I've had so many people ask me about homeschooling lately that I thought I'd just put some of my thoughts here. (At 9:30, in my pajamas, hanging out with my kids who are also still in their pajamas, the day after most kids started school again after a beautiful vacation time home with their family.)
First let me start off saying, I was never EVER going to be a homeschooling mom. I had SO many things I thought were not great about it, most based on stereotypes. I also don't think that homeschooling is the only or best option for all children at all times and in all situations. I feel that mother's are uniquely qualified to know intuitively what is best for their children, and if they act on the feelings they are given, will be doing what that child need at the time they need it. Sariah (our oldest and so far only "school aged" child) has been in charter school, public school and homeschool. Each has their own set of pros and cons, and I won't be listing all of those here, I'll just share some of my favorite things about homeschooling and some of maybe the struggles I've personally had with it. I'll try to keep it short(ish), but I think we all know how successful I won't be at that.
Some of my favorite things:
Sleeping in. Seriously. An extra 30 minute to an hour of sleep in the morning makes a HUGE difference for me and my kids. It's also nice to not start our days looking for that paper we were supposed to sign, or finish up that last bit of homework and rush her out to school with both of us a bit frazzled and remind her to, "Have a great day!"
Seeing the best of my children. When Sariah was going to school, I feel like we didn't really get to see each other at our best. Most of our interactions were when we were still tired and grumpy in the morning (we both really need our sleep) and then she'd go to school and finally be awake enough to be in a great mood. Then she'd have a pretty great day, and about the time she'd start getting tired and grumpy again is when school gets over, when she'd come home and have a little sister and homework to deal with, and I'd be tired and grumpy and have to help her get her homework done. We never really fought with each other, but I think being tired and the stress of the requirements to be both punctual and successful at school kept us from enjoying being together as much as we could have. In contrast, now mornings start when we want to wake up, we usually stay in pajamas until something compelling requires us to dress, and our days are full of learning, fun, and family. I can see that she is a lot happier and more confident which brings me to one of my next favorite things.
Confidence, Creativity, and Contentment Let me start this out by saying my daughter is AWESOME. She seriously is so talented in SO many areas it's kind of unjustly disgusting. lol. She has an amazing singing voice. She is very creative, and her artistic abilities blow my mind. She is so great at such a young age. She writes really fun and funny stories, makes neat little gifts for people, and is able to come up with a lot of ways to entertain her younger brother and sister who absolutely adore her. Another thing I noticed a couple weeks ago was how confident she is. She got to sing a solo of Silent Night at our ward Christmas party. (That alone, awesome. So brave.) She started singing in a key that was VERY high. At first I felt so bad for her, and was just kind of expecting it to go bad. She went through the first verse (really high) and NAILED every note. Except 1 near the end. When she cracked instead of getting upset or embarrassed she just grinned her crooked grin and kept going. She did the next 2 verses in a more reasonable key and it was really nice to hear what an extensive vocal range she had. After she was done, she just kind of laughed about it, and explained to me what she was thinking when she realized how high she started, and told me about how happy she was with her performance. She also told me about how one of the other girls her age was bossing her around in the bathroom at the church and how she stood up for herself, and they were still friends afterwards, but she wasn't about to stop her own happiness because this other girl told her to. I was SO happy for her and couldn't help but contrast that to the version of her I knew when she was going to school. Without going to far into it, dealing with other little girls is hard. It's amazing how young girl drama starts. I also noticed her comparing herself to others and she would usually compare others best qualities with her own shortcomings. (Doesn't that sound familiar? I still struggle so much with this even today.) Now she is a confident girl who really thinks of herself as amazing and able to do anything, but also thinks of others the same way.
Curriculum I think one of the most fun things about homeschooling is the various and vast world of curriculum. Whatever you can dream of, it's out there. I love being able to use teaching tools and styles that I enjoy and that work best for my kids. I like being able to time things in a way that fits with my kids. Sariah made the 4th grade deadline by about 2 1/2 weeks. Had I not been induced a little early, she could be in 3rd grade. For most subjects it doesn't matter a bit, for example, she was light years ahead of her peers in reading. For math, I find that about 4 months made a HUGE difference. Some of the stuff that she was just beating herself up over, and feeling like a failure because she wasn't "getting it" was the same stuff she was laughing about how easy it was just a few months later (after a break). Kids learn at different times and speeds and it's unfair to expect them to all learn the same stuff on the same timetable, making those who don't learn as quick feel like failures when it is NOT the child who is a failure, but the system of teaching them. (I've got more on that, but not right now. ha.) I also LOVE being able to quickly go over the topics that are boring for both of us. (Because seriously. WHO needs a 2 week module on penguins?!) We make sure they get the pertinent information, and move on. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes a couple minutes while we're setting the table. I also love that when something so thoroughly captures their interest, we can spend the whole day on it, or longer. (Because I'm not 100% confident in my own abilities yet, a really easy option is to print out the grade curriculum standards for your state (or one with higher standards) and make a checklist, and check things off when they learn them. Then you can be confident they aren't "falling behind" if that is important to you. Right now it's still important to me.) There are SO many resources out there and so much support for homeschoolers that I find a bigger problem is sorting through all the mountains of available awesomeness and choose what is best and most pertinent to our child or family at that time.
Some of the best advice given to me about homeschooling was, "There are as many ways to homeschool as there are families who do it." Whatever works best for your family is the "right" way to homeschool.
3 of my favorite websites about homeschooling are
lovetolearn.net which is a great website that helps you discover what you personally want out of homeschooling, and how to go about doing it. I felt like it kind of gave me the reigns and the permission to homeschool my way.
ldshomeschoolinginca.org There is a lot of information about homeschooling, some LDS quotes about homeschooling, but my favorite part of this website is the link for Virtual Field Trips. Very very cool. Lots and lots of links to lots and lots of cool places that you can visit without having to put the kids in the car and drive anywhere. (SO my kind of field trip.)
schoolofabraham.com This website has a lot of links to stuff for a more classical education. It also has a lot of other lds quotes and links. When I visit this website, I truly feel like I'm in a partnership with God in the raising of my children, and I often find the links to answers or inspiration I need in that sacred calling.
For us, it was a matter of choosing between "good, better, and best." I love what Elder Dallin H Oaks said in his October 2007 General Conference address, "We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives."......"We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families." That's what it really boils down to. My favorite thing about homeschooling.
FAMILY With homeschooling, I feel I have the freedom to do what is best for my family. When we were doing the traditional schooling system, I felt like our lives, our family, and in truth our existence revolved around the school schedule. We didn't have time to spend time enjoying each other, playing together, learning together and loving together, because we were so busy getting to school on time, getting homework done for school the next day, and getting the kids bathed and to bed on time so that they could be ready for the next day of school. Though it does work for some people, it was not a "best" for us. Homeschooling has allowed us the freedom to center our lives around Christ and the Family.