Have You Tried It?

We homeschooled our 8 kids on and off for 20 years. Why on and off? Because we usually felt it was a good option for us, but I couldn’t always handle it. After one particularly harrowing week hubby said, “This is the last time. You are never homeschooling again.” Well, after taking a short break we were back at it again.

Our oldest and youngest children are 12 years apart. At times we had 8 kids in 5 different grade levels. That meant plenty of days where it was a juggling act to entertain a 2 year old while trying to keep the others on track. Once high school hit, I generally turned them over to the local high school, but even then we had a couple who decided homeschool worked better for them.  

We read wonderful books. Each day started out with me reading to the kids at breakfast. Yes, breakfast was a pleasant and relaxing time because there was no rush to catch a school bus or find the perfect outfit. I can’t say all my kids love reading the way I do, but we all enjoyed the time spent around the table.

Sometimes the kiddos protested. Sometimes they were lazy about their work and occasionally I caught a crafty kid trying to make me think he’d done something he hadn’t. Even now the kids (all now adults) think it’s funny to mention some time long ago that they got away with not doing their schoolwork. Big surprise.  

I think it’s important to consider your children’s personalities and social needs. No. I don’t think they need public school to be “socialized.” We have better manners, higher standards and plenty of conversation at home. But, some kids just are more “social” and need the interaction and stimulation of people outside the family more than others. Trust your instincts about such things.  

I’d be hard pressed to think of a homeschool day where the school work took more than a morning. That’s partly because the kids walked from the kitchen to their desks. No distractions. No stupid classes where 6th graders were taught that when it comes to sex “as long as you say yes, anything is fine.” No PE. The kids were always in sports so that was covered. We tried several curriculums and ended up with one I’ll talk more about another time, but our focus was Reading, Writing and Arithmetic with cooking classes, piano, and field trips thrown in depending on the season, their interest and our budget.

We didn’t have to worry about attendance or getting caught up. We could go to a matinee after lunch, or take a nap. Sure, there were expectations and lessons to be done, but if a child got behind, he or she could work into the afternoon or start summer vacation a little later.

We had no problem with integrating and re-integrating into the public-school system as circumstances evolved. Maybe we were just lucky but we found the schools in our area to be very accommodating. We were also respectful of timing. We waited for trimesters or semesters to end.

What were my qualifications? I happened to have a degree in English, but you don’t need a college degree to teach children to read, write or do any math (in my case up to algebra). Patience is a plus. Organization helps. Persistence is essential.

I didn’t offer a foreign language class, but some of them learned Portuguese and Spanish on church missions. I didn’t offer guitar lessons, but a couple are self-taught strummers. My cooking skills are basic, but one daughter has a baking business. We didn’t snowboard or mountain climb, yet somehow many of them excel. We mountain biked, swam, camped, sewed prom dresses, played soccer, basketball, volleyball and tennis, worked on merit badges, baked, ran races, worked on cars, went to church and had family prayers. Somehow, our kids have been able to find their way and develop into who they are.

I don’t credit all of this to homeschooling, but I highly recommend it. The benefits include siblings who learned alongside each other, encouraged and harassed each other and collaborated together to fool mom. They remain close even as they marry, move away and form their own families. We became stronger from it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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