Sometime between a frustrating lesson on improper fractions and an oft-interrupted chapter of Where the Red Fern Grows with my three older students, I noticed that it was quiet. Too quiet. I began the unsettling search to find the silent preschooler, and quickly found the tell-tale sign of trouble strewn through the living room and trickling out my bedroom door. The mess looked like the aftermath of a ticker tape parade, with bits of paper and colorful curling ribbon littering every surface. Following the trail led to a reality that grew worse with every step, and at the end, I found my little troublemaker surrounded by the wrapping paper carnage and sporting a proud grin.
I immediately began an internal lament, as I thought of the time that would be wasted in the clean up and the way that it would throw my entire day off schedule. Half-heartedly and discouraged, I wound a roll of ribbon back around the spool and sighed. I could feel a rant rising up in my chest, but as if on cue my four year old lifted his hands up and offered me the fruits of his mischief laden labor. It was wrapped in the expensive paper and four entire rolls of tape, and my heart sank even further when I thought of the waste. “It’s for you, Mama,” he said in an angelic voice, and his sweetness pricked my angry, frustrated spirit. I took the mishmash of sparkly gold paper and cellophane in my hands and sank down among the bits of paper and scraps of ribbon determined that I would see this moment as the gift that my son had intended.
As I slowly began to unwind the yards of tape, I wondered how often I viewed things that were meant to be treasured as hardships and hindrances. My role as homeschool teacher was certainly a victim of my tendency to see the negative, so while I knew that I would be knee deep in paper clean-up for a while, I turned my thoughts towards how I could see homeschooling as a gift.
What’s in it for Me – Homeschooling is great for everyone else?
It’s easy to see the benefits of homeschooling for the student. We all know the statistics and the research that supports this lifestyle. Almost daily, I witness the fruits of this worthwhile labor in my children, but there is a slightly selfish voice that wonders “what’s in it for me?” It turns out; there are many personal benefits for the parent-teacher, although they are often disguised behind the busyness, or hidden behind the exhaustion.
The Gift of Time
Time waits for no one, and while the days of child rearing can feel like they are dragging on forever, there is really a very short time where parents have an influence over their children. From the moment our children are placed in our arms, the unforgiving march of time begins. I have always been aware that my time with my children was limited, but it is becoming so much more apparent as they grow. Looking at my man-child, who has just recently achieved his life-long goal of being taller than his mom, reminds me that I only have a few more Christmases and a few more summers before he is grown and gone. I am jealously guarding those years and so grateful for the time that I have been gifted with all of my children while they have been homeschooled.
The gift of time afforded by homeschooling is not just the quantity, but it is also the quality. Instead of rushing out the door early in the morning, we are snuggling on the couch, still in our pajamas and lingering over a precious conversation. Instead of hurrying from subject to subject on an arbitrary schedule, we have the luxury of digging into a subject fueled by our interests. Our days are less hurried and less structured, and that lends towards time to explore deeply and think freely. There is time to relish a freshly falling snow or watch a spider building a web or answer the really tough life questions. This precious, unhurried time is a gift that I might not ever know I was missing if it were not for homeschooling.
The Gift of Responsibility
There is no question that homeschooling is a substantial responsibility that often weighs heavily on the mind of the parent, but that responsibility can actually be a gift in disguise. Homeschooling has benefited me as a mother because it allows me to be constantly in tune with the needs of my kids, and find creative ways to meet those needs. Every part of their development sits on my shoulders — I can’t blame the schools or the teachers if they are failing in some academic area. That is an awesome responsibility that keeps me on my toes as a parent, encourages me to be at my best, and keeps me accountable to the task.
The Gift of Learning
Do you know why the sky is blue or what causes lightning? They are simple questions that we are supposed to learn in elementary school, but many of us only really understand these concepts on the surface. When suddenly charged with teaching these concepts to our children, that’s when deep, meaningful comprehension takes place, sometimes for the first time. Even as a college graduate, I am constantly learning things along with my children. Their curiosity encourages me to dig deeper, and my curiosity teaches them that learning is a life-long pursuit.
The Gift of Alternative Thinking
Alternative thinking- the choice to do things contrary to the “norm”- is a muscle that grows stronger as it is used. Homeschooling is certainly more popular than ever before, but it is still an out of the box lifestyle choice, and for our family homeschooling was actually the gateway to making all kinds of choices that didn’t quite follow the beaten path. Once we discovered that taking the road less traveled could produce extraordinary results, it trickled over into all our decision making. Everything from health choices to career paths have been colored by our positive experience with trusting the unconventional course.
The Gift of Memories
Experiencing a child’s first words, first steps, and all the other firsts are memories that every parent relishes. I wanted to keep experiencing the magic of the first time with my kids even after they were school-aged. Homeschooling has allowed me the privileged position of being there when they first learned to read and all the other big moments as they have grown. As precious as the monumental times are, I treasure the daily, mundane tasks we have shared even more. The simple rhythm that homeschooling has created for us has gifted our family with unhurried meals, group learning opportunities, and time to share meaningful conversations. These are the threads that bind our family together and create a treasure trove of happy memories that will be with me long after my kids are grown.
Back in my living room, still surrounded by yards of crumpled paper, I was no closer to undoing the disarray, but I was seeing it with new eyes. I pulled my little mischief maker close and together we dug into the package with unbridled excitement. Yes, I had to choose to look past the mess and ignore the work that would be needed, but in my lap, I had a precious, unique gift and I could not let it go to waste.
Jessica Bowers and her homeschooling family of four boys can be described in one word — average. They are a middle class family living in Middle America right smack in the middle of the suburbs with 3 bedroom 2 1/2 baths and a minivan. Together, they leave ordinary behind to set off on extraordinary adventures around the world.