If you are just embarking on this wonderful winding road of homeschooling, you probably have a multitude of feelings and attitudes you are sorting out in your head and heart. There are a vast number of "how-to" books, philosophies, "experts from the trenches," and well-meaning friends giving you advice. All of this just adds to the apprehension, because everyone is telling you something different. So, are you ready for some more advice?
Somewhere down the road, all of the input that you and others have fed into your brain will gel and you will be able to weed out the information you don't need. Then you can claim the information that is useful as your own, and incorporate it into your teaching philosophy. In the meantime, relax and don't let the bombardment of opinions, ideas, and "perfect" examples discourage you. By all means read, listen and gather ideas from all the experts. All of this information will help you make better decisions about your available choices, but don't let the pressure to be perfect destroy the joy of educating your children.
Enthusiasm is the key to every successful homeschool. With that excitement the road never becomes so long, rocky, or winding that you lose sight of the reasons you are homeschooling your children. You will need to begin your journey with some sort of road map, but don't ever write it out in ink! Be willing to change your plans in midstream if you see enthusiasm start to wane - your child's enthusiasm or, even more importantly, yours! If you are enthusiastic and joyful, your child will be enthusiastic and joyful. If it becomes a chore for you, expect that attitude to be reflected in your child.
Keeping the joy in your homeschool is not always an easy feat. No matter what method you use to educate your child, education comes from the heart and the heart should be educated. Homeschooling is a privilege that we need to be prayerfully thankful for every day, and we need to pray for God's blessings and grace for our homeschooling endeavor. Believe me, God's grace goes a long way when we start to feel guilty because we don't live up to the standards depicted by our "perfect homeschooling mentors." Perfect is an illusion that we muster up in order to set goals for ourselves, but this illusion has a way of growing way beyond anyone's ability to attain. (In reality, the poor "perfect homeschoolers" out there shudder to think that their homeschools are used to set standards for others!)
Whether we use unschooling or traditional methods, we are obligated to our children to make their education worthwhile, meaningful, and fun. Contrary to popular belief, unschooling is not the easy way out! As Christian parents, we need to carefully discern where to gently guide our children in their educational explorations. We have been ordained by God to educate our children, and we do need to take it very seriously. If we see areas in which our children have definite weaknesses, we need to find ways to spark their interest and help them over the rocky parts. Sometimes that means finding a way to incorporate the not-so-fun stuff into our daily living . . . and doing it in a way that will not put out the spark of excitement that you've worked so hard to keep alive.
So unschooling isn't for the faint of heart or for parents looking for an easy way to homeschool. Every method has areas that require time and commitment from parents. Unschooling or relaxed homeschooling is no different. The key to being relaxed is to look at every day as a new adventure, and greet it with anticipation.
So relax, there are no perfect homeschoolers. And the perfect homeschool philosophy or method doesn't even exist either. Look at your children, listen to your children and pray for God's guidance. Be willing to change your route if life takes an unexpected turn, or even if you just feel yourself becoming burdened with the mundane daily tasks. Homeschooling should never be looked at as a just another job Mom has to do each day. If it's not a total everyday lifestyle, then it easily becomes "something we just have to endure each day." That's definitely not the attitude we want our children to have about learning.
Learning is for a lifetime, and learning is fun! Show your children just how important it is to you by your joy and your commitment . . . and your smile!
Mary Ann Turner and her husband, David, homeschool their four children in Southern Virginia. She believes that everyday life's educational possibilities are limitless, and it's up to us to take advantage of the curriculum God provided.