My husband and I knew we would homeschool our children from the beginning. In fact, we decided that before we were ever married. We are both second generation homeschoolers and knew we wanted to homeschool our children as well…yes, I was homeschooled (only through high school)!
I left public school at a crucial time, a time when credits and tests are necessary to graduate. However, my mother took a different approach. I was allowed to sort of decompress for almost half of my freshman year. I had to wean off of performance driven education and discover the joy of learning. This took a wise mother and space. Many mornings she let me sleep. Many afternoons she let me read and do housework and connect with my younger brother. He was homeschooled as well, however he was just starting kindergarten. I am ten years older than him, and that first year of homeschooling for both of us was a year of bonding. We are extremely close to this day. I would not trade those days for anything.
His kindergarten year was very different than if he had gone to public school. My mom read to him a lot, he began a massive collection of knives, he went to the coffee shop with our grandfather, he played dress up a lot, and he played outside a lot. She did a small phonics lesson with him most days, and she took him and I to the library often. I remember thinking that he was the luckiest kindergartner in the world.
A few years went by…I got married…
And then I became a new mother, and I started feeling the excitement of teaching my own daughters at home…I love to teach. When my oldest was four and my second daughter was two I went to my first homeschool book fair. At that conference I was bitten by the curriculum bug, the one that turns moms into teachers and hoarders. I was on a high when I left, ready to run home and organize my curriculum and project ideas. I really wanted to start school early..I really loved the idea of making little students out of my toddlers.
And then there was this friend of mine..this wise woman that was in my life at just the right time. Her oldest child is older than mine by about three years. Her advice to me was hard to take, and at times I felt like she was a buzz kill when it came to my homeschooling excitement. She used to say to me, “Don’t school early, Mandy. You are going to be doing this a long time…put it off as long as you can. Just do fun things and be relaxed while the girls are young.” My mom took her side, and I should have expected that. I experienced her relaxed, relational homeschool style first hand.
After many conversations with my mom and watching my friend with her younger children, I began to warm to the idea that young children do not need to start formal school too early. In fact, I have since adopted the opinion that formal school should be short and sweet for most of the grammar school stage.
Instead, why not just have lots of fun with the littles… read lots of books, make silly crafts, sing silly songs, eat yummy snacks, take naps together, play outside a lot, and live unpressed. I am glad we have never stressed our little ones with too much school. As I watch my middle and high school students move on to harder subjects and more demanding schedules, I am happy that they had those years of wonder and freedom. I am glad I had those years with them as well…oh the memories.
As a second generation homeschooler I have an advantage…I have a different perspective. I was not pressed…even in high school. My mom was not super big on schedules and checking boxes. I did learn to run a house and be a servant. I also went to college, and I did just fine..well in fact. My kids will do well also if that is what they choose. If they can read, write, listen, and have a developed work ethic they will succeed.
My highschooler is doing great in her classes. My middle school student is coming into her own. Did their relaxed younger years hinder them? Did my mom’s relational style hinder me? Certainly not.
So, just a bit of humble advice for those with little kids who are wondering if they are doing enough…you are! Enjoy your little kiddos…they grow up so quickly. Set down and add up how many years you will be homeschooling…that sum is close to thirty years for me! No rushing that!…and I don’t want to.