About this time last year, my husband Adam and I removed our two kids from public school. Tired of waiting for things to improve, we decided to cut our losses and move on. Adam checked out the finances to make sure it was a sound move. After a few moments contemplation, and lots of ‘hmmm’ noises, he pronounced that my salary was completely unnecessary to our survival.
I’m not sure how proud I am of that fact. Or how I feel about all the time I slaved away for those “unnecessary” funds. But I digress.
With Adam’s blessing acquired, I happily quit my job, and embraced the role of teacher. I knew it would be difficult. A huge time commitment. Daunting textbooks full of topics I’d long forgotten. Stress about doing it well. No different than any new job, really. I gritted my teeth and jumped in.
And what did I find, you may ask? Something unexpected.
That’s right, fun. Entertaining, even! Better than watching the Big Bang Theory or some YouTube video involving cats. Education does not have to be marching into a dreary, fluorescent lit factory-style building every day just to be shamed and ignored. Education – dare I say, life – doesn’t have to be difficult to be valuable.
What makes it fun? I’ve learned that some absurdly simple things make a difference:
- Sleep. We get enough sleep, every night. We’ve spent our fair share of days – weeks, months – going on little more than 6 hours of sleep a day. It is exhausting. It is ridiculous. In a better world, employers would be more sympathetic, schools more reasonable. Now that I’m homeschooling, I sleep eight hours a night. The kids get about nine. The difference in our attention span and mood is incredible. Goodbye, depression and anxiety! Hello, relaxed breakfast, cup of tea, and easing into our day.
- Comfort. First, the potty. Yes, the potty. This has to be included, and I know you may laugh. But have you ever thought about how humiliating and demeaning it is to have to raise your hand and announce to the class that you have to use the bathroom? And then, be told no? Or, that you have two minutes to get down the hall and get your business done or else, detention? Not so in homeschool. You go when you need to, no questions asked. Which leads to the second point – food. In homeschool, you eat when you want. Third point, environment. If you want to go outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D, you go. See where I’m going with this? The freedom to make yourself comfortable. Comfortable people absorb and retain information better.
- Relationship. What do you get when you spend all day with your kids, every day, in a relaxed environment, learning? You get a relationship. You get teaching as it was meant to happen, by example and discussion. You learn who they are, what interests them, who they want to be. You build something beautiful with the people you brought into the world.
- Dialogue. We laugh a lot. We ask questions a lot. We talk. A lot. No one threatens us with detention or being sent to the principal’s office if we talk too much. Freedom of speech – literally – is available in homeschool. This is the entertaining part. Talking things out, talking around them, making jokes – you can only do that in a room that encourages open dialogue.
So much of the debate about homeschool vs. traditional (public) school is about things that don’t matter – funding, laws, blame for poor performance. What matters? The simple stuff. Rest. Comfort. Caring. The willingness to share your life. Our schedule is not “rigorous” – I’m no Tiger Mother – but my kids have made more progress this year than in any previous.
Until I quit focusing most of my attention on my job, I wasn’t really sharing my life with the kids. I am grateful to have these next few years to make up for lost time. Bonus – I spend my days with the funniest, smartest, most interesting people I know.