Homeschooling is off and running once more.
Last Saturday, I went to a lovely evening with hot chocolate around a gorgeous, upscale campfire, to welcome newcomers to our homeschooling group and answer their questions. Last Thursday evening I ran a meeting for parents navigating the bewildering waters of homeschooling High School.
The newcomers say, “Wow; this is a whole other world I never knew existed.” Veteran parents say, “Homeschooling is the best thing we’ve ever done besides having kids.” Parents just starting their homeschooling journey say, “I wish I had the courage to take the plunge sooner.”
We can customize curriculum to our kids. We can provide learning that is greater in scope and deeper in content, which is more efficient and flexible. We have the luxury to help our kids run with their strengths and manage their weaknesses. We get to be with our kids, share the gift of time, and come to really know them and like them.
Our kids learn time management, and learn who they authentically are. Our kids are surrounded by a range of ages, not only people of their own age. Our kids have time to find out what they are passionate about. Our kids are unique individuals, not compared to anyone but themselves.
It takes a community to raise a child, and this homeschooling community is vibrant and vast. It wasn’t always that way. Eleven years ago four of us started this group that now has over 200 members. And we are only one of many local groups available today that support all sorts of homeschooling styles – groups that all morph and overlap at each other’s activities.
Homeschoolers used to be asked often about “socialization,” but this is now really just a joke. You have to be careful these days not to be overbooked with social stuff and extracurriculars, so you’ll have enough time at home to actually get some studying in. We call it “carschooling” when a homeschooler is dashing around too much, and it is one of our biggest traps. It takes some juggling to get the right amount of balance in this lifestyle. The social stuff is readily available, but also a copious amount of classes are offered for kids to take together.
For the last two Friday nights, for example, our 15 year old daughter was with 30 homeschooling kids at two different houses. One was a game night with wii, board games, and music, and the other offered a fire with some-ores, a trampoline, and a game of Manhunt in the dark. Next Friday night is a movie night just for teens…
Our daughter is taking a class on Romeo and Juliet given by an English-expert homeschooling dad, and she is also doing a class of Physics labs with a different homeschooling dad, that, interestingly enough, teaches in our local public school. (He says his hands are so shackled in the public school that he can’t wait each week to “really” teach the receptive homeschool kids on his own time.)
Our daughter has a pottery class with homeschoolers, and an additional one with public school kids. She gives a speech, presentation or recitation every month at our “Kid’s Forum,” a homeschooling presentation club. She’s very active on the FIRST Robotics team, which is at a high school in a neighboring town but has a mix of homeschooling and public school kids; it meets multiple times each week. She also goes to Sunday School and frequents our library so much it is a second home.
This is what she’s chosen to do out of a myriad of extracurricular options. Among other things, she recently turned down a debate class that a lot of her friends are taking, and hasn’t yet made it to one of those ball games the kids rave about. And this doesn’t begin to touch on academics which are at the heart of homeschooling in our home.
And while I spend a lot of time helping other homeschoolers with important, detailed issues regarding things like curriculum, transcripts, and learning styles, I think what surprises our newcomers most is the range of choice both academically and socially. When asked at the homeschooling through High School meeting about how do you teach math, the folks in the room suggested 12 different programs that they are using with good results. There are many more than that out there now, and I remember when there was next to nothing available for the homeschooling high school market.
I don’t have room in my house to host 30 kids on a Friday night, but I give back by sitting down with parents to help them sort through and prioritize their options. It takes courage and faith to homeschool, and every time I help a family work out what will be successful for them, I feel like I’ve saved one more child.
I am reminded of a parable that describes a beach strewn with starfish and someone throwing them back in the water, one by one. When asked about if it was possible to make a difference when there were so many washed up on the beach, he responded that, well, “It made a difference to that one.” So likewise, I just keep supporting each family, one at a time.
And it is starting to add up! I look around this community and see those I helped now helping others. I remember when they were needy and tentative, and now they speak with confidence and authority. I realize I’ve not only homeschooled my children but my whole community as well! Homeschooling is a wonderful odyssey for parent and child alike, full of friends, with every one learning so much. And when I see each of these kids I’ve come to love successfully launched – whole and free, well educated and secure – I sigh, and am gratefully happy.