“I could never homeschool”
The phrase has escaped my lips on more than one occasion. I have been adamant for a long time that homeschooling was a wonderful thing for some people to do, but I would never be able to do it myself.
So it may come as a shock that starting around April this year, I’ll be homeschooling our 3 kids. If you’re interested to know why we’ve had such a big turnaround in our thinking and decided to take the plunge, read on!
When everything locked down for a (relatively short) while earlier in 2020, and the kids were suddenly home with us 24/7, something interesting and unexpected happened. At first, it was chaos. I had to keep the oldest two going with the lessons set by their teachers (with my 6-year-old often requiring direct instruction), and keep the four-year-old out of their hair, and keep the lot of them quiet because my husband was also working from home. I ended up in tears on many occasions.
But after getting through the stress of a new situation and deciding where to focus our efforts, we fell into a bit of a routine. Half of our time commitments had dropped out of the picture, and we had to learn to function out of this same space, day in and day out.
Even though I found “home learning” very stressful, a seed of a thought was planted – “If I were homeschooling, I could do it this way instead…” and then the next thought came – “If I ever need to homeschool, I know I could do it.”
That was the thought that shocked me the most since I’d always proclaimed boldly, “I could never homeschool.” And I don’t know what it is about that phrase we use sometimes about parenting – I could never – but it seems to attract some kind of humbling.
The changes and growth we saw in our kids was amazing. I’m talking growth in character, creativity, academics, and our family bond. I was truly exhausted at the end of each day – every drop of energy used up. But I came to expect this and allow for it – routine and structure in our days became paramount.
And while I was somewhat relieved when school started back (a quiet house again, finally!), the seed had been planted, and it began to do what all seeds in fertile soil do – it grew.
The practical reasons to homeschool
Late last year, we actually started thinking seriously about whether homeschooling could be good for our kids. We made a big list with benefits we could think of and any concerns we had, then we discussed the list with some Aussie home-schooling friends we already knew.
Talking to others who’ve already decided to homeschool was great because it taught us extra benefits we hadn’t considered, showed us how some of the things we were worried about aren’t that big of a deal, and validated some of our concerns.
The benefits on our list – the reasons we’ve decided to homeschool – can be roughly grouped into different categories. They aren’t all big reasons, but put together, they were enough to convince us to give this a go.
Firstly, there are the practical reasons homeschooling will benefit our family:
- Less time spent on school work
There’s a lot that happens at school, but a common misconception when people think about home-schooling is “how am I going to manage 6 hours of school work every day?”. But realistically, as we discovered in lockdown schooling, kids this age don’t need 6 hours a day doing school work. And when you think about the school day, they do other things too – there’s sport, library visits, excursions, etc. But there’s also (in my opinion) a lot of time spent on classroom behaviour management, discipline, and simply corralling a large group of kids. By cutting out some of those things and streamlining others, we will save a lot of time!
- No more school drop off and pick up
Okay, so this one’s bitter sweet. I strongly dislike the morning rush and struggling to get everyone ready and out the door on time to school, plus all the time I spend in the car each day. I’m looking forward to not doing that anymore! However, I do have some good friends I like to catch up with sometimes during drop off and pick up. I’ll miss those conversations for sure.
- No more school admin and paperwork
This is just one area I’m personally bad at – keeping up with all the paperwork and admin about what’s happening at school. Permission notes, absent notes, parent letters, event reminders, emails, etc. All of it necessary, and all of it overwhelming! Of course, homeschooling will require me to keep records of the kids’ learning and apply for registration, but even so – the amount of paperwork I have to keep up with will be greatly reduced!
- No more homework
I’m actually really excited about this. Our kids are still young, so they haven’t had a lot of homework, but even what they have had has been a hassle to fit into our day. When I bring them home from school each afternoon, I give them afternoon tea and send them outside to play. They often get so into their games and playing together, and I just hate having to interrupt them and call them inside to do homework.
Saving money and gaining freedom
Homeschooling, for us, is a step towards greater freedom as a family. We had our kids in a private Christian school and, while it has relatively low fees, the savings will be a great bonus. More than that, we’re really looking forward to all the freedom we will gain from homeschooling.
Free from scheduling constraints
Freedom to teach and approach subjects in a way that suits our kids as individuals. Freedom to get outdoors and explore nature more. Freedom to have holidays whenever we want, not just in school holidays. And the freedom to (maybe, one day) travel around Australia in a campervan.
Also, homeschooling will give us the freedom to keep going through minor illnesses, where currently we would have to keep the kids home and have them miss school for a day or two. It gives us freedom in our schedule – if we don’t want to do school for the day, we can go out and do something else instead.
Homeschooling will give us the freedom for me to teach each child in the way they learn best. While there will be some consolidation of subjects into joint, family lessons, we will also have the freedom for each child to pursue areas of their own interest. And as their teacher, I can choose the curriculum and style that best suits them. Teachers who have a classroom of 20-30 students simply don’t have this freedom – it would be chaos if they tried to adapt the lesson to 20 individuals. I want my children to develop a love for learning, and I think a key part of that is showing them there are different ways to learn.
Freedom to teach life skills
And, while I’m sure my kids won’t think of this under the “freedom” category, homeschooling gives me the freedom to give the kids more chores and teach them basic life skills. Chores has been an area I’ve struggled to find consistency in, mainly because I feel like I’m always taking them away from either homework time or play time. I’m looking forward to making house chores and skills a regular part of their homeschooling routines.
Making the most of the time
There are honestly many more reasons I could go into that led us to the decision to homeschool. But if I had to narrow it down to one, it’s this – we want to make the most of the short time we have with these precious children.
When the lockdown ended and things slowly returned to normal, I came to realise just how little time we have with our kids during the school term. And what time we do have with them always seems to centre around school anyway – getting ready for school in the morning, doing homework and other school prep in the afternoons, and getting to bed early enough so they won’t be tired for school.
I began to feel like the most significant parts of their day were happening away from me and I was always playing catch up in terms of working on their character development and discussing spiritual matters. We want to educate them at home so we can be there to personally guide their learning, their spiritual development, and the kind of childhood they have.
Rather than our life revolving around the schedule and lessons set by the school, we want education to fit in with and permeate the rest of our lives. We want to create an atmosphere of learning and fun in the home. It’s not a box to tick or hours to complete, but something we do all day, every day.
One thing that pleasantly surprised me about lockdown schooling was getting acquainted with where my kids were up to academically. Of course, you have teacher interviews twice a year and report cards, but I suddenly realised how out of the loop I was with the kids’ education.
To be honest, I didn’t want to know most of it. I thought of education as something we had outsourced and I was thankful for that. But I didn’t feel like I had the brain space to keep up with their education on top of everything else.
I used to read books to the kids every day, but in recent years, that dropped off to once every week or two. With starting back to work, and managing the home, and all the other school admin, I just felt like I couldn’t manage it!
But when the kids had to do school at home, suddenly I could see exactly where they were up to, what they were good at, and where they struggled. I could see it with my own eyes and – even better! – I got to help them overcome those struggles and learn new things.
Homeschooling will allow me to be intimately acquainted with their education and their spiritual development – their strengths, their weaknesses, and their pet interest areas. Yes, I feel slightly daunted with the idea of being responsible for it all. But more than that, I feel excited to have it as a priority.
Stop the ride, I want to get off
Of all the changes 2020 brought to our family, perhaps the most important was a simple wake-up call. The realisation that life was marching on, moving in a direction that we chose with our commitments, but perhaps not entirely consciously.
I had started working again, because that’s what you do.
The kids were in school, because that’s what kids do.
We’re paying off a mortgage on a house, because that’s what grown-ups in this stage of life do.
When the Covid-19 lockdowns brought an abrupt halt to some parts of our life (leaving the home for school and work) and turned a microscope onto others (our family dynamics and the home), it gave us a glimpse into another way of doing things. A way that we’d never really considered for our family.
And so while there will be things we’re giving up – I’m reducing my work load, and I won’t come by kid-free time so easily – we’re excited to see all that we might have to gain by becoming a homeschooling family.
Tell me in the comments –