Last week I had the pleasure of being part of a panel discussion on beginning homeschooling at the 1st Annual New England Catholic Homeschooling Conference. I have just finished my first year of formal homeschooling my two sons who have successfully completed 2nd and 1st grade. I am hardly what one would consider a homeschooling veteran. Thankfully, the conference had several other speakers with many years of homeschooling experience under their belts. Yet, I felt I did have something to offer this particular group of people I found myself standing in front of. Sometimes when one has been doing something for a long time, one forgets the fear one felt at the beginning. I could recognize and relate to the fear in the eyes in front of me. Hopefully, I helped to allay some of their concerns and helped convince them that they could take on the awesome task of educating their children.
It has been said that homeschooling is a separate call within the call of motherhood. Certainly, not every one is cut out to homeschool and I am very grateful that there are schools. Nevertheless, some women know even before their children are born that homeschooling is what they were meant to do. For others, the call comes later, perhaps out of necessity. Then there are people like me who hear the call, pray about it, and still run in the opposite direction! I first heard the call when my older son was just shy of two years old. I read a homeschooling magazine and was intrigued by this alternate means of education. I read everything I could get my hands on about homeschooling. I thought it would be such a good fit for us. Nevertheless, I sent both that child and his younger brother to school because I wanted to be “normal.” School was a disaster for them, yet I was still determined to stay the course. God basically needed to smack me over the head to get me to finally heed the call. I received a letter from my son’s first grade teacher last April telling me that there was no way my very anxiety prone son was going to be able to cope with second grade. I had no choice. I had to take the plunge and I was absolutely terrified. Thankfully, I had some friends who homeschooled who greatly helped with that transition with prayer, support and advice.
While certainly not always easy, this past year has been a great gift. We belong to Western Mass Catholic Homeschoolers whom we meet with twice a week. Both my children and I have made great friends. As far as their actual education goes, we completed all the textbooks, something that rarely happens in a traditional educational setting. Perhaps the greatest gift, however, was the gift of time. Our lives were so much more relaxed once school was taken out of the equation. There were no more morning battles. If the children wanted to sleep past 6:15 a.m., this was no longer a big deal. There were no more after-school battles regarding homework. No more rushing from school to after-school activities. No more struggling to find the time to visit grandparents. No more hearing complaints about how there was no time to play. Homeschooling is very time efficient. Most days, we finished all formal lessons by noon and that was with breaks. Afternoons were spent reading for enjoyment, playing games, and pursuing individual interests. There was time for frequent play dates with friends. After-school activities were no longer a burden. There was plenty of time to spend visiting with other family members, nurturing those relationships.
For people considering homeschooling as a possibility for next year, the strongest argument that I could give them to try it is that they will get to truly enjoy their time with their children. Not only that, but their children will also get to enjoy their time. Time is a gift from God. How we use it matters whether we are 8 or 80. Homeschooling provides the ability to use time more wisely and that is an incredible gift for which I am so very thankful.