Today Kris and I finished lesson 156. The last test lesson is 160 so we are speeding towards the finish line of this school year.
For the past days I have been considering my time as a home a school teacher. It has been, at times, cringe worthy.
If you were to chat with my four oldest children you would be able to hear many stories of my gaffes and missteps as a newbie homeschool mom.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I relied heavily on the Calvert curriculum and friends who were also educating their kids at home. I didn’t know to tweak the lessons for the individual student so that it is easier for them to learn. Too many things dawned on me S L O W L Y.
At times, I failed to make school work interesting enough. My daughter Emily, who by the way is a certified teacher of Music, was not a tremendous fan of academic endeavors. She was an excellent student, but she would rather be doing almost anything else than school work. When asked by her grandmother what her favorite subject was, she announced, “Nothing!” Which of course led to my mother in law asking me if I realized that Emily did not like school. (!)
My husband’s parents were skeptical of homeschooling in general when we were first getting started. In small ways I allowed their worries (and other people’s misgivings) into my head. These concerns caused me moments of self doubt. We must always believe what we are doing is the right thing for our family!
In the same way, sometimes I let my homeschooling friends influence me in ways that I find embarrassing now. Many times the other homeschool parents were from very strict Protestant backgrounds. I am sure that I was much too strict a disciplinarian because I let myself be swayed by their ideas and my own impatience.
It is with a heavy sigh that I look back on those early days. To be fair to my beginner self, I did try very hard and eventually I learned from my mistakes. I do think I gave it my best effort. I did enjoy going through their lessons with my kids, even if they did not!
John, Emily, Tom and Katie you taught me so much!
By the time I started teaching Ben, Betsy and Kris I had an arsenal of experience to draw from. For instance, I knew to start these students in math a year early so that the transition to Algebra 1 would be smoother. When I had my second reluctant student, that’s you, Benjamin, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to ease the pain (a little) of the academics. It wasn’t perfect but our days progressed more evenly because of all I had learned by working with their sisters and brothers.
To finish up the school year in reading, Kris and I have been studying, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Earnest Gaines. It is a very realistic interview of the fictional Miss Jane, who was born into slavery and is recounting the story of her life to a young teacher doing historical research during his summer vacation. The book has been the genesis of multiple discussions on the history of race relations. We have talked about Southern attitudes and how (sadly) we can still see their influence today. The book ends during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. We have discussed the shame of our country having not moved forward at all really since then. I have given my perspective and been able to listen to hers.
It has been priceless for me.
Despite my awkward beginnings twenty seven years ago, and the many mistakes I have made, these are the moments that I know I have been able to get right. To be able to share my ideas about a subject area, and to hear the progression and development of thought in my kids has been the greatest gift of homeschooling.
In discussing our history as a nation, or as a church, and having honest and open debate I think I have fostered discerning minds. I have encouraged them to think for themselves and to discover what is important to them and stick to it. I have shared what I think and listened to their thoughts.
Very often, I have learned some new way of thinking from this discourse. It is intellectually stimulating and I will miss it very much, this back and forth of sharing ideas.
It is what I will miss the most when I retire from homeschooling this spring.
For any homeschool parents who are reading this, if you have a student who does not enjoy anything about the academic life, don’t worry too much, their path probably lies elsewhere, maybe in Music Education…just ask Emily and Ben!