As someone who was homeschooled during the 1990s, I had a distinct idea of what the ideal homeschool mom was like. She was organized, found creative ways to teach mundane concepts, read aloud from beloved books, and enjoyed the process of planning and teaching while her children helped run the household according to the system she’d set up. It didn’t sound a lot like who I was as a homeschool student, but I guess I thought that when I began homeschooling my own children, I’d magically acquire those ideal qualities.
Imagine my shock when, instead, I stayed the same person I’ve always been. And what does my non-ideal-self look like? Well, as a veteran homeschooler—four kids homeschooled all the way up, one now graduated—here are my confessions.
- I don’t like reading aloud. It makes me tired and irritable. I prefer to teach a child to read and then let him or her explore books at will.
- I don’t like field trips. There was this one field trip I went on when I had little ones: the six-year-old wandered away from the group, the five-year-old kept touching things and disrupted the group tour, and the one-year-old was in a phase where she felt compelled to shut all the doors in the world. She trapped the whole group in a small room by throwing her little body against the one exit, screaming every time someone forced the door open. Really, that sums up most of my field trip experiences.
- I don’t delegate very well. All the ideal homeschool moms I ever heard of knew how to teach their children to pitch in with chores and help siblings from an early age. My own sister can do this. But it turns out that I’m not good at it. If it were up to me, my household wouldn’t run like a well-oiled machine. It would run more like a flock of scared chickens.
- I don’t look forward to the fall schedule. I frequently talk to moms who just can’t wait to get back the school routine—“We just do so much better on a schedule, you know?” Nope, I don’t know. I like lots of unstructured time for thinking and creating, and I’ve passed on that love to our children. Returning to the school schedules feels like changing out of pajamas into a formal dress . . . that’s too tight . . . and the zipper is stuck . . . and it’s harvest gold which doesn’t even look good on me. Maybe I’ve made my point here.
- I’m not an early riser. This expectation might be specific to the very conservative homeschooling circles I grew up in, but I thought all good homeschool moms got up by 5:30 a.m. to get some quiet time before the children got up at 6 a.m. for family devotions and all those chores I’d delegated to them. Well, as a mom who no longer has to get up with babies or toddlers, 6 a.m. is still night as far as I’m concerned. I get up just before 8 so I have time to write before the children start school at 11.
- I love workbooks. I know, I know, homeschoolers have the flexibility to create the same types of lessons in much more interesting ways. Practicing fractions? Let’s bake cookies! Spelling trouble? Let’s get out the Scrabble set! Parts of a plant? Let’s go for a walk and find some! But hear me out: workbooks are tidy, self-contained little lessons that let kids feel the glow of accomplishment. When I’ve got a sink full of dishes, three kids needing guidance, and an afternoon of driving ahead of me, workbooks rescue me every time.
- I don’t like planning lessons. I can’t easily take a big subject and break it down into manageable pieces. However, I also dislike detailed schedules or lesson-plan charts. Why, yes, this is a self-defeating combination, thanks for asking. I did all the school planning for six years, at which point I burned out. Fortunately, Darren loves all these things. So what that means is…
- I’m not just a homeschool mom. I’m part of a homeschool team. Darren and I split the homeschooling labor about 50/50. He shops for curriculum, writes out lesson plans, and oversees the high school courses. I superintend the day-to-day school, drive kids to lessons, sit down with students who still need one-on-one instruction, and teach elementary subjects. It’s a division of labor that not only works well for our children, but also has improved our own relationship.
But as I’ve (possibly) learned, what’s ideal for me is not ideal for everyone. What are some ways your homeschooling looks different from what you expected?
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