When we began homeschooling eight years ago, I imagined teaching my children their basic subjects. I had no idea that their schooling at home would transform our lives and our family. The following are some of the simple pleasures I never anticipated:
- Math lessons are made easier when the cat jumps on the kids' laps while they struggle with their hardest problems. A smile can change a compound interest problem into a simpler equation.
- Schoolwork can start before breakfast and sometimes be finished before lunch.
- We don't have to take snow days, because we can always get to school. Sometimes we take one to play with friends. But we do get to take spring days and enjoy the first days of sunshine!
- The biggest red tape in the school is a measuring tape. We can use it for a math lesson and then fold it up and put it away.
- Anything can become a teachable moment, especially when the family is on a budget. Once we drove past a dead raccoon on the road, stopped, and took a photo of it to include as an example of a bad habitat for animals. The photo became part of a poster display on good and bad habitats.
- Life skills, such as cooking and cleaning, can be taught on a daily basis. Home economics and shop aren't classes reserved for high school. They are skills taught a little at a time every single year.
- Spring lessons can include hands-on time spent planting, and fall lessons can include hands-on time spent putting up the harvest.
- We can take breaks when Grandma calls or we have an unexpected visitor.
- Your town's librarians know your kids by name because you go there every single week.
- When a neighbor's cat has kittens in her back yard in the middle of a school day and the neighbor calls you, you can all stop and go visit to see the kittens being born. If you take your cell phone, you can call other area homeschool families and make a group event of it.
- Sometimes kids can do schoolwork in pajamas. Homeschool teachers can teach in them, too.
- When you take your pet to the vet in the middle of a school day and the vet knows you homeschool, sometimes he takes your kids into his office and shows them parasites with his microscope.
- Music teachers take your kids without a waiting list because you can schedule lessons during mornings or afternoons, before other kids are out of school.
- You can bake good things to eat for lunch during a school day. Some families may grind wheat and make bread. Others may make brownies from a mix or Grand's from a can. Whatever it is, it smells fantastic and can become a home economics lesson.
- Schoolbooks can fit in a suitcase and go on a family business trip. Kids can do schoolwork at home, in a doctor's office waiting room, at Grandma's house when she's sick, or in a hotel on a trip.
- Your kids make friends with people of many ages, from the 90-year-old gentleman who lives across the street, to a 15-year-old, to a 5-year-old, to a new baby. They don't segregate people by age and will grow up engaged in adult conversations.
- When people ask if your kids are socialized, you can answer, "We're not raising socialists; we're raising Americans." Then you can list all the different places the kids meet and make friends.
- Studies show kids who grow up in families who eat together are less likely to be substance abusers when they grow up. Your family has chances to sit down and eat at least two meals a day together, several days a week.
- If I can't teach something well, I can find someone who does. I'm left-handed, and Grandma taught my right-handed daughter how to crochet. An engineer friend gave the kids a lesson on the principles of electricity. My husband the artist teaches the kids how to draw. A high school physics teacher helped my daughter with a Science Olympiad car. A college math teacher helped me figure out how to organize a math sequence for a child interested in science. A mother who used to work for an airline taught my kids a unit study on the science and history of flight.
- When we hit obstacles, the kids learn to pray and work our way through them. They don't wait for the government or other institutions to solve our problems for us. This teaches them about freedom and responsibility.
- Dr. Seuss once said to raise a reader, raise children among lots of books. Homeschoolers often put bookshelves in the family room, every bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, the garage, and anywhere else a shelf can fit. Milk crates can become a cheap bookshelf anywhere, any time.
- Your whole extended family and neighborhood will suddenly become interested in making sure your children can read and calculate math. At family gatherings, you will find aunts and uncles quietly giving your children tasks to see if they know anything. Then they will watch your kids to see if they have bizarre quirks. If you watch them while they watch your children, you can note their own bizarre quirks.
- You'll be more likely to get to know other families who can pass down or exchange kids' clothing that lack obnoxious sayings but do have enough material in them to cover vital body parts.
- Either my school textbooks were really bad, or I didn't pay much attention in school. As I teach my kids everything from math to phonics to history to science, I'm astounded by what the kids can learn in the books that I don't remember ever seeing. If repetition is the mother of learning, by the time I repeat the same math lessons with my kids in different years, I've got the concepts behind the problems down cold for a lifetime. I also learned their history and geography books are a lot more interesting than my social studies books were.
- You'll get to know families who can direct you to every consignment shop, discount store, and health food coop in a 50-mile radius.
- You'll suddenly have all sorts of opportunities to serve your family and friends. They will call you for help any time, anywhere, because they know you're "just homeschooling," and can stop at a moment's notice. Then you can learn to tell them no, and your kids get lessons on how to set boundaries and carve family time.
- The kids see the teacher and the principal give each other hugs, and it's OK. Sometimes they see the teacher and principal get into a fight. But then we kiss and make up, and they see that too. And that's OK. It's more than OK. It's fantastic.