I have to admit, now that I’ve been homeschooling for 20 years or so I am starting to doubt myself! I have two college graduates, both working in their chosen field and another child certified to teach special needs also working in her field, and here I am experiencing doubt. I listen to the academic hoops parents, homeschoolers included, are putting their children through and think,
“Wow, my child doesn’t know this,” or
“We never studied that,”
and I find myself berating myself for not doing as much or more than I should have when it came to my children’s education. I can’t help the niggling thought of deprivation when it comes to assessing my children’s scholarship. Then I remember some sage words of my mother’s,
“You have to choose what period to study in English History these days because so much time has passed it is impossible to teach it all in twelve years.”
And that’s what I did when I chose to become my children’s teacher, I taught what they were interested in, I taught what I was interested in and the other stuff got left on the shelf to be discovered in later life like a good bottle of port in the wine cellar if and when they became interested.
During my years as a homeschooler I did not worry that I was teaching enough, I remember back in the early years when my mentor, the Well-Heeled Stranger, thought I was doing too much! No, I was busy enough keeping it all together with four of them in our one roomed schoolhouse. As I finished each year for the summer break I would look back on all that we had done (and left undone) and feel three things,
a sense of achievement as we packed up stacks of work to be archived (just in case we were asked to prove that we actually did school),
a sense of eager anticipation as we looked forward to the coming year where we could carry on where we had left off,
and the unspoken promise “to do so much better,” in the coming year.
No one was watching me and assessing my genius as a teacher. There were no funds I had to prove myself for, as a homeschooling family with an erratic work history, funding was an inside joke! Without judgment I entered each new September with enthusiasm and a desire to do my all in all, with God and my husband cheering me on.
So why now, after three children have successfully graduated from college, do I berate myself? Why am I wondering if I failed my children?
“Get thee behind me Satan!” is all I can say.
I have been blessed by my Radio Show. I have met, over the airwaves, stalwart homeschoolers who are faithful in the teaching of their children, their way. I have spoken to brilliant un-schoolers who allow their children to be just that…children and who guide them not force them, through their education. I learned when I was young that the mark of an educated person is one who can adapt all they’ve learned to their everyday life and this is how my children live, so why do I wonder as I wander?
Perhaps I have been reading too much about children today whose parents push them into programs and summer school to give them an edge over their peers when it comes to being on the college track.
With two working parents comes a panic when the summer months loom and they can’t take time off to be at home…with their offspring. When I was one of those working parents there was a movement a-foot that taught that children do well when they are away, nay, need to be away from their parents for a certain number of hours each day; remarkably they apparently thrive when they separate from the home fires.
They do?? Back in the day I don’t know if I completely bought into that thinking, but there were times when I latched onto it to absolve me from the guilt I felt by spending 12 hours with my colleagues and a scant 2 with my children before putting them to bed.
I was grateful for a babysitter who stood in for me year round, I worked so that she could work…she would accept my oldest son from his school bus when I couldn’t get home for him.
I was grateful for the Montessori school my younger ones attended that had a Before & After Care programme where they could chill until my work day was over.
Eventually the long holiday always came around and camp, that bastion of American childhood, offered itself as a solution. But I had a different answer, I gave up my job before that first long summer and decided camp was not in our budget. Now a new problem reared its head. I was worried that my children would not want to spend long periods of time with me, but they did!
I was amazed at just how much my children loved me and wanted to spend time with me!
I came to believe there there is no-one else in the world they would rather be with than me! I can understand the hesitation with teens but if you have spent every possible moment with them from birth you will know that they are just going through a stage of bravado and they really want to be with you as much as you “may” want to be with them!
Now for the question I started with. Did I do enough with my children? Just exactly what is “enough”? Enough what? Will they have graduated from my home school with a strong sense of what it was like to be a child? When school’s out for the summer can they recharge their batteries?
Think back to your summers or your parents’ tales of their summers if you are younger than me, which you probably are…it is a time to get out of the house for hours on end, to have the day stay light forever, and the mornings to come really fast. To forget about clocks, time and schedules, to shirk responsibilities. What is the point of taking this gift away by sending your children to college campuses to take summer classes so that they can be accepted at a better college?
If you can, stay at home with your children of all ages.
“Your job is to be a student.” I told my students, “only go out to work if you really, really want to.”
I happily make sacrifices to financially support them to the extent that my pocket will allow. How long does childhood last. Why rush it?
How long since you were a child? Why shouldn’t our children enjoy their youth? Society is doing a really good job at hurrying our children into adulthood before they are ready.
Go out and play, tomorrow will come soon enough.