When I was a child I loved to play school. I was adamant about always being the teacher, and I was a strict one, indeed. My “students” (usually my nieces) were always bombarded with writing and math assignments, and I would gleefully grade their papers with a bright red pen, just like my teacher at school. (Watch my video here!)
I loved school. It was just one of those things that I was good at. Do I remember much from those days? Not really. But I was good at it. I knew how to play the game and I played it well.
So it should come as no surprise that when the day came that I decided I was going to educate my children at home, I thought the school model was the way to go.
- Classroom complete with blackboard and educational posters galore? Check.
- Globe on the windowsill underneath the American flag? Check.
- Children instructed to raise their hands to ask questions or go to the bathroom? Check.
- Separate textbooks for each separate child and grade level? Check.
I’ll tell you what. Those first few months of homeschool were exciting. I felt like I was playing school all over again, except this time it actually mattered.
Unfortunately, my kids never got quite as excited as I was. Who could blame them? I took them out of school with promises of fun learning activities at home, and instead gave them a dose of public school at home.
Rather than enjoying the freedom that comes with homeschooling, I was stuck in that mindset of what education is supposed to look like. To me, that was:
- boring textbooks
- an absolute rigidity to get everything done everyday, no matter the expense
- an unwavering desire to make sure that my kids were doing the exact same things they’d be doing if they were still in school
- continually adding more and more subjects to the day so that I could prove myself to everyone
Inevitably, this all became too much for me, and, combined with my kids being pretty much fed up with homeschooling and my total burnout, I sent my kids back to school.
For two whole years.
I felt like a failure. How could someone who was so good at school be so bad at “doing school”?
I knew this wasn’t what I wanted and became determined to try again, but with a different approach.
I was going to completely let go of my notions about school.
It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of reading and a lot of praying to finally get to the point where I was comfortable with educating my children in a manner the least like school as possible.
What did this look like for us?
It looked like getting rid of those textbooks and forgetting about arbitrary school timelines in order to just let my kids develop at their own pace. It looked like trips to the creek and collections of bugs and snails in the backyard. It took the form of impromptu games of Uno and outdoor read-alouds. In short, it finally looked like a family that enjoyed living and learning together.
Because isn’t that what learning is all about? It’s not about a diagram in a science book. It’s about the clutch of frog eggs in the water. It isn’t about spelling tests. It’s about writing a letter to Grandma. And it certainly isn’t about test prep. The schools can have that. Good riddance.
You know what homeschooling is? Life prep. Immersing ourselves in the beauty that surrounds us and diving deep into that which interests us most.
I’ll never regret the time I spent in school. It’s opened my eyes to the difference between doing what you’re told, and doing what you love.
Do my kids have to do things sometimes? Sure. Everyday. But it’s no longer about checking off subjects on a homeschool log. It’s about enabling my kids to gain the skills they need to find what they love and pursue it with all their hearts.
And isn’t that what education should be about in the first place? That’s where school gets it wrong. Learning doesn’t happen from an overabundance of control.
It happens from letting go.
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