“What? You homeschool? Really? What’s that like?” This is a question I am used to getting from random people when they find out we homeschool. It is usually followed by a flurry of other questions or statements like, “Do you go to church?” “Isn’t it hard being with your kids all the time?” “Do you vaccinate your kids?” “Do you bake your own bread?” “How many kids do you have?” “Are your kids gifted/learning challenged etc.?” “You must have the patience of a saint!”.
Sigh…sometimes I feel like I should just prepare a written statement to carry around with me that I can just hand out to people so I can stop repeating myself. The thing is, I am only ONE homeschool mom, and, one thing I have learned is that homeschoolers are a VERY diverse group of people. I can answer questions based on OUR homeschool experience, but for people to generalize my answers to all homeschoolers would be wrong.
Yes, we go to church. In fact, our faith is THE cornerstone of our lives. My husband and I chose to homeschool our kids because it was something the Lord laid on our hearts (and believe me, we argued with Him at first!). While the majority of homeschoolers I know are Christian, the fact is, I also know many who are not. At my state homeschool conference (FPEA in Florida), I met many secular homeschoolers, as well as homeschoolers from other religious groups. While homeschooling may have begun as a movement among Christian parents, it has spread to include people from all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. The one thing these parents have in common is a desire to give their children the best education possible, and they all feel they can do that at home!
There are also various reasons people homeschool, in addition to feeling the call from God to do so. I know a single mom who homeschools because she works as a flight attendant and homeschooling allows her to spend her time off with her kids (her parents care for them when she is at work). I know other families who also homeschool because one parents job has a quirky schedule, or requires a lot of travel, so, by homeschooling, that parent can also spend as much time as possible with the kids when they aren’t at work. I know people who homeschool because they have the ability to travel the world, and they want to be able to to take their kids with them so they can all experience that together. I know people who homeschool because their kids have some learning challenges and needed more one on one attention than they were getting in school. On the flip side of that, I know people who homeschool because their kids were far advanced and needed more of a challenge. The point is, there are as many different reasons for homeschooling as there are homeschoolers, and you could get a different answer every time you asked that question.
We have two children, both boys. Yes, there are many homeschoolers with large families, but there are also many like mine, with only a couple of kids, as well as many who homeschool only one child. There are also many homeschoolers who live on self-sustaining farms (which I think is awesome!) but, we don’t all live that way. My kids and I started a small garden last year, and it’s been a lot of fun growing our own veggies (and it is economical too, which is important for a one-income family), but we also shop at the grocery store. If you have the ability to raise animals and grow all of your own food, and teach your kids how to do that, then that is a fantastic opportunity!! But not every one does. I wish I had learned to sew, and I am determined that someday I will, but right now I don’t make my own clothes either. I would like to, and I admire those that have that skill, but I don’t yet. What I am trying to say is, that just because you saw ONE homeschool family on TV doesn’t mean you know what all of us are like. It’s impossible to know that because we are all just so different. My homeschool life looks different from the other homeschoolers I know, because I tailor our life to fit us and our kids. The beauty of homeschool is that you can do what works for YOUR family, and every family is different!!
And if you are really wondering, yes, some days I think it would be nice to flip on the TV and veg out while watching an episode of House Hunters, or to go sit by the pool and just read a book, or go out with a friend for lunch. But, the thing is, usually when I do get a day to myself, after about half a day, I am missing my kids. Truly, it can be stressful because being a homeschool mom, you don’t get a lot of down time, but I would more than likely end up spending my downtime doing something useless anyway! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that my boys frustrate me to the point I want to pull my hair out, because I do! But isn’t that part of being a parent? Kids are kids, and some days they drive you crazy! But, then again, sometimes I get frustrated with people at the grocery store, and people in the Walmart parking lot, and just people in general! At the end of the day, my kids are still the ones I most want to spend my time with.
Finally, the patience thing. Believe me, I WISH I had the patience of a saint. I could use it! But, sadly, I don’t. I am just a regular mom who gets irritated when she has to ask a child for the umpteenth time to do something!! I get stressed out sometimes, and my kids don’t always get along, and my house is frequently messier than I would like, and some nights I order a pizza because I just don’t feel like cooking (and don’t even get me started on laundry!). I will admit that some days, I let things get to me and I lose my temper, and say things I wish I hadn’t. I am no more patient than any other mom in the grocery store. The only thing that is different about me is that I feel this compelling desire to teach my children at home. Even when I am at my most frustrated, I can take a step back and say that I am truly happy that my kids spend most of their time with me. I am thankful that, even when we have a bad day, I can go to bed and know that I am going to have a chance to spend the next day with them. Why? Because in my heart I feel that time is of the essence. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time”….to me, that means that life is short. I don’t know how many days I have here on this earth, but I do know how I want to spend them…with the people that mean the most to me!
So, for those that are curious about homeschoolers, I would say, don’t try to define us by a single category or statement, because that wouldn’t be accurate. Each homeschool family I have met are their own unique unit. Homeschooling is about the freedom to choose our own path, and I am very thankful that we are able to do so.