Why do families choose to homeschool? The circumstances and reasons are varied. In the “Our Path to Here” series, we tell you our stories.
Are you going to do this forever? Are you going to homeschool through high school?
These are the questions I have routinely fielded since the earliest days of our homeschooling journey. The answer to those questions has always been a resounding maybe.
I should begin my story with a personal disclaimer: those who know me well, know that flexibility is not exactly woven into my DNA. I share this because I want you to know that it has been difficult for me to take just one year at a time when I happily would have mapped out our courses from kindergarten to matriculation. I have a knack for planning and a much harder time letting life alter those plans. Yet somehow I knew that homeschooling was not going to be a straight path from point A to my idealized point B.
I began my life as a homeschooler when my daughter was about halfway through preschool. She was ready for more than the local program had to offer. My husband and I agreed to pull her out and begin education at home. It was a very basic year. She told me, “I’m going to be a good reader someday.” So that’s what we chose to focus on. I purchased Hooked on Phonics from a local Walmart, and we sat with it for 10-20 minutes a day, or however long she was interested. That was the extent of our first year together. She took to reading like a duck to water, which gave me the confidence I needed to forge ahead.
By the time my son was old enough for preschool, I knew that he was not ready to sit with me for lessons. I thought he would benefit from being around other caring adults. He attended preschool at a local church while my daughter had first grade at home with me. As that year wrapped, half-day Kindergarten at a local Christian school seemed to fit the bill for him nicely. He had a wonderful teacher, who built his confidence and loved him as only a kindergarten teacher can. It was not a pushy program, and the children did not have to be readers by the end of the year, which was exactly what my boy needed.
The first year I homeschooled both of my children was the third grade for my daughter and first grade for my son. This was the beginning of the challenging years. My daughter gave me a LOT of confidence as a homeschooling mom. She did not struggle with learning. Reading, writing, worksheets, handwriting, memory work, easy-peasy-one-two-threesy! Teaching her was effortless. But then there was my son. You may debate me, but no son has ever been as devoted to his mother as mine is to me. He is wonderful, kind, compassionate, funny, inventive, and difficult to teach! He did not take to reading like a duck to water. He struggled with memory work, grammar, and writing. It was years before I felt we were getting anywhere in math. But he loved to cook and clean, he helped our neighbors garden, and had (still has) a fierce entrepreneurial drive.
For the reasons listed above, I take homeschooling one year at a time. We have changed curriculums, the hours we homeschool, the activities we participate in, and the courses my children work through together. My daughter is “easy” to homeschool. My son takes quite a bit more work on my part. He requires me to think outside the box, reteach concepts more often, and to have patience (which is not my strong suit). What works for one (almost without fail) does NOT work for the other.
We tried a year of unschooling, highly against my nature. It was the break my son needed. He thrived; he loved it. The next year he was ready to tackle “real” schoolwork again. My daughter absolutely hated unschooling. She appreciates structure, and actually enjoys schoolwork. After that year, she asked to try public school. It was not what we wanted for her, but what she wanted for herself. We agreed to let her try 9th grade. She went from honor roll to straight A’s in three quarters. By the end of the 3rd quarter though, there were problems at school that had nothing to do with grades. We brought her home to finish the year.
Our current place in time is this: son 8th grade, daughter 10th grade. Both are homeschooled. Both will likely STAY homeschooled. For our daughter, this is by default. We moved to a new state that did not accept our ONE homeschooled quarter of 9th grade. She was not going to get credit for all the work she had done. (Yes, I called the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. State by state, laws are different for homeschoolers. The local high school did not have to accept our credits, and it was perfectly legal.) Our daughter was not exactly happy with the news. She was reluctant to continue homeschooling, but now that she’s nearing the end of 10th grade, she appreciates her freedom and is ready to finish high school and move on with her life. For our son, I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration he would feel confined to a seat for 6+ hours a day. I believe he would enjoy the social aspects of high school next year, but I think the academic pressures would give him the student anxiety we hear so much about in the news these days.
Homeschooling is a journey. That journey looks different for every family. That journey can and SHOULD look different within families for every child if necessary. I would love to be able to homeschool my two children with exactly the same curriculums, in exactly the same way, without ever having to change my strategy. I could have done that. I could have forced my son to do everything my daughter did. Pass/fail no matter, as long as it was easier for ME. But then, why not send him to school? Isn’t the beauty of homeschooling being able to mold our children, and mold ourselves TO them when necessary? Do not be afraid to change strategies from year to year, even mid-year when it’s not working. This may sound easier said than done, and I admit talking about it is much easier than doing it. I’m sharing this because these insights are hard-won. Give yourself the grace to take this journey one year, one month, one week, or one day at a time.
I hope every blessing on your homeschool. This is where God has called you to be at this time in your life. You and I are imperfect and not up to the task. But God, who is perfect, has chosen US for this task.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
Beth Bruer lives in beautiful Colorado Springs with her husband, two teens, and goldendoodle. She loves reading, (lifelong) learning, hiking, and yoga.