Success as parents is often realized in action and not so much our skill.
I got about two hours of sleep last night, so here’s what today’s academic instruction for my seven boys ages 1 – 14 is going to look like: “Morning prayer time and then get out the Play-Doh for the little ones. Older kids – practice piano, read encyclopedias and do some math online.”
I’ll then sit on the floor, drinking coffee and kissing my babies. I’ll probably call my friend Amber to laugh/cry about life. In between listening to her laugh/cry back, I’ll say “hold on,” put the phone down and check in with my chickies: “You’re done? Good, practice Spanish. And you – help your brother memorize his poem.”
I’ll keep my phone call short, because I’ve found that rather than the perfect curriculum or a bunch of stupid crafts, what my kids need most of all (academically, morally, spiritually) … is me. And while I absolutely refuse to do the obnoxious, annoying thing of demonizing education choices other than my own, I’m a huge fan of home schooling (a movement becoming increasingly popular) and here’s why: Even when I do it badly, it’s still incredibly effective. Every year my kids receive state testing, and every year they easily score in the mid-to-high nineties.
Living in a learning environment
Now don’t go thinking my kids are gifted – they’re not. Yes, they’re bright and none of them have learning disabilities. However, I credit their academic performance to the fact that by nature, all kids are insatiably curious. Also, my kids live – 24/7 – in a learning environment. Screen time is super rare and reading for fun is constant, so is outside play and, of course, fun with Legos, blocks and even this disgusting stuff called Moon Sand that’s totally ruining my carpet.
But as far as my instruction – lots of times it’s pretty much nonexistent. Sure, there are days when I’m a regular Ms. Frizzle, driving our super long family van to nature centers and fossil digs. I personally had a blast reading Beowulf aloud last winter, acting out sword fights while snow blanketed the trees beyond our windows. I’ve learned Latin alongside my kids and memorized epic poems and finally got to the bottom of decimal notation and quadratic equations and figured out what the heck an appositive is anyway – thank you, Google. This upcoming summer, I’ll be joining my oldest son at a 2-day biology lab where we’ll perform the college-level dissection of a lamb en utero.
A strong family bond, and kids who are kept innocent – not ignorant
Doesn’t sound like I’m home schooling badly after all, right? Well lots of folks would consider a one-minute bark of academic instruction for an entire day “homeschooling badly.” Granted, I try not to have too many days like that in a row, and lots of times I do succeed. Ours is certainly not a perfect education system (if one exists), but at the end of the day, I’m certain it’s the best one for my entire family. Here’s why:
Other than great academic performance, I’m positive that a home education has kept my kids innocent – not ignorant. My teens could easily discuss the political climate leading up to World War I, but I’m certain they’re clueless as to the latest passing fidget spinner / clothing / pop song trend. For this reason, I don’t have the impossible task of “un-teaching” my kid what he saw on his friend’s smartphone at the bus stop. Rather, I can spend that time watching a documentary with him about The Beatles. We can then order the sheet music for “Hey Jude” and I can sing along (badly) while he plucks it out on the piano. Hence, our bonding time is increased. And all this has taken place during the hours when my son would have been moving en masse through locker-lined halls, picking up learned attitudes like school is boring; and no one understands me except my friends; and my parents are jerks because Idon’t have a car like Justin’s.
Okay, that’s as far as I’ll go with being negative about a formal school setting, especially because we frequent those locker-lined halls often for sports practices — a great source of exercise and limited socialization – just enough to ensure my kids don’t get stuck wearing clothing trends from the 90s.
So homeschooling badly has led to great academic performance, innocent – not ignorant – kids, and a super strong family bond even though I rarely have my act together. [Note, I’m that mom at the park who always borrows diaper wipes and, yes, my barefoot toddler would love a handful of your fancy organic animal crackers, too.]
Okay, here’s the hardest part …
Speaking of organic animal crackers, food service is definitely the hardest part of our lifestyle. That and having kids home all the time, making messes all the time, with week days sliding into weekends and summer breaks blurring with every single day of our lives. When I was a kid, my siblings and I would run off to school and my mom would have a few hours to catch her breath. She’d do laundry in peace while the cafeteria lady push-broomed our tater tots off the floor at school.
Here, those tater tots are mixed-in/mashed-up with dropped flash cards, glitter, and runaway toddler socks because I’m not going to lie – there’s a super blurry part of home schooling I’ve chosen to ignore. This blurry part would totally depress me if I didn’t instead focus on how the other parts, the awesome parts I already mentioned, make this blurriness completely worth it. Also, my husband and I have harnessed other hacks to catch breaks, such as spending the cash we would have used on school uniforms and field trips on dirt bikes (for him) and movie dates (for me).
Lastly and above all, my biggest reason for teaching my kids at home is because in my heart of hearts I concluded long ago that it was something worth doing. Around that same time, I read these words by author and apologist G.K. Chesterton (and his words follow in bold): “If something is worth doing — whether it be serenading your child even if you’re tone deaf, whipping up a towering souffle even if you lack the Julia Child touch, or home schooling with a mind so scattered you can’t keep pencils in a pencil jar — it’s worth doing badly.”