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I confess I’ve had those days as well. You know, the ones where you wonder “Why am I doing this?” The ones where it seems the best alternative for your children is to drive up to the nearest school building and drop them off. It’s not that our children are awful. No, we’re awful parents.
I can’t count the number times I sat in the bathroom with my children crowded around the door outside. They may have wondered if I’d ever come out. I wondered the same thing.
How could I forget the invert and multiple rule of fractions? My son will never be able to go to college. The only job he’ll be able to get is flipping burgers and fries somewhere.
Well, maybe he could work his way up to shift manager.
Yep, we’ve all had those kinds of days. There will be more.
The good news is we make it through and our children do become productive adults. I do admit that sometimes I think it’s in spite of my efforts, not because of them.
When those days come in homeschooling and you ask ‘why am I doing this?’ Here’s how to know why!
When I began homeschooling my children, many thought it would be a breeze for me.
You see, I have a teaching certificate. I left a traditional classroom on Friday and began teaching in my home classroom on Monday.
It all started well. I had a class schedule, the desk was all arranged, the bulletin board with the calendar in place. 8:30 a.m. – Begin school. I even had recess time planned out. It went downhill from there.
The first month or so went as expected with bumps along the way and adjustments needing to be made. My youngest was two years old, so he played or napped while the older two were dutifully at their desks. Mom was more like a taskmaster than a mom.
Weekends were spent planning and preparing for the next week. I wrote lesson objectives, corrected homework, and made adjustments to methods. I had it down. All the requirements of teaching.
Soon one of my kiddos fell behind in a subject.
Oh, no. This wasn’t supposed to happen, right? We were a happy homeschool family. The children were to progress right along even more quickly with time left over for family baking and favorite craft projects.
I now had one child sitting at the table after dinner to finish what was planned for the day.
Then my oldest complained it wasn’t fun. She didn’t have anyone to play with at recess and she was bored. She hated homeschooling and she hated me.
I pushed on. Dog-gone-it, I knew how to teach. These kids were bright and did well in the traditional classroom. There was no reason for the problems.
Whining and laziness would not defeat me.
At the end of the first year, the books had been completed but no one looked forward to doing this again.
How did our family survive? How did I survive?
WHEN I STARTED WONDERING ‘WHY AM I DOING THIS?’ I STARTED THINKING THROUGH “WHY” WE DECIDED TO HOMESCHOOL.
Through my teacher education program, I learned the “how.” I learned a lot about classroom management and methods of teaching. I soon admitted to myself I knew very little about education. Very little about “why.” Oh, yeah, we all knew that to get a good job and be useful, one needs an education.
During that first year of teaching my children at home, I learned homeschooling is not educating. Educating goes beyond knowing how to decode words and how to multiply with fractions.
The change began when my husband and I talked about the homeschooling disaster we had just lived through.
We talked about why we had started this new lifestyle and what we thought was most important for our children beyond high school graduation: It was for them to be godly and responsible adults.
It was then we realized that we weren’t raising children; we were raising adults.
It was time to fully understand our why. It was time to write our philosophy of education.
Please don’t let the word “philosophy” scare you. (Secret: I dropped out of Philosophy 101 after the first class.) It only means the thoughts and reasons behind what we do.
A philosophy of education is the thoughts and reasons why we teach our children.
If we begin teaching our children because of a problem in traditional school or the neighbors are doing it, we soon learn that reason will not sustain us long.
It takes more than that to make it through each day. After all it’s easy to assume that once a new school year has begun the problem will be gone. So if school at home becomes a disaster, as ours did, traditional school remains an option.
It wasn’t that simple for me.
Even though my head, that head which had all the teaching knowledge, told me I was failing, my heart told me I was to keep my children at home. I was to stay at home.
Returning to traditional schooling wasn’t an option for me. I needed something to cling to those days I was sitting in the bathroom.
What could I offer by homeschooling that another teacher couldn’t offer my children?
- Biblical knowledge – My children had attended a Christian school, but most of the day was still spent with academics as the focus. At home, we had the freedom to spend as much time on those things that supported the Christian learning we wanted our kids to have.
- Individual attention – Each person is created uniquely. Each of us has different ways of learning. No matter how a classroom teacher tries, there are still methods and routines to be maintained. When our child struggles with math, we can try different ways of learning, slow down the process, change material. In other words do what it takes to help that child learn.
- Family love – No one loves my children more than their dad and I. No one knows them better than their dad and I. Not only that, we wanted our children to know and love each other. Could they do that if they didn’t spend time together?
As I looked at this list, I began seeing a difference between “teaching” and “educating.” Teaching is completing a list of learning tasks. Educating is preparing for life.
Wow! For this trained teacher, that was an epiphany. It set all I thought I knew on its ear.
Our philosophy writing journey began.
We determined what we wanted our children to be able to do when they launched into the world. They were to be responsible citizens who served God wherever they were.
Also, we began to understand this took more than teaching how to write a three-point essay or knowing the names of the planets.
The place we started with as our why in homeschooling was our belief about God and the Bible.
This foundation gave us clarity of what we meant by serving God. It helped us to understand our role as parents in preparing our children to serve him.
If we wanted our children to be responsible, they did have to know certain facts and skills. To understand what facts and skills were important we set out to discover the meaning of truth, knowledge, and wisdom.
These questions helped us determine what facts and skills to teach.
After several weeks of doing this exercise, we answered the question of “why am I doing this?”
We could now answer people questioned us and our children when they complained. More importantly, we could answer ourselves as we sat in the bathroom crying, “Why, oh why, am I doing this?”
It was once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any train will do.” Understanding our why will help us know where we are going. Sometimes the trip is rough. Sometimes we take detours. When we know our destination, we can get back on the right train and keep going.
When she’s not tending chickens, peacocks, and donkeys, Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? plus the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can learn more at her website Practical Inspirations. Join me and other homeschool moms at Harried Homeschoolers Facebook group.
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Don’t miss the rest of the posts in the series!