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To begin, our family fully embraces that there are multiple, legitimate avenues of education, and our goal as parents is to do our best to find what resonates with each child. That might explain why our family has experienced three different schools before homeschooling, without ever changing our residence. That might also explain why our youngest, a 7-year old daughter, still attends a parochial school. She loves it, and she's learning right at her pace. However, this past year was our first foray in homeschool happenings with our 9- and 11-year old boys.
Many people asked me during the school year how things were going. Jokingly, I would smile and respond, "Well, they are still alive and so am I." I'd follow up with with a recent anecdote of something interesting we learned or did.
By the time summer was nearing, we finished our homeschooling a full three weeks before everyone else because we planned a cross-country trip and needed to be back by the 4th of July. As we roamed 8,000 miles across the US, I thought a lot about our homeschool experience.
I was pleased to realize that the reasons we homeschooled were not only legitimate but, in hindsight, justified. To make an extremely long story short, our boys were not being challenged in a way that ignites and maintains a love of learning. In fact, they were becoming quite sour about the whole education thing, compartmentalizing it into six, mandated hours a day.
Some would say I'm too idealistic or that I expect too much. Maybe. But I cannot imagine my adult life, much less my childhood, without continually being inspired to learn new things.
So what did we learn?
About half way through our 8,000 miles, I realized it isn't even what we learned that was the most important. It was what we gained, which was nothing I expected.
- I could give you a list of the curriculum we covered - but we learned that we had to learn how to truly learn, and there is no one right curriculum to accomplish this. Curriculum is simply a means to an end.
- I could tell you that we learned how to be comfortable in pajamas all day long - but instead we learned that there is nothing wrong with a professional mentality when it comes to showing up for life and that our personal care of ourselves helps inspire us in all aspects. I believe the exact phrase I used was, "The day your father leaves for work in his pajamas is the day you can show up to daily life in yours."
- We learned who is the perfectionist, and we learned that making mistakes is actually not the end of the world (i.e...getting less than a 100%) but the beginning of learning.
- We learned who is fully capable but has little self-confidence because he'd never before met a hurdle to learn how to jump over them.
- We learned that you don't have to wait patiently for a teacher to stand in front of you and tell you what needs to be done and which books to open before you can start learning. This took a surprisingly long time to learn, which is a bit scary to think about.
- We gained a tighter family relationship. Believe it or not, I now more thoroughly enjoy being with my children. And they seem to be perfectly fine with my presence as well.
- We gained deeper friendships. Because of the flexibility, the boys could spend more time with their buddies. Not the moments between classes or divided attention on the playing field or the two hours most people can barely spare with their busy schedules. Those are good and valuable, but it isn't the same. I'm talking real time to get to know another person and to share one's interests with them. And this, I pleasantly discovered, applied to the moms, too.
- And we gained time. And do you know what 9- and 11-year olds do with extra time? They play. And they play uninterrupted for hours on end. When in adulthood do we ever get that chance again? Exactly.
- And that's when I realized the biggest gain of all. It's always about money, right? Time is money. And with that extra cash do you know what we bought? We bought back their childhood. And really, that's priceless.
July 15, 2018