What did you wish you’d known before you started? This question can be asked of so many stages of life. Before I got married I wish someone had told me that I already had the power to be happy. Before I had kids I wish someone had told me to take more naps. Before I became a stay at home mom I wish someone had told me how important friendship would be to my sanity. Before I started homeschooling…that’s what I’ve been thinking about these past few days as I have been so sick I could barely keep my eyes open.
Before we started homeschooling I actually said these words to my husband; “What am I going to do all day?” In some crazy universe I thought that it would be all too easy to homeschool and mother littles and run bigs here and there, so easy that I would be bored. Clearly I was insane. It has not yet for one day been boring in the sense that I had nothing to do. Sure there have been days where I search for the thing to do that I want to do or the thing to do that is fun, so I have been bored, but never because my to do list was completely crossed off.
Before we started homeschooling I thought I would do school at home not unschool. I found desks and created a school room and researched curriculum choices. What a fool I was. We are not boxed-curriculum people. We do our best learning outdoors, we remember more by painting, We practice multiplication tables as we drive to our next adventure. I was foolish to think that we would sit in our desks and do spelling lists, that was never ever for a teensy second the type of person I am, and it’s definitely not who my kids are.
Before we started homeschooling I thought we would do school in the morning and be done by noon and have our afternoons free for adventuring. We are so not morning people! Oh how we are not. My kids may get up before six, but they don’t want to start school right after breakfast. When we do jump right into school there is so much push back that I will almost always yell. Sure, there are days when we have to do school in the morning and we struggle through them, but our best learning happens late morning to early afternoon. Forcing my people to work efficiently before they have time to play and run and move their bodies is a mistake.
Before we started homeschooling I thought my kids would be best friends and play together peacefully all day long. Okay, so I dreamed that would happen. I knew they would still bicker, but I had read that kids who are homeschooled are better friends with their siblings and I wanted that for my kids. My kids fight. They argue, they glare, they scream, they stomp off, and shout things like “I’m not playing with you ever, ever again!”. Do they like each other? Yes. Do they miss each other when one is away? Of course. Do they want to be together every waking minute of every day? No, of course not. They are human and they annoy each other, and they have their own personal boundaries-who knew? Certainly not me.
So all of these things are things that I wish I had known before I started homeschooling. I also wish I had known that I didn’t have to be the perfect teacher. As an example I’ll tell you about my yesterday. I have been sick for three days. We have pushed through and done school all of those days and I have continued on in my mothering as close to normal as I could, but yesterday I was done. I couldn’t even. I was so tired it hurt to keep my eyes open. It was painful to stand. My tiny had been sick too and she doesn’t sleep when she’s sick so I was beyond exhausted. (I am also overly dramatic when I don’t feel well.) Ideally I would have called it a sick day and let my kids play all day, but of course I had too much guilt to do that, they weren’t sick after all, they should have school. I started by asking my kids to take care of their structured reading time, they read for a long, long time by choice. Then they grabbed their printing/cursive work and finished that -on their own- I was a zombie struggling for consciousness on the sofa at the time. They did math as well, granted they didn’t learn a new concept, but they practiced stuff they have learned and then played in puzzle books as I dozed.
While that was it for our school day they also made their own nachos for lunch, took care of snacks, played quietly in their rooms, helped the tiny to the potty, listened to a ton of audio book, and had a few hours of outside time while I sat in a chair on the deck. Yesterday they learned to care for and about each other because their momma was sick and really couldn’t care for them well. They worked on how to be good humans by showing compassion and undeserved kindness. They also picked up my slack without even being asked to do so. All of this shows me that they are learning about life between our daily lessons. These kids will be able to go into the workforce one day hopefully knowing that everyday isn’t “fair” but we can all work together to get things done.
That is what I wish I had known before I started homeschooling, more than knowing I didn’t need the perfect math curriculum or that if my eight year old spelled horrifically life would still go on. That there is grace in our days. That even on not-school days learning is present. That some of our best lessons are being taught not by a book, but by our daily interactions. I wish I had known that while spelling and history and even long division are valuable skills that kids should learn, one of the best parts of our homeschooling choice is the opportunity to have real life problems handled together. This safe place to learn and mess up and try again is what I didn’t know I wanted, more than all of the other things that would’ve been great to have a heads-up on. Allowing life to be our school house and our time together to be our learning environment has started to grow some really great little people.
So, what do I wish I would have known? Nothing! Because if I would have known ahead of time the type of learners my kids were or that they weren’t morning schoolers, or that you can’t plan an effective school day around a two year old’s schedule, we wouldn’t have learned all of the things we have learned together. The lessons in patience, kindness, love, grace, understanding, so many more, have been invaluable for me as well as for my children. Yes, I am glad they are learning to spell and to subtract. They could’ve learned that anywhere though, unschooling has helped us grow a safe place to be who we truly are, here we are learning how to do life well.
That is the best part too. Because we learn together, fail together, grow together my kids get to see that in community is the best way to live life. They know that there is this whole support system around them that they can not only learn from but where they are valuable members who can help and teach and serve. I know that over the years of homeschooling I will have as many lessons taught to me as my kids do. I am grateful for that, because I know that I still have a lot to learn. Community is the one thing I would have gladly taken ahead of time. I learn so much from our group of friends and I would have been thrilled to know them before I started this journey. It would have been good to have some people to tell me to chill out. I am so thankful for all of my people, and more so because my kids have them from the start.
If there was one thing you could have had or known “before” what would it have been? I think it’s good to reflect on this sometimes, like when your nine-year-old is making lunch for her siblings because you can’t physically drag yourself off of the sofa! It’s also good to know that I don’t have to run down the path or rush to figure things out too quickly, the journey itself is the destination. The things I will one day “wish I had known” will be perfect lessons brought about in their own time. There is peace in knowing that, and that is something I am thankful to know now.