A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Wild + Free conference in Frisco, Texas. It was an amazing group of about 1,600 homeschooling mamas. The moms follow different philosophies – the Charlotte Mason method, classical, unschooling, Montessori and more – but we are united in a commitment to educate our own children with all the rewards and challenges.
We decided to homeschool our kids for Kindergarten and see how it went. We chose this for several reasons, but one of the strongest was that we weren’t ready to give up parenting for the bulk of their day. We have three children with very different temperaments, so it was an experiment to see how it worked. From the beginning, we said that when it doesn’t work for us, we would look at other options.
Homeschooling is hard.
We value education a lot in our home. I am a college professor, after all. We can turn anything into a homeschool lesson, a trip to the grocery store, a field trip to a botanical garden, or a nature walk. In our rainbow-colored world, that’s how homeschool would work: intentional, preplanned lessons supplemented by real-world application.
In the real world, I have a full-time job. During the four years we have been doing this, all three of my parents have had serious health conditions, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Some weeks, Tim and I are an awesome education team. Some weeks, we don’t have a plan at all.
This has not been the experience that I envisioned when we started.
Two of the biggest challenges for parents in homeschooling are high expectations and self-doubt. We want our kids to be high-achieving, often to point back to what a good job we are doing. We want to have pristine lesson plans with just the right blend of enrichment activities so the kids are wowed by fun learning. When that doesn’t happen, we wonder if our kids are really behind, if we are doing them a disservice, if they won’t get into college, if we are ruining their lives. We fear that their short comings are all our fault.
That’s why I love Wild + Free. I learned about it through the podcast. It is the only podcast that I have listened to that makes me take a deep breath and know this really is best for our kids at this time. It helps me relax into how we uniquely homeschool. It’s a large dose of encouragement, normalizing, and hope. Best of all, since I found Wild + Free, I enjoy homeschooling more.
I still have weeks of amazing education and weeks that are really scattered. (I’m learning to predict those better, since they are often related to when my job gets busy.) My kids are not learning like public school kids, but they also aren’t experiencing some of the drawbacks. We don’t have them shrug their shoulders and say, “Nothin’” when we ask what they learned at school. We really like our children, and we get to spend a lot of time with them. In our family, we don’t rush in the mornings to get kids out the door, and we don’t cram our evenings with activities and homework.
It has been so worth it.
If we weren’t homeschooling, we couldn’t do this epic trip right now, and it’s a vivid, living education lesson. They are naturally learning geography as we plot our trip on maps from state to state. We love stopping at libraries for wifi, and oh, the books! We’re staying a places with flowers and fauna and lots of nature to explore. We read and listen to books daily. Yes, homeschool happens all the time, even Saturdays and Sundays.
We aren’t the only ones who educate on the move. It’s a thing called Roam School. Thanks, Wild + Free community for reminding us why we do this and how rewarding it is. It’s not for everyone. We might not do this until they graduate. But’s it’s been a great choice for our family.
When I asked the kids about their experience being homeschooled, here’s what they said:
ZA: I like homeschooling because you get to do crafts and you get to learn about Jesus.
Z: It’s good to expand your mind. My favorite thing about homeschooling is math. Mailbox math is when you count the numbers on the boxes to see what the number adds up to.
A: My favorite thing about homeschool is mommy.
Aw, that last one makes all the challenges worth it.
For me, books have been a life-long resource-to learning,
laughter, solace, excitement, inspiration.
At your library, the world awaits you, free for the asking.
— Lady Bird Johnson