Even though I have no idea of the actual date, this month – or more specifically, this week – is our anniversary of when we started homeschooling. Four years ago this week, we officially began this journey.
I initially began this journey for a couple of different reasons. One was that I felt that the education the kids were getting wasn’t what I’d like it to be. I didn’t feel they were learning what they should, at a rate they should, or in a way that they really retained. Another was that bullying was beginning for my youngest, and it wasn’t just students doing it. It was also school administration, on top of some other students, and his life was becoming utterly miserable.
But once we began our journey, the benefits became about so much more than my initial reasons. Here are just a few of the benefits.
- We’re closer as a family. We’re in the thick of the teen years with my oldest, and at the end of the preteen years with my youngest. We’re at the point where attitudes, friends, and more start pulling kids away from the family, often creating distance and sometimes even rifts that are never really bridged. Despite that, I feel like my kids and I are closer as a family than we would have been otherwise. The time that we get together, time that would otherwise be spent apart while they’re at school, has allowed us to work through the attitudes and whatever else comes up so that we can stay close. We’re not pulled in separate directions by school activities, homework, friends, etc, because all of these combine together to create our life.
- I’ve got a much better grasp on what my kids know and don’t know – and how they learn. Even when I farm something out (for example, math to Khan Academy), I have tools that allow me to monitor much more closely what they’re doing, when they’re doing it, and how well they’re doing with it. I know, even better than I did before, where my children’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and I know the tricks to help them better grasp the things they struggle with. I no longer rely on someone else to tell me what my child should know, or what they’re good or bad at.
- We work at our pace, however slow or fast that may be. When we first started, I tried to keep up a strict pace. I felt like I had something to prove. Who I had to prove it to, I have no idea, but I felt like I had to prove something to someone. Now, though, I’ve realized that what matters is that my kids learn. If they learn something faster than I expect, that’s great and we move on. But if they struggle, we take however long they need to grasp it. If that’s a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, so be it. I feel no guilt if we work on something for months anymore. My kids no longer feel “stupid” or “bad” if they don’t grasp something right away. That, by itself, is worth anything and everything we might go through.
- We were able to stop the ADHD meds. Medicating for ADHD was never my intention. It was a desperate, last resort when my oldest was about to be suspended, and I felt like there was nothing else I could do. Medicating the youngest ended up being an extension of that, a preemptive strike to keep him from ending up where his brother had gone before. I never wanted to do it and I was always hopeful we’d be able to eventually stop it. The way we ultimately stopped was not ideal (it involves insurance, a doctor who wouldn’t do his job, and going cold turkey because we had no choice), but it turned out to be the best thing for our family as a whole. The meds were making my oldest more aggressive than he actually is as puberty drew near, and he’s actually become much calmer and more focused over the last few years without the meds. My youngest is still very hyper, unfocused, and impulsive, but we’ve learned to work with and around that and avoid the meds still. If I had any regrets, it would be that I didn’t believe I could homeschool while I worked, because if I’d believed that, I would have done it and neither of my children would have ever been on meds.
- We’ve found friends we never would have otherwise. I met my best friend through our homeschooling group, and though she’s moved to another state, I’m still so grateful for the group because I met her. My kids have developed some amazing, solid friendships in our group, with kids who are older, younger, or the same age. They are close with these friends, in a way that I don’t think they would find with friends in public school, due to the way things are done in public school and all the time spent in class and on homework. Maybe more than anything else, the friendships make homeschooling worthwhile.
- My kids have found passion. My kids have some pretty interesting interests. Woodworking, weightlifting, videography, and photography are just a few. While these types of interests are not unique to homeschooling, they’ve had far more time to explore them and immerse themselves in them because we homeschool. This has allowed them to go deeper, to spend a lot more time learning about them, and to advance much further in these interests. Instead of doing homework that takes up hours upon hours after school, and that, in some cases, is just busywork, they’ve been able to spend those long hours finding their passions and exploring potential future careers.
Four years ago, my biggest goal was to make sure that my children got a better education than they were currently getting. That was what I cared about, making sure they got the basics of a quality education.
Today, I have found that the benefits have gone so far beyond what I ever expected. Aside from giving them life in the first place, I truly believe that homeschooling has been the best thing I could ever have done for them.