From teaching in pajamas to behavior battles, a mom’s secrets are revealed.
Published: September 4, 2018
By: Lisa A. Beach
Many people think of homeschoolers as a generic lot of religious Luddites who nix technology, lack social skills, grow their own food, live off the grid and want to be around their kids 24/7.
That describes maybe five percent of homeschoolers.
And the Amish. I am not in the five percent (or Amish).
“Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m a recovering homeschool mom,” I say to my imaginary 12-step support group of parents who survived homeschooling their own kids.
I say “survived” because it was not all fun and games (although a lot of the times, it was exactly that). Homeschooling, with both its pros and cons, was one tough gig.
People often asked how I ended up on this alternative life path. I certainly didn’t plan it. In fact, when my friend Livie said she wanted to homeschool her twins, I said: “Are you kidding? I would never want to homeschool my kids!”
The thought of an entire day around my son, still going through the terrible twos even though he was three, sent chills down my spine. Plus, I had an infant. I was exhausted from just being a mom. How could I be a mom and a homeschooler?
Yet, just a couple years later, I made the leap into home education. Why? After a very bored two-year stint in public school, my son clearly needed more of a challenge. (We had to sneak Magic Tree House books into his classroom because they weren’t on the “approved” first-grade reading list.) Plus, when his teacher spelled “Santa Clause” on the chalkboard, my faith in public school took a bit of a nosedive.
So, we pulled him after first grade and homeschooled him (and his younger brother) for almost 10 years.
Over the years, people asked me what homeschooling was really like, as if we were escaping from North Korea and they wanted the insider’s secrets of life beyond The Demilitarized Zone. But I get it. They were curious. We were educational deviants, and they wanted to understand what we did… and if we ever left the house.
Let me pull back the curtain to show what homeschooling was really like, at least for our family.
- We started school later, sometimes in our pajamas, because I’m not a morning person. (We often made morning runs for bagels and coffee for the same reason.)
- We “did school” everywhere: kitchen table, couch, pool, back porch, car, park, science center and wherever the day’s activity took us.
- We filled many days with beyond-the-worksheet fun — field trips, co-op classes, library visits, hands-on activities, science experiments, concerts, plays, recipes, homeschool support group activities, music, games, and art projects.
- We custom-tailored our curriculum to what the boys enjoyed learning about while still covering the basics. For example, instead of just making them memorize the parts of speech, we let our artist son write and illustrate a grammar booklet based on Mario, his favorite video game character.
- We adapted the environment to our boys’ special needs. The oldest, on the autism spectrum, liked a structured, quiet environment with lots of reading and art projects.
The youngest, with ADHD, liked noise, movement and hands-on activities.
- We “skipped school” whenever we felt like it. If we wanted to go to the beach for the day or head to the Orlando theme parks when they were less crowded, we did.
- We read thousands of books, which helped instill a love of reading in my boys.
- We fought. A lot. Three years apart and polar opposites, my boys were masters at sibling rivalry. And my younger son and I battled constantly over snacks and pencils and petting the cat and making too much noise and… everything. Just because we homeschooled didn’t mean we all got along all the time. Stereotype shattered.
- We questioned the decision to homeschool our boys at the beginning and end of every school year — and sometimes even in the middle if we were going through a particularly rough behavioral patch.
I’m not the kind of person who thrives being around other people all the time, especially when those people are my own demanding little kids who often exhaust my patience. I regularly needed some “me time” and sometimes felt guilty about taking it.
As the boys got older and busier, homeschooling wasn’t nearly as fun. In high school, everything counts on a transcript. We had much less free time to go on field trips and pack in all those “beyond-the-worksheet” fun activities like when the boys were younger.
While we homeschooled our older son through 12th grade, we realized that our younger son needed to answer to someone else in high school. Plus, he thrived around more people, noise and activity, so our quiet little homeschool drove him a bit stir-crazy.
The veil has now been lifted off the shroud of homeschooling mystery — at least from our family’s perspective, since no two homeschoolers “do school” the exact same way. But if we all fessed up, we’d agree on one thing: homeschooling is one tough gig.