My kids have some interests that they follow pretty intensely. Woodworking is one for my oldest; Minecraft and gaming in general is one for my youngest.
I love the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling gives us to allow them to pursue those interests. But what I love most of all is that it allows me to see their growth, not only in those areas, but in all areas.
When they attended public school, I helped with homework, as most parents do. I saw graded papers that came home, and I saw progress reports and report cards that gave me grades that indicated how they were doing. But the truth is, I felt really distanced from their learning, and didn’t feel like I truly saw the progress they might be making. Seeing letters on a report card doesn’t really give you a good sense of the progress being made. It might, if the grade is going from an F to an A. But if they keep coming home with the same grade, or only going from a C to a B, it can be hard to tell. And those graded papers coming home aren’t really any different. You can see what they got wrong, but you don’t know how they got there.
Homeschooling has put me in there with them. I can see how they think, watch them work and know their process. I can understand how they got from point A to point B, and figure out where they went wrong to end up with a wrong answer. I can discuss and debate with them. And I can see, quite clearly, when they make progress. When they master a skill and move on, when they finally click with something and realize what a word means, or how a math problem should be solved, or why a particular scientific thing is the way it is. I can see, from their own words and the sources they show me they’ve used, the thought process that gave them the opinion they now hold.
We have more time for them to pursue their personal interests, and I’m able to see the growth there, as well. I’ve gone, with my oldest, from a kid who would pick up small sticks and twigs around the yard and use a small pocketknife to sharpen one end into a point to a young man who now owns real woodworking tools, and takes purchased wood and turns it into a beautiful wooden sword, complete with decoration and protective varnishes. He creates his own designs. He takes larger tree branches and, like great sculptors of centuries ago, sees something inside that he then uses his tools to bring out for the rest of us to see.
My youngest, addicted to Minecraft as he is, also shows signs of growth. He learns more and more about the game, he relates it to other games, and he compares it to other games. He learns about coding, and interacting with other people that he can’t see and doesn’t know, and he does math and reading in determining what things he needs in order to do other things. It also led him to a bigger interest in reading, as soon as I found some books about Minecraft. He still won’t always want to read, but if I offer him a book that has Minecraft in it, he’s all for it.
I also see other changes in them that I believe I might miss if they went to public school. Both have ADHD, but I’ve been able to truly see the settling of my oldest. I wouldn’t say he’s outgrown it, but he has learned to cope with it, and the hyperactivity aspect has found some great outlets with the woodworking, his desire to exercise, and the time he’s able to spend outside. I see the small hops forward in maturity. My oldest and I have some deep conversations these days about politics, religion, current events and more. My youngest and I have similar conversations, but he loses interest quickly still, and I see no reason to try to force the issue.
They are much more comfortable with who they are, with the uniqueness of their interests and plans, than I was at their ages. I consider that a great thing. I hope that it means that they will avoid some of the mistakes that I made as a result of trying to find that comfort with myself. I hope it means they will find themselves settled into adulthood much more easily than I was. They’ll still make mistakes, and still have moments of upheaval and uncertainly, I know, but the confidence they already have will serve them will when they reach those points where others will try to play on a lack of confidence.
Over our years of homeschooling, there have been times when I’ve been very uncertain of the choices I made. I worried that I might be hurting them by allowing them the freedom to explore too much, or that I wasn’t pushing hard enough with some things that they might need to know.
Now that they’re older, however, and I’m able to see all the signs of growth that I mentioned above, I feel so strongly that I made the right decision. And the best part?
I know, deep down, that if they’d gone to public school all these years, none of this would have happened. They’d both still be medicated, they’d have little to no time to explore their own interests, we wouldn’t be as close and have the conversations we have, and I definitely wouldn’t feel connected to their education. Just one of those would be reason enough to decide to homeschool, knowing what I know now. But putting all of them together makes me smile as I realize that I truly did do what was best for them all those years ago.