Our first day of school is happening next Monday. Precisely two weeks before Labor Day. That is over a week later than our counterparts, but quite frankly, I was not ready to start yet. Not because I want endless days of summer, although my kids would like that. But because I am still furiously planning our year – trying to complete book lists and organize our schooling direction. Pondering exactly why I am undertaking this course for an 8th consecutive year is what woke me up early in the morning. 

I certainly know that homeschooling is not for everyone. Just the mention can start a lively discussion. I have dear friends who are teachers in both the public and private school sector. On any given day, they might do a better job of educating my children than I do. Even with my teaching certificate, no illusions of brilliance around here. While I am not always fond of the educational system (the fact that they seem to care less about parental input and involvement than ever before bothers me), I have nothing against sending kids to school. In fact at some point, each of my kids will probably step into an “institution” for at least part of their learning. I’m not homsechooling them in college. 

Let’s face it – no matter which path we choose for kids, the process of educating children is hard. Rather than getting caught up in the differences each schooling path may take, let’s acknowledge the fact that when the diplomas are handed out, they really should be for the parents instead. Getting kids to care about learning is a challenge. While we can see the future rewards, all kids can see is the clock ticking toward recess. Whether we are the instructor or just the supporting staff, all parents are involved in the educational process. 

So why has our family chosen the homeschooling path?

  1. I want to direct the path of my children’s education. Not because I have a hidden agenda, but because there is SO much out there I want my kids to know. Fitting all of that into a typical classroom setting is a challenge. (I should know – I was the teacher still using textbooks on the last day of school because we had not quite gotten as far as I wanted to in our learning.)  Having enough time in a structured setting is impossible. This year we are “traveling around the world.” While our journey does include folk tales and mapping lessons, we will also be listening to music and cooking a meal from many countries. We will also take trips to local cultural centers. Field trips are events that have become harder and harder to do in a typical school setting with busing expenses and hassles. Plus let’s face it – in a large classroom setting, the kids are just there to hang out their friends. When our family visits locations, we are there to actually learn. Do all of these plans make my education system better? Not necessarily, but I hope that the enrichment aspects will help the life lessons. I want my kids to appreciate differences in culture and to understand the need for international language of kindness. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the time that we have spent reading books together even if the process is lengthy.
  2. I want my kids to be lifelong friends. When our oldest was starting kindergarten, our 4th baby was set to arrive that fall. The thought of our youngest not getting as much of a chance to interact with our oldest broke my heart. He was (and is) such a great kid. So we kept him home and began educating together. Having four kids age six and under was hard. And a blur. They do NOT always get along – there is not always peace and prosperity for all. In fact those moments are rare. But every once in awhile I see glimpses that this goal will come to fruition. As a part of the summer reading program, my kids had to tell who their heroes were. When my youngest said that his oldest brother was his hero, I knew that some of the sacrifices have been worth it. Even if it was only true for the moment. 
  3. I want my kids to learn proper socialization. While getting along with their peers is important, I wanted there to be more. I wanted them to be able to interact more with their parents regularly. I wanted them to be able to converse with adults. Perhaps this plan has backfired since many times now they would rather sit and chat with me and my friends, rather than to run off and play. I do like the fact that each of them can converse intelligently with a person of any age. Just in case you are concerned, they do get plenty of practice interacting with kids their age at our weekly homeschool cooperative. And I especially appreciate the fact that if there are issues (and there are), the other mom and I can discuss together how to help our children to make better choices. Bullying and taunting do not last long because more adults around to help redirect.
  4. I want to impart our family values and our worldview. Growing up I do not remember having the emphasis on character that schools have now. Obviously these are important life lessons, but somehow back then they were a part of schooling in general. My husband and I have standards that we try to live by. For us, these priniciples are found in the Bible. The world seems to have standards that fluctuate based on the day. By homeschooling, hopefully our kids will be encouraged to continue walking in the right direction. Many parents can manage to do this after school, but I have felt like our family has needed the extra time that homeschooling allows.
  5. I want to enjoy my kids while I can. Our oldest now has just five years before graduation. I am pretty certain that time is going to go so quickly. At some point, all of them will leave the house. (My husband assures them of this fact often. I just couldn’t quite figure out how we could balance activities and time together. By homeschooling, we can be together more during this season that all of us are living at home. I know that most parents figure out a way to make school and home schedules work. For our clan, combining them has seemed to be the best fit. 

All aspects of homeschooling are certainly not a piece of cake. Pretty sure we are about to have many discussions about “No, you can’t play legos right now – you have math to do.” The tablet will have to be hidden, so they don’t quickly get on during school time. And I will have that claustrophobic feeling that comes when I cannot quite escape the messy house that results when school is in session. Yet overall I am thankful that our family has chosen this path -that we have gone the way that God has directed our family.

 

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Gretchen Garrison

Gretchen Garrison is happily married to her best friend, Kyle, and helps him run their family operated blasting and restoration business. She is a homeschooling  mom who spends her time keeping up with their four generally enjoyable children. In addition to her family, she values her faith the most. If she ever gets to relax, a game or book is often involved. Gretchen also enjoys exploring her state with her family and writes about those experiences on my her blog, http://odysseythroughnebraska.com/

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