most part, my kids are just kids. They squabble over toys. They ask me to buy Lucky Charms. They love cartoons. They have to be asked approximately twenty-seven times to brush their teeth in the morning.
And when they spot the back-to-school display at the store, they hiss and scuttle away like vampires exposed to sunlight.
I had a lot of guilt about this. Have a lot of guilt. But guilt be can be good, sometimes. Not if I drown in it and feel hopeless because of it. But if I use it to keep myself in check. Am I doing what works best for my kids, for my family? As long as I can keep answering that question with a yes, or at least an I think so, I’m doing okay.
So I have to apply that not just to homeschooling in general, but to the way we homeschool, too. I’ve been at it long enough now that I’ve tried and rejected many different philosophies, different curricula, different labels and ideals that didn’t suit us. What I’ve landed on instead seems to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of homeschooling. It doesn’t have an official manual or website or expensive complete curriculum package, but it works for us.
So if I had advice for homeschooling, which I do because I can, it would be:
Finish your coffee. Or tea or kombucha or stand on your head and meditate. Whatever you need to get a moment to yourself first. It’s okay. Really.
Nobody likes fractions. Okay so probably somebody does. For some reason. Pie related reasons, possibly? Hey, I’m not here to judge. The point is that everyone has to do something they don’t want to. I don’t care what educational philosophy you have. Sometimes the kids will complain and protest and lie on the floor making what can only be described as dying moose noises. That’s life. I’m not exactly turning cartwheels at scooping the litter box. Don’t take it personally. The cats sure don’t.
Stop looking at other people. Not in an avert your eyes sort of way, but in a don’t compare yourself or your children to others sort of way. There will always be someone more organized, more creative, more successful. You are on your own journey and so are your kids. I may be woefully unorganized, but I can make a killer blanket fort. I’ll let you decide which is more important. (Hint: it’s blanket forts.)
Have fun. All parents, not just homeschooling parents, live every day with the quiet awareness of the constant ticking away of time. Even when it’s hard. Even when taking on your child’s education feels like an overwhelming task. Even when you’re sure he’ll never read or she’ll never quite grasp long division. This will pass and they will grow up and they will be the world’s and no longer only yours. However you choose to school, take a day off and go on a day trip. Watch the cartoon together. Play a game.
Just not Chutes And Ladders. That game is the worst.
And I know, when you’re in thick of it, the enjoying every moment platitudes feel obnoxious and trite. They are. They’re also true.
Jill Vettel is a homeschooling mom of three living in Durham, NC. She's currently preparing to teach kindergarten, fourth grade, and the first year of middle school. She may need something stronger than kombucha to cope.