Seeing how much my readers needed this series on Homeschool Information Overload, I decided to ask my friend, Linda of Apron Strings and Other Things to share her perspective from the Finish Line. She has graduated half of her children and has been homeschool twice as long as I have. I think you will find her advice timely, relevant, and oh so helpful!
To read the entire series, start HERE.
Everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing and hearing discussion about being overwhelmed. Too much input, too many choices, too much to do . . etc. etc. It is especially true in the homeschooling community. In twenty-four years of educating our children at home, I have to tell you this is not a new topic of conversation. But I must say that the level of stress I’m sensing in those I talk with is higher than ever. Why is that?
Homeschooling is not so uncommon now as when our family began. There are now more choices in curriculum than ever. There are now many families who’ve graduated children out of their homeschool. Colleges now happily accept homeschooled students. Why are we still so overwhelmed?
When we began homeschooling there were only a handful of curriculum choices available. There was no internet. We didn’t carry cell phones. I did have that long coiled telephone cord attached to the receiver, though. I could reach all the way across the room to check on a child working his math problems while making doctor and dentist appointments! There were exactly three books on homeschooling in our local Christian bookstore. THREE! We bought all three. That was my introduction to homeschooling.
Way back then we knew of only one other family who homeschooled. They had been at it a whole year already. We had never ‘seen’ another family homeschool. We knew of no support groups or co-ops. We had never heard of anyone actually homeschooling through high school. Did I feel overwhelmed? Absolutely. Did that make me want to throw in the towel and give up? Sometimes. But we didn’t. We kept on, taking one day at a time, one step at a time, one good day one bad day at a time.
We began our homeschooling journey with the conviction that we were not putting our children into a traditional school setting and so we were not bound to educate our children in the traditional school model. That gave us so much freedom! Fast forward a few years and our first child graduates. And then another. And then soon we’d graduated four! With half our children “on the other side” and doing fine in the real world, I am often asked how did you do it? What worked? What did we do well?
- We made a conscious choice to HOMEschool rather than homeSCHOOL. The education of our children (and their parents!) was a part of our everyday lifestyle at home. This gave each child confidence in who they are even when academics were difficult, even when they found themselves in a situation, even when they may not have had as much knowledge in a particular area as others around them might.
- Because we were not a slave to someone else’s schedule or expectations or syllabus, our children seemed to naturally fill their free time with creativity. Pretend play and inventive games were common everyday occurrences. This nurtures that ‘think outside the box’ mentality what makes them adaptable to many situations, teaches them to think on their feet, develops problem solving skills.
- Books were always available, and the children were given time to read them, to use them, to be familiar with them. Early on they learned they could visit other places, meet new people and gather information by reading between the covers of those books. Books from our shelves, from our libraries, from other families. (And yes, add to that the internet, used with discernment, it has expanded our ability to learn. Visit my Pinterest Board to for a few ideas)
- We chose to remain committed to schooling our children at home, even when our days were chaotic, even when I wasn’t sure what to do next, even when we had a struggling learner. The children knew homeschooling was what we did, and we’d figure it out together.
I also get the question “what would you do differently?”
- I would have worked harder to tune out the “noise” of others. The newest curricula on the block and the promises of guaranteed results by any product or publisher would distract me from what was working well in our family. My children were learning and progressing so there was no reason to go looking for something to replace what we were using.
- I would listen to fewer opinions. I would not read so many reviews. While most are intended to be helpful, they are also written to persuade. I often sought out information because I didn’t trust myself. I feared my children might be missing something. Fear would keep me searching rather than taking courage and stepping out and getting started, making the most of what we already had available to us.
- I would stop trying so hard to mimic another family’s supposedly perfect method. Methods are man-made. They are not perfect. My family is not your family is not their family. And no matter how good someone looks on the surface, you don’t have to go very deep to find imperfection. Comparison is a dangerous trap. It only drags me down, makes me discontent and keeps me from being able to give to my own family.
- I would stop fretting. I spent a lot of energy and time wondering if I was doing this right or if that child was measuring up to others’ standards or if my children are as smart as that other homeschool mom (you know the one!). Fretting wastes energy and time. It holds me back from doing what I ought to be doing. Again, comparison is a dangerous trap.
- Most importantly, I would do a better job of loving my children the way Jesus loves them. What would be HIS priorities in our homeschool? What would be HIS expectations of the children? How would HE react to the childish behaviors I have to put up with each day? How would Jesus respond to a child who dawdles and is easily distracted? How would HE react to the umpteen-billion requests and comments that come my way every day?
Notice I didn’t give you a formula with what resources are most successful, what lesson plans we used, what type of schedule we set up? That would set you up for that overwhelmed feeling. Instead I hope you’ll see that by staying the course you will arrive on the other side. You can guide your children through their schooling even when life is messy.
Maybe you are saying “What if I don’t teach them everything they need to know?” Knowing it all? That’s a myth. You can’t, you won’t. And that’s ok. I didn’t know it all. I wasn’t sure how exactly we were going to accomplish this homeschooling thing, but we started. I learned along side my children. There have been gaps in my children’s education. Compared with what we are told we need these days to homeschool our children, my family’s endeavor should not have been successful. Those four children who’ve graduated from our homeschool? They have gone on the earn college degrees, enter the mission field, marry and start families of their own, remain involved in their church activities. I call that successful.
Linda Sears is a stay-at-home wife, homeschooling mother and doting grandmother. She and her husband have 8 children, a daughter-in-law, 2 sons-in-law and 7 grandchildren, so far. They have been homeschooling for more than 20 years, graduating 4 of their 8 children, with 4 more to go. You’ll find her at Apron Strings & other things where she shares tidbits, tales, tricks and tips from her days of raising children in various stages of cutting those apron strings. You can also find her on FaceBook, Pinterest, and Google+