When it comes to educational opportunities for children, Charlotte, North Carolina is an incredibly unique city. There is a large homeschool population here. However, in my 21 months of Charlotte residency, I have discovered that most south Charlotte homeschoolers educate their children at home for only a short period of time before taking advantage of one of these opportunities. The amount of educational opportunities seems to be both a blessing and a curse. It is wonderful to know that your student can learn from a creative writing expert at one institution, a math expert at another location, and a foreign language educator at a third. But, the schedule-juggling, the coursework taught independently of other subjects, and the siblings farmed out to three different locations on three different days of the week, leaves many home educators feeling tired, overwhelmed, and confused about the future.
Because of my relatively new position at the YMCA, I have had more conversations than ever before with new and/or potential homeschoolers. Imagine their surprise when I communicate that we're wrapping up our eighth year of homeschooling. They are shocked when they hear that I am homeschooling teens. Even more astonishment comes when I reply to the question: "What are you planning on doing next year?" with "The same thing we've done for the past eight."
Naturally, the follow up question is usually:
Why do you still do this?
Hundreds of reasons! Because my kids build snow forts and sleep in them! Because my daughter taught herself how to spell by teaching herself sign language! Because we write on the windows! Because we love playing math games! Because my son builds medieval weapons out of duct tape! Because we're always learning! [Of course the list goes on ... and on ... and on ... with at least 100 notable reasons for the past six years if you scroll back through this blog.]
Since no one really has the time to listen to me ramble on about all we've accomplished on this journey, I've summed up hundreds of reasons into just three. It makes for better conversation.
In the past century in our country we have fine-tuned most inventions and activities so that everything we do can be done quicker, more simply, and better. Meals. Travel. The work day. Technology. Even exercise. Today a workout can be done in half the amount of time with the twice the results. This concept is true in most all areas of life, except modern education.
Today, the school days have become longer, the school years have become longer, the amount of homework has become greater, and the expectation for time spent in outside tutoring boggles me. If we have simplified all areas of life, why then are children expected to spend so many hours of their lives schooling? My children's time (and mine) is worth far more than a schedule dictated by an academic administrator. Their time is precious, and I will do everything in my power to protect it.
Over the past eight years, my children have had the time to: learn, explore, create, read, imagine, make music, draw, play, enjoy, make memories, relax, experience nature, develop outside interests, sleep, and (most importantly) be children.
Time is what I value most, yet I know it is the concept that overwhelms most new homeschoolers. I hear: "It takes us one hour a day. Then they follow me around the house making messes and arguing."
My response to this is the the same I give a mother of toddlers battling diapers, pacifiers, and sippy-cups. This too shall pass. It is only for a season. In a blink they become teenagers, and surprisingly will learn how to clean and how to make peace. Plus, because you provided them with time to learn when they were young, they will now make you dinner, fix major appliances when your husband is unavailable, mow the lawn, finish their laundry, hem your pants, and more!
2. Individualized Goal Setting
One of the reasons we began homeschooling was to allow our children the freedom to move at an unfettered pace. This goal still stands and watching it unfold during the teenage years is quite pleasurable.
Because my children are not micromanaged during the school day, (I believe) this allows them the freedom, the motivation, and the time to set their own goals and work towards accomplishing them. Sometimes their goals are school-related (I would like to finish Algebra II before I take the PSAT) and sometimes their goals are related to the activities they love (I would like to attend a ballet intensive next summer ... I would like to run a 5-minute mile this track season). Sometimes their goals are personal (I need to earn more money, so I can buy a new phone). This plays out in home education because their goals and their learning are one and the same. It's a beautiful thing.
We naturally learn about things we are interested in. We set goals based on our interests. Learning happens as we achieve our goals.
I could also label this reason as Watching My Teens Embrace Adulthood. Allowing our children to have a say in what they learn and when they learn it has always happened throughout our homeschooling journey. Because of this, as they age, we have been able to treat them more like adults. In fact, I believe that they are already better functioning adults than I was well into my twenties.
3. I Kinda Like My Kids
And, I'm pretty sure they still kinda like me. I don't mind being around them all day, every day. In fact, it's enjoyable. So is the journey. Sometimes the journey isn't always about the destination -- it's about the people you're with along the way.
The successes, the struggles, the a-ha moments, the discoveries, the fun, the learning, and the work is shared among us. We are a team. I couldn't imagine their education any other way.
How about you, friends? What are the top three reasons you are still on this journey?