It’s been a year since we pulled our daughter out of school and decided to homeschool.
She needed to be at home with me; to find a safe haven in the storm of a life that had been constantly changing for the past six years.
I needed her here, too.
I needed to see her.
To know her in the way that mothers know their children from the constancy of life.
To watch her grow and discover and pour out oil on her broken places.
To search out what it feels like to walk in her tender footsteps and breathe in the world around us through her little heart.
The past year has had it’s ups and downs, but there are many things I have learned to love about homeschooling.
It is a year I will never regret.
Now, on the brink of reintegrating her back to school…every day feels a bit bittersweet.
I love these days I have with her, even while I feel tied down, exhausted and claustrophobic!
Here are some reasons why I have loved homeschooling:
1.Flexibility – It has been so nice coming home from a busy weekend and knowing that I can let my daughter sleep as long as she likes on Monday morning and let her ease back into the routine slowly. There are days we accomplish tons of work…and there are days we accomplish very little. The beauty of this, especially with a special needs child, is that when one of those days come along where you just know that learning is going to be a constant challenge…you can just NOT. Some days we go for a walk instead, or spend our morning running errands. Some days we visit friends, snuggle on the couch or take a nap. I will miss this when I have to make sure she’s ready to go out the door every morning promptly, ready or not.
2. Integrated Learning – I love that because I know exactly what my daughter is learning at all times, I can incorporate it into anything we may be doing. If we are learning about money, for instance, we notice prices at the grocery store and talk about coin values when we count out allowance money. She notices anything from spelling patterns to colours to story themes that we’ve been learning about all around her and I love that I know exactly what she is talking about when she mentions them. I believe this is the most powerful way for a child to learn, when all of life becomes integrated.
3. Growth – So, so much growth! There is a huge, indescribable feeling that wells up in my soul when I hear her voice lacing out words and stories and poems as her eyes scan a page. That was us! Not me, not her, but us! Together we have learned that she can read. Together we have explored the sea and memorized the 7 continents of the world. We have counted to 100 and explored the relativity of one number to the next. Building blocks of tens and hundreds. We can add them together or take them away. We can write them and say them and see them and feel them. Together we have bent our heads over books and papers and tiny little bugs. We have run through the breeze and lifted our eyes to the sky, taking in the big wide world above us. I have listened and listened and listened to her chatter. Day after day after day until I thought my ears could take no more! But in all the words and chatter and stories, she has given me her heart, offering it up to me in each little refrain. Each and every small moment; put them in a box and you would see that we have learned! We have grown. I missed the first five tender years of my little A’s life…so when I look in this box I see a little bit of redemption. A little bit of grace poured out that we could spend these moments together.
4. Play – Childhood is so short, and in an age where we are constantly measuring our children by charts and graphs and statistics from the minute their eyes first open, I want my children to have the chance to enjoy being a child. I want to make sure that even while they are learning and growing, they are being given space to be children. To laugh, to be silly, to explore, to create and to pretend. Play in a child’s life is an essential part of their development as person. Children use play to learn, comprehend life’s experiences and to communicate. It took a long time for my daughter to be able to relax enough to really play, so when I see her carting her babies around, creating sculptures in the snow, setting up a house or building a fort…I cherish it. It is a sign of the healing of her heart.
5. Sibling Bonds – When we chose to teach our daughter at home, we did not realize we were offering her an opportunity to build a bond with her little brother that she wouldn’t have had the opportunity for otherwise. With her older, more capable sister gone, she got a chance to form her own unique relationship with him. Now, at age 14 months and 8 years, they spend every day together. She is his favourite person to follow around and the games and stories she makes up for him keep him delightfully entertained. Together they play cars, dolls, read stories and colour pictures. Whatever she is doing, that’s what he wants to do, too. Having the chance to be so adored, despite the many squabbles and struggles of siblings, has given her such a boost in confidence and self esteem. Every day he proves to her by his little pattering feet following her around the house that she is worthy, she is loved, she is wanted.
6. Individualized Learning – While teaching a child with learning disabilities at home is not for the faint of heart, it is also incredibly relieving to be able to step outside of the box and teach your child on his/her level with no pressure of ‘grade’ performance. Most homeschooling families follow their child’s lead as to what they are interested in and then use that as a platform to build upon their learning. It’s ok to be working at multiple grade levels. Every child has strengths and weaknesses. If math is going great and reading is a struggle, it’s ok to be working at a substantially more difficult level for math than for reading. If your child conquers long division in just a few short lessons, it’s ok to move on to something new without doing the whole unit. If your child has a short attention span, or learns more kinesthetically you can build breaks into their day that will help them thrive. Math facts can be memorized while jumping rope. Stories can be read at the park. Spelling words can be created with paint and glue and soap bubbles. If your child can spell orally but not with paper and pencil, it’s ok to test them that way. If tests make your child anxious and he or she performs less than their best, it’s ok to toss tests out the window. As his or her teacher, you will have a very good idea of what they are comprehending, so choosing to do tests will only be a formality of what you already both know. If your child needs a nap or some quiet time, it’s easily accessible. If you decide to go on vacation in the middle of October that is perfectly ok! I have loved being so involved in my child’s learning and being able to make decisions based on her best interests academically. It has also given us more freedom as a family.
7. Life Skills – By choosing homeschooling you give yourself and your child a great opportunity to get involved in everyday activities that will teach them valuable life skills. By bringing their learning home, you will be able to involve them in all your daily tasks. Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, making a budget, the arts and music all become intertwined into their daily lives. A child who has spent 8 hours a day at school will most likely not have the energy to enjoy baking cookies or doing the grocery shopping with you after school, but a child who has more space and free time will be more apt to learn these skills well as they have time to enjoy it.
Homeschooling has many challenges, and like most thing there are pros and cons no matter how you choose to educate your children.
The past year has opened my eyes to the reality that homeschooling is not only possible but a really good option for many families.
It is a great way for children to grow and learn and it is ideal for families who are craving connection and freedom from schedules and regulations. It is ideal for adoptive families who are struggling with attachment issues, learning disabilities and trauma. We were able to connect with a great homeschooling group locally that offered us support, diversity and fun, which was an added bonus.
We may or may not return to homeschooling in the future but either way I have enjoyed this year in ways I never imagined and I will never regret it! If you have thought about homeschooling but feel it is too challenging, too complicated or too boring, hear this:
It was easier, more fun and more rewarding than I ever expected!