Down to the Last...

This fall my youngest son will start his formal education. I have been homeschooling officially for 25 years and the thought that this is my last child that I will teach to read has been tinged with sadness. I can remember years when the thought that I had 5 or so left to teach to read left me with a headache! As I have contemplated this change I have reflected on those 25 years and about what has been successful and what has not, what stressed me the most and what I should have worried about and didn’t.

My fondest memories are the times when my kids and I sat and talked about life, history, the gospel, current events, or government, whatever was on our minds. In order to do that, it meant that our schedule had to be flexible. When our schedule was too rigid, then those conversations happened less frequently or not at all.

Other memories include the science experiments that worked and the ones that didn’t. Sometimes those were more exciting. I remember the history nights with the great and not so great food and costumes, field trips that seemed more battle than education and the many co-op’s and plays and other events we have been a part of over the years. These are the joys of homeschooling. But sadly it isn’t all joy.

One of the things that stressed me most was that my house was never as clean as I wanted it to be. Between moves, kids, babies, school books and projects, it was difficult to have a “Better Homes and Garden’s” look to my house. Instead we had peanut butter and jelly faux wall treatment and fingerprint texturing on the wall over every door (teen boys and their drive to see who can reach the highest!), not to mention Legos and rocks buried in every carpet.

Now 5 of my children have moved on and we are in a larger home with room for books and projects. My house is cleaner, but I miss the mess in some ways, because the mess was the evidence of the full activity of our life. We were constructively using those piles of books, papers and projects.

I stressed about whether I was teaching all that my children needed to know and whether I was preparing them for a productive future. I have learned that to prepare them for everything, I would need a crystal ball to know their future. Sadly, I don’t have one, so I must be guided by the spirit, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. I also learned that teaching them to work, and work hard and to do service for others, including their brothers and sisters has been what has best prepared them for a productive future. These skills will be used no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

The lesson I wish I had learned earlier in my career as a homeschool mom was that if I was to truly succeed, I need to be guided by my Heavenly Father. They are His children first and He knows them better than I. I now know when I listen to Him, things work out much better than when I do things my way. He wants me to succeed and will help me. When I remember to ask!

Another lesson I had trouble learning was that the most important thing I can teach my children is the gospel and then teach how that gospel fits into the world around them, not the other way around. It is easy to get caught up in teaching math and reading and making sure that they meet these requirements and those education standards. The spirit told me those were important, but most important is for my children have a testimony and a love  of the scriptures. If they do, then they can and will weather the trials of life. But the voice of the world can easily drown out the quiet voice of the spirit. I learned that I need to be still and listen regularly, daily, to hear that instruction.

I also stressed about using the perfect curriculum, as if there was such a thing. What I should have worried more about was how the curriculum I was using was working for my children. I found what worked for us and then I changed it because something new and “better”, with more bells and whistles came alone. I eventually wised up and went back to our original curriculum. My children are a better judge of curriculum than any review.

One of the greatest gifts I have been given in this long journey to educating my children is a testimony that my choice of educating them at home was the right choice for our family. Maybe not everyone’s family, but it is the right choice for us. With that knowledge it made it possible for me to take the challenges of having my children home all day, every day and find solutions to those challenges and not give up. If I was to do this huge responsibility, then there had to be a way around the problems we faced.

People have said to me over the years that I must be a saint or have the patience of Job to be able to homeschool my children for all of these years. No, I would not say I have patience. I have more than when I started, I will say that! I don’t think you need patience to homeschool, I think you learn it as you face each quandary, dilemma and set back until one day you handle a child and his problems without major drama and you realize—I AM growing in patience. Maybe there is hope for me after all! That, to me, is a mark of success.

So this fall, as I start school, I will be a little sad, but also glad that I have one more opportunity to experience the wild adventure called Home Education.

You can leave your thoughts, comments or suggestions here on my feedback page. Thanks!

- Dana