I receive the gamut of responses when sharing that I homeschool my kids. Everything from, “Wow, that’s amazing, I could never do that,” to “My kids would never listen to me, yours must be saints,” to “You think you’re better than the teachers? Do you even have a teaching degree?” Many people ask questions, which I think is great, but others seem to think I’m either judging them for not homeschooling, or they judge me for whatever kind of freak I must be.
We’ve been homeschooling for almost five years, and you know what, perhaps I am a freak. Day after day I’m living a Jekyll and Hyde kind of experience. Some days represent our ideal learning—peaceful, passionate, excited, efficient. Other days end in a chaotic jumble of disorganization and frustration. I view homeschooling as an extension of parenting. It has always been my mission to choose the best foods, activities, and experiences for my kids, and as a homeschooler, their education falls under this umbrella as well.
As for the “I could never do it” response I often hear, the truth is, you don’t know until you’ve tried. Homeschooling is not for everyone, and I’m not implying otherwise. Many parents find themselves successful despite initial doubts and insecurities. I look at the ability to homeschool as a muscle. At first, it’s weak. It’s easy to doubt yourself, and hard to believe you will do a good job. As the homeschooling journey begins, there are lots of opportunities to practice and strengthen this “muscle.” Eventually, you become a homeschooling athlete, completing a triathlon with confidence and skill.
So who is the homeschooling mom? She’s kind of like the mom of little kids, but years later. Moms of infants and toddlers rarely get a break- the intensity and needs of young children tend not to let up. Homeschooling shares similarities. While the children mature and their needs change, at the end of the day, you’re still meeting needs all day long. Homeschooling and parenting become blurred. Sometimes mom serves as the teacher and other times, the teacher also has to be the mom.
The homeschooling mom cannot imagine what parents whose kids go to school do all.day.long. (I know, you guys are busy, just a different kind of busy). When she enrolls her kids in a two hour class, she fantasizes about the many, many things she will do in that time. Grocery shopping! Clean the house! Nap! Read! Exercise! Catch up on emails, phone calls, and paperwork! Coffee with a friend! Lunch date with the husband! Somehow, though, those two hours fly by and it ends up not being enough time. Exercising will have to wait for later (um, tomorrow), texting can suffice instead of calls, and we’ll see the husband during dinner, which will be made from what was already in the house, thank you very much. The homeschooling mom won’t have her hair or nails done, because, when? She’ll be wearing yoga pants or jeans, because, why not? She may stay in her pajamas on the rare day when no one has anywhere to be, and she’ll probably consent to reading and snuggles on the couch on a rainy afternoon. She’ll have the kids cook lunch and count it as “culinary arts,” and realize that playing outside can count toward P.E. She doesn’t get snow days, or sick days, or days off, but she also doesn’t have to say goodbye every morning, or make her hair presentable for afternoon pick-up. She forgets to start dinner, leaves the laundry in the dryer (whoops), and brings the kids rollerblading at 10 am for “recess” because everyone needs a break.
In other words, she’s a mom. Whether homeschooling or not, she parents the best that she can, makes mistakes, tries harder, reaches out for support, and hugs her babies tight. She may look a little more harried since she’s with the kids from morning to bedtime, but we’re all working in one way or another, whether we get paid or not. No, homeschooling parents don’t have teaching degrees, but may have teaching backgrounds. Their kids are not saints, but they know how to make all kinds of learning work. They might just be amazing, but aren’t all moms?