It’s a question you hear quite often in home education circles, sometimes it’s a new homeschool parent asking veterans, to try to glean some wisdom. Other times it’s a veteran reflecting on their journey. After home educating my kids for the past seven years, there are many things I wouldn’t change, but some I certainly would.
The first thing I wish I would have done was to listen to my gut more. For the first couple of years I was sure I would do something drastically wrong because I simply had no experience in educating kids. I wasn’t a teacher, I hadn’t even gone to college. I was simply a mom who wanted to do better for her kids. Too many times I questioned my abilities, which led to questioning of curricula choices, which led to seeking out those more experienced, which led to the now dreaded ‘grass is greener’ syndrome. I should have learned to listen to my gut, my mother’s intuition, after all who knows my kids better than I? Listening to myself would have resulted in me being more of an advocate for my daughter, who is now an eleven-year-old girl who still struggles to read. I would have hunted down those that could help me find out just what is going on in that brain of hers that makes this area of study so hard. This poor child struggled for years because I listened to all those that championed “better late than early” without question, because they had done this longer and knew more than I. All the while something deep down inside kept telling me this isn’t just a matter of a child not coming into her own, or not being ready. She wanted desperately to read, she begged me to teach her, but I just kept saying, “You’ll get it, we just have to give it time, your brain just isn’t ready yet.”
The next thing I would change is giving the kids materials that worked for them individually instead of trying to make the same thing work for all of them, even when it was clear it wasn’t. My gut kept telling me to give them their own programs, but I didn’t listen to it. “Each child is an individual, one size does not fit all when it comes to education,” this is what I’d been telling myself, it’s one of the reasons I pulled my oldest son out of public school, so why then was I trying to force them into this cookie cutter when I didn’t have to? The only answer I can come up with to that question is that I refused to listen to my own advice.
The last thing I would change is all the hopping from curriculum to curriculum because I was convinced the kids couldn’t be enjoying something, since it wasn’t the shiniest or the newest. This last one was something my now fourteen-year-old son recently brought to my attention. For the fifth time I was going to change his writing program, because it wasn’t the newest thing people were raving about on the home education forums. He couldn’t be enjoying what we were using, because people kept saying it makes their writing formulaic and stilted. So I printed out the pages for the new program, which we’d already tried twice before, and left them on his desk. That morning my son gave me a wake up call. He came downstairs ready to do some work and saw the pages for the writing program on his desk. He pointed at it and said “What the heck, mom, I thought we’d talked about this. I like the writing program I’m using, I know you want me to get better at writing, but this bouncing all around is not going to accomplish that. Let me continue with what I’m using, I’ll do which ever theme or package you pick from there and I won’t complain a single time, but enough with the bouncing around, woman!” My son had taken a stand, it was a weird position to be in because he’d never done that before. He had always just gone along with the craziness. I realize now it was craziness, and after I sat down that day to reflect on what he’d said, it dawn on me that I had been going against my gut many of those times. Are you sensing a pattern here?
So when it comes right down to brass tacks, the one thing I wish I’d done differently is listened to my gut, to that little voice in the back of my mind.
Kel is a military spouse of 16 years to her husband, Matt, mom to her 3 children, Everett, Annika Clare, and Lucas, whom she has home educated for the last 7 years, keeper of the 2 dogs and a cat, and grandma to 1 bearded dragon. She is currently living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.