Recently I posted an article from the Cape Home Educators featuring FAQs about homeschooling. The article included a section focusing on perceived advantages of homeschooling which parents listed as among the reasons they choose to homeschool. In an enlightening discussion with a non-homeschooling friend, I came to realise a) how easily statements are misinterpreted, depending on one’s own life experience filters the information and b) how carefully we need to word things so that intended meaning and actualities are conveyed clearly. I thought it worthwhile to run through some of the factors of homeschooling that the pamphlet touches on, and, where possible, deal with some of the objections raised. Hence this post which is part of a series called Querying Homeschooling. I hope that my explanation is not only clear, but that it is also received as honest and gracious.
Home schooling is freeing. It’s also limiting. How limiting or how freeing varies from family to family.
For many people, just the thought of home schooling seems scary. Many stay-at-home moms fear a loss of freedom. Going to the grocery store, post office, bible study in the morning, coffee date with a friend, gym – all these activities are a little more complicated when your kids are home schooled. Other moms feel that there is just no time, space and freedom to regroup. "I don’t have the patience" is high up on the list of objections. Imagining being with the kids 24-7 can seem more like a prison sentence than a blessing. There seems to be no freedom involved whatsoever.
And there isn’t.
And, yet, there is.
If being free to spend a few hours each day away from your kids is high up on your priority list, then home schooling them will be difficult to adjust to. Generally, home schooling means loads of contact time between parent/s and kid/s. It means that one needs to be a bit creative in order to establish mom-time slots in the day. And, a 3 to 8 hour chunk of no-kid time is highly unlikely.
While many home schooling parents choose to home school because they specifically want to spend more time with their kids than a mainstream school schedule would allow, most home schooling parents can testify to the same desires we all have: the need for time out. Parent time out.
Patience and a desire to be with your kids 24-7 is not a prerequisite for home schooling. It’s not even common amongst home schoolers. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know how I struggle with patience. And, if you know me in real life, you’ll know how, no matter how much I love my kids, I guard my "alone time". And I’m not the only one.
Home schooling moms experience the need for that "check out" time as much as the next mom. Parenting is hard work. Having the kids be out of the house in a safe environment where you feel confident that they are being loved, nurtured, challenged and taught is a good thing. It gives mom (and dad) a chance to recharge the ol’ batteries. It gives the kids another realm in which to practise independence and relate to other people. It is good and healthy.
So why do parents choose to home school if they also want time out? And, why do the very same parents consider home schooling freeing?
Simply, home schooling is freeing because it blasts open the doors to the arena of parent-controlled choice. There are usually no stipulations to home schooling. While governments across the globe have certain requirements in order to monitor home schooling, mostly parents can choose what best suits their child/ren and family. For many parents, there is an enormous sense of freedom in being able to…
- choose what curriculum to use or whether to use a curriculum at all
- choose what time to start each day or take each day as it comes
- choose to follow the school terms or create a schedule that suits the family dynamics
- choose to take a mid-term holiday or fit in an excursion that benefits and suits the whole family
- choose styles of teaching and learning that suit each child – a wonderful gift for kids who don’t fit the classroom mould
- choose to do school in pjs one morning or sleep in after a late family night
- choose to put learning on hold for a household of sick kids and not worry about having to catch up, but rather just pick up from where they left off
- choose who else is involved in the learning process – being able to include grandparents is a wonderful spin off, for example
…to name just a few*.
Personally, I love the "little" freedoms home schooling allows us too. This last winter we had many "hot chocolate and story time" moments by the fireplace. While the rain poured down outside during school hours, we spent hours sprawled out on blankets reading wonderful living books and learning together. In the summer, we sometimes take mid-morning breaks in order to cool down in the pool. Eating brownies that we made together while we do Maths; having a wonderful discussion prompted by one of the kids and having another opportunity to talk to their hearts, without worrying about running out of time; letting my kids hop and shout out their spelling words, because it helps them learn it – these are just a few of the little freedoms that make our home schooling journey so enjoyable.
For many parents, when faced with the education decision, the freedom home schooling offers is often what tips the balance. But, this does leave us with the question "what about the freedom for parent time?" and, its echo statement "I just don’t have the patience!" These are both valid issues and worth addressing. So …
How do home schooling parents deal with the obvious problem of "time out for mom/dad"?
In a recent discussion on the Sonlight Curriculum Forums, some moms shared their answers to the question of time out. The most common response was "creativity". Parents do need time out. Home schooling parents need to be extra creative. And, most often, at least a little disciplined.
Personally, I make sure I have time out every day by enforcing "rest time". Every day, for about 1 hour, the kids have quiet time in their rooms, or around the house. When they are little, this means "nap time". As they get older, they are allowed to read, draw or write quietly. Sometimes I’ll let them play board games together. The rules are simple: 1) be quiet and 2) leave mom alone until mom say it’s "up time". I am also fortunate to have a domestic worker who is here 4 times a week. This is unusual in many countries and home, so I realise that this is a privilege indeed. Because, in addition to having very little housework to do myself, having Johanna here means that I can slip out alone from time to time, if needs be. And so, because of our circumstances, and the fact that I enjoy being home, I don’t feel the weight of concentrated kid time. I’m much happier with the constraints of home schooling than the thought of all the work that goes with mainstream schooling. Call me chicken, but the idea of early morning wake ups, mad breakfast rushes, packed lunches every day, PTA meetings, reply slips, PT kit, school uniforms, homework supervision, school projects, school tests, playground issues, sports team complications, mom’s taxi troubles and all the enormous amount of work required to do the job of "mainstream schooling mom" properly simply fills me with dread. It all seems a whole lot more time consuming and exhausting than my experience of home schooling.
Of course, not all home schoolers have our set up. For many, extra creativity is required. Roping kids into housework; setting up kids-sitting exchanges with another homeschooling family; taking a Saturday off alone – these are just some of the ways families work time-out into their schedule. Not all moms require it as much as another mom. Not all moms manage to get it. For many moms, who keep on homeschooling despite feeling the burden of little time alone, it’s often simply considered a sacrifice they’re willing to make.
But, no matter what the circumstances – no matter how easy or how difficult it is to home school, patience is always a struggle. To use a cliché, I would be very rich if I was paid every time someone said "I couldn’t homeschool – I’m not as patient as you." Ha! The truth is that home schooling parents struggle with patience just as much as everyone else.** And, the truth is that home schooling parents need to work on their patience just as much as everyone else. The only difference is that home schooling gives one more opportunities to practise. For some, the idea of this is horrifying – more chances to make a hash of it? My kids would hate me! For most who home school, it’s a matter of survival to work on patience. For the Christians among us, it’s often what keeps us on our knees. And, even when we’ve made a real hash of it on a particular day, there is forgiveness and a new day to work on it.
So, perhaps home schooling doesn’t require patience as much as it facilitates learning patience. And viewing home schooling like that is a freedom in itself. Freedom from the burden of perfection. Freedom from a list of unachievable prerequisites before we can enjoy the many other freedoms that home schooling offers families. Freedom to enjoy the journey.
*I’ve written more about the freedoms I feel that we experience in a post entitled Why We Homeschool – Freedom. It’s not an exhaustive list and things have changed somewhat since it was written 2 1/2 years ago, but it does flesh out some of my experiences of the freedoms of homeschooling.
** You can read more about my experiences with patience (or, more specifically, impatience!) on our blog. Here are a few posts that come to mind:
- The blessing of patience – a post detailing a tough time and a rewarding moment
- The mission of motherhood – a review of a book that helped me refocus my role as mom, even in the midst of impatience
- Apologies – forgiveness from a 6-year old, after a rough day
- Patience – reflecting on the action of versus the feeling of patience.
- Life with 4 – reflections on the difficulties and blessings of life with 4 kids – the latest being just 4 days old.
- Of tantrums and other things – a funny look at a very stressful, single-mom holiday moment in a hotel dining room with four unruly kids!
How have you experienced the tone of the posts from the Querying Homeschooling series? Please participate in this anonymous poll to help me gauge whether I am hitting the intended mark: Polling the Querying Homeschooling Series.
Posts in this series: Querying Homeschooling (unlinked posts are still to be written/published)
- Homeschool Q&A: Digging Deeper (outlines reasons for this series)
- The parent factor
- The time factor
- The flexibility factor
- The freedom factor
- The faith factor
- The tutorial style factor
- The academic factor
- The sporting factor
- The socialisation factor
- The love for life learning factor
- The qualification factor
- The pitfalls
- The push factors