As a fun activity on Mother’s Day, our small group played a guessing game involving all the moms in the class. We each wrote down answers to random questions about ourselves, and then the men had to guess whose answer was whose. One of the questions was, “what did you once want to be when you grew up?” One person’s answer was, “a teacher.” As the only homeschooling mom in the group, I was almost unanimously guessed as the author of that answer. Unfortunately, that answer wasn’t mine.
It is true that I always imagined that I would one day get married, have children, and homeschool them. After all, that’s what my mother did for me. But I had other dreams for my future that were much more on my mind than teaching. (My actual answer in the game was “an author or actress.”) In high school, I would occasionally lead activities that were just for fun, but the few times I tried subbing for more educational classes (Sunday school, piano lessons), I felt extremely awkward and nervous. Because of how uncomfortable those experiences made me, I definitely would not have considered teaching as my vocation of choice.
And yet, ten or so years later, I found myself homeschooling multiple children and realizing that teaching was indeed a major part of my everyday life. I found myself wondering: “why?” Was this what I wanted out of life? Was it possible that teaching was actually a passion or strong interest of mine?
Not really. I am not a naturally structured, organized person. I like creativity, flexibility, and just having fun with my children. That free-spirited outlook worked fine for me as a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers, but once we hit more structured book work, I started to panic. The early elementary grades weren’t bad, but as we neared middle school, I began to feel like a huge chunk of my day was being spent on things that wore me out, rather than on things that fulfilled me. Homeschooling seemed to require strength in all the weak areas of my personality, leaving little room for me to enjoy the strengths.
Maybe some of you have found yourself in a similar situation. I know there are some who truly have a passion for teaching and find it a natural outgrowth of their personality. But there are others who had to ponder long and hard the decision to homeschool. (Some of you may still be pondering.) And perhaps there are a few like me who made this decision by default, only to realize later that they probably should have put more thought into it at the beginning.
At any rate, this is where I found myself. And these are the points I considered:
1) What are the alternatives? Do I see myself sending my kids to public school? Private school? Should I purchase a video curriculum or enroll them in classes online? It didn’t take me too long to face the music here: I didn’t want to send them to public school, and pretty much everything else was out of our budget. I know I can also be picky about curriculum, teaching methods, etc. As much as it may not be my favorite thing to plan and execute all those details, it’s the kind of thing that only feels right if I’m doing it myself. Plus, if considering an outside school, do I really want to be responsible for getting multiple kids out the door on time in the morning? No, I do not. I like my morning flexibility.
(Please note: I am only speaking for myself here. Every family is different and must decide what schooling alternative works best for them!)
2) I will still be very involved in their education regardless of my choice. I will still be a teacher in many ways, simply because I am their parent. Would it be less work for me if I let someone else do the teaching? Maybe somewhat. But it certainly wouldn’t take that responsibility out of my hands altogether, and it may not save as much time as I think.
3) Homeschooling is not just some time-consuming hobby. Educating our children is a real, significant need. Meeting this need contributes in many ways to the family, including the monetary factor. My husband may be bringing home the only real paycheck, but education options can be expensive, and I am saving that money we might otherwise be paying. He couldn’t do this without me.
4) Despite the difficult parts, homeschooling has its definite advantages. My schedule is much more flexible. Instruction is one-on-one and can be adjusted for each child. Negative influences are greatly diminished. And yes, I can stay in my pajamas all day if I so choose. ;)
It may sound silly, but it was very freeing to consider the options legitimately and choose the homeschooling path, rather than assuming it was what I had to do. It became obvious to me fairly quickly that I didn’t truly want anything else for my children. Homeschooling made the most sense for our family; yet, it made all the difference in the world to me to recognize this as my job, my contribution to the family. It gave me the sense of purpose I was lacking, and a determination to face those areas that were difficult and find a way to make them work. I’m learning that, more often than not, running into issues that are hard and unnatural for us is not a sign that we should run away, but a sign that we need to grow and adapt.
In addition, I’ve discovered I actually do have many strengths that can be useful in homeschooling. I was just allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the things that were difficult. Thankfully, I learn more about how to deal with those areas with every year I teach. And while I still wouldn’t describe teaching as my passion or dream for my life, I do consider it a very important vocation. My passion is doing what is most needed for the good of my family, and as long as that includes homeschooling, I will give it my best.
Do you enjoy teaching? Would your family benefit if you tried it?
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