a different angle

Over the last five weeks, I have fielded countless queries about whether or not we’ve started back into homeschooling. The answer is, simply put, no. Sometimes I try to cushion the abrupt “no” with an explanation (we’re in the thick of preserving and canning!) but I don’t think it works. Not “doing school” in September puts me out of the realm of comprehension and smack into The Galaxy of the Weird and Wacko. Besides, now the food preserving is over and I’m not any closer to digging the workbooks out of the attic.

I have my reasons. It’s too nice to be inside, and we have other stuff going on. There’s choir (for my older son, not my daughter) and youth group, a money management class, drama class, fence building, nitpicking, playing, reading, projects, volunteering, housework, etc. My parents are days (days!!!) away from moving into their new house. My older daughter works three full days a week, and my older son sometimes works upwards of two. There are birthday celebrations, routine doctor appointments, and daily rest times. In other words, life.

Maybe my contentedness with living-in-the-moment is shortsighted. Certainly, the educational experts would have me believe I am ruining my children. Children must be coached, directed, and taught so they will be knowledgeable, skilled, and competent. They must be exposed to as much variety as possible early on so they can be informed and adept at whatever they might choose to do with their life.

Let’s apply this logic to an adult, shall we? Say, um, myself. I don’t worry about my future self, career-wise. My present self, yes. I exercise and cultivate my relationships and try new things and pursue interesting topics and feed people and, and, and, etc. What I don’t do is spend the better part of my days randomly bettering myself so that in ten years from now I can get a job that I haven’t yet decided on. That’d be nuts.

See, there’s a difference between planning for potential, as-yet-unknown careers and acquiring practical living skills. Most children (and their well-intentioned parents) don’t have any idea what the kiddos will want to do when they grow up, but we all know they will have to relate to people, manage money, eat food, and sleep somewhere.

I was listening to a conversation between Ben Hewitt and some radio guy when one of the two said, “Don’t think about their future. Think about their present.” Those two sentences were like a splash of cold water in the face. They resonated, especially in light of what I’d just gone through with my daughter. When I give myself permission to stop worrying about my children’s future and instead focus on how they are doing now, everything opens up. Instead of fretting about what might be, I can look at What Is.

*There’s a wedding to attend, the gift registry to figure out, and a gift to purchase.
*The dog has a weird lump on her foot—what should we do?
*How much money was made on puppy sales?
*This book was so good, it must be shared with a friend immediately!
*Sibs are fighting! Time to work it out, together, over stacks of dirty dishes.
*Mom has to run an errand and the juice needs to be canned so here’s how to hot pack.
*If money is invested in a closed savings account at 2.75 percent interest, how much will be there when the money comes available in 2017?
*There’s a snake on the porch! Quick! Is it poisonous?

Now that my kids are getting older, I’m worrying less about their future than I did when they were young. This surprises me. I always thought it would be the other way around. But here’s why I think I’m more relaxed: as the children increasingly interact with the world beyond our home, all while not knowing much (most?) of the information that their peers have squirreled away in their brains, I am observing that their lack of specific facts is not a deficit. It’s simply a difference.

I have read that, in the long run, the information discrepancy is not an issue. I have hoped that this is true. But I couldn’t know. My relaxed, and relaxing, attitude is in direct proportion to my relief.

Education is less about information acquisition and more about cultivating curiosity and the quest for self-understanding. So instead of focusing on stuffing rote facts into noggins, I’m attempting a different angle:

What are my children curious about?
Are they being stimulated and challenged?
Are they contributing and receiving?
Is there a balance between alone-time and together-time, work and play, inside and out?
Is there laughter, a balanced diet, enough sleep?

So back to that have-you-started-homeschooling question. As the weather gets colder, I’m sure we’ll start up with the studies in some form or another. After all, winter is meant for toasty fires, steaming drinks, and books. I can certainly guarantee the books.

But the boxes of workbooks stashed in the attic? About those, I make no promises.

This same time, years previous: dumping: a list.


  • Anonymous

    So true. Most of the stuff I learned in school I've forgotten. Now with easy access to information kids can learn pretty much anything they want or need to know. I just wish I had known this earlier because I would have homeschooled both my kids. I wonder how different they would be if I had.

  • Christie

    So I very rarely comment and almost feel odd doing so on this subject as I have no children, but I have thought about quite a few of your posts on the subject of how you homeschool and wanted to give you possibly a different prospective?

    As a child I was an avid reader and extremely interested in math and science. I started out going to a small private Catholic school which was great until I realized that the light bulb and the potato type science experiments just weren't enough for me – second grade maybe? So Mom transferred me to public school so I could get more advanced science and math curriculum. I love my family but I was beyond what they could teach me in math and science by the time I completed elementary school. I flourished and then went on to engineering school (I'm the only one in my family to complete college) and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. I now work at NASA.

    But I often wonder if I hadn't been exposed to the more advanced curriculum, and had stayed in the private school with the limited science program, would I be where I am today? Would I have a whole different career? Or was that craving for something more even as a second grader – enough so that I talked my mother into transferring me to another school – that drove me to where I am today?

    I am in no way criticizing parent’s decisions to homeschool or how you go about doing that but do you ever wonder if your own limitations or life choices may limit your children? I have a few friends who homeschool and I have asked them this same question but they never seem to know how to answer. I’m not saying one option is better than the other – just my own curiosity of what you would do if your child was the next Einstein?

    Okay I think my ramble is over.

    Oh by the way did you get the boots?

    • You Can Call Me Jane

      Christie, I totally hear your concern/question. We are more "traditional" homeschoolers and what you're expressing is something that is on my mind a lot. One of my children has said for years that he wants to go into medicine. He's only 11 but I do make choices on curriculum, co-op classes, etc, based on the goal of preparing him the best I can to be whoever he wants to be. My girls want to be moms and one wants to paint houses but I'm treating them the same as their brother- trying to give them the broadest and best so just in case they want to do more than paint, they'll be ready. Part of this is also wanting to teach them habits of study that will help them if they do want to go on to higher education. If they choose to learn a trade and never go to college, super. If they are happy, I will be happy. All this to say, there is an incredible breadth to this spectrum called homeshooling and we all do it a bit differently. Some of us spend a lot of time thinking about (and acting on) the issue you raised. Also, your mom *knew* you and clearly could see and deliver what you needed. I think that's my hope for all kids (regarding education)- that their parents are tuned in to their kids and do the best they can to meet their needs. Blessings!

    • Unknown

      I think that is key– parents knowing their children. Seeing what they want and need, and responding. All of the homeschooling parents I know are very attuned to their children as individuals.

      I was the first of six (homeschooled) children and all of us have done very different things. I was an English major and taught writing for years (now a SAHM), next brother is a mechanical engineer, next brother wants to be on the mission field full-time, next brother has ambitions in theatre and music… the other two are still in school. 🙂 But we all learned and excelled in our own ways, and homeschooling didn't hinder us. Did I feel that I had some things to catch up on in college? Yes, but then, a lot of my formerly private and public schooled fellow-students told me that *I* knew things *they* didn't.

      So I don't think homeschooling necessarily has inherent academic deficiencies. There are tons of opportunities to learn when you're homeschooled, and those opportunities are growing every year. I also think that for every homeschooler who might have missed out on some things, there are many more private/public schoolers who fall through the cracks at THEIR schools. So it's not an either-or.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Christie, I've done a lot of thinking about your question—thanks for being so thoughtful!

      I am certain that our lifestyle limits our children. We have chosen a one-income lifestyle, country living, and minimal away-from-home activities. Lots and lots of limits! But I believe that limits, when chosen carefully, actually provide freedom—the freedom to dive deep into the activities we do have, rather than simply skim the surface of many.

      I'm pretty positive that none of my children are Einstein-ish—not even close (wink). We try to tune in to what makes them tick and then tease that out. And if our lifestyle inhibits their dreams, then my hope is that they will have the tenacity to get where they need to go in spite of us. (My daughter's horse riding is an example of this—it's totally out of our means, economically, and yet her hard work and persistence is getting her where she wants to go.)

      I think that one child can be raised in a multitude of ways and still become "who she is to be." For example, the same child raised in a different location—say Kenya or France or Romania or Chile—can find self-fulfillment, but, depending on the location, the end result might look quite different. Just as I think there's no one true love (most of the time, anyway), I also believe there's not one true profession. I'm not sure if this makes sense…?

  • karen

    Even though all three of my children are in school this September, I believe so deeply in what you are doing and that your children will be better equipped to handle the future than those who are simply marching toward …

    While I really need this time to regroup me, myself and I, I will quite happily receive any and all of my children back home as they need it.

    Love this post, so un-defensive and real.

  • Jen J

    In everything you listed above, I read "learning, learning and learning". Who says school is read, digest, test and repeat? We homeschool as well, and we take a little more formal approach (because of my deficiences, not my kids), but I love what you are doing!

    • Jennifer Jo

      You're not deficient because you're doing something different! There are SO many ways to live well. (Some days—depending on my mood and what's going on—I run this house like it's a freaking boot camp.)

  • Anonymous

    Love this!….and applaud your courage to follow your intuitive sense that this move will not harm your children. Bring on the joy! ~Sherry

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yes. All too often we confuse thrive with survive. And we operate out of fear instead of joy. I'll take the joyful thriving over the fearful surviving…or at least I'm learning to.

Leave a Comment