In the past year, I’ve become a pretty passionate homeschooler.
It’s still my belief that we should all have the right to choose what works best for our families, but my confidence that we have found the right path for us has deepened this year.
I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.
But perhaps because I am more open to it, or perhaps because I’ve immersed myself a bit more in the homeschooling universe during these past 6 months, I have been reading a lot lately about the comparison between homeschooling and public schooling; homeschoolers and public schoolers.
(The latter is dangerous. They are all our kids. They are all different. And I reiterate, they are children.)
But today I had a thought: What if? What if there is no point in comparing our homeschooled children to publicly schooled children anymore?
Because homeschooling is not simply the way we choose to educate our children. Homeschooling is a way of life.
We’ve all seen statistics that should be reassuring — homeschoolers are not only getting into the best colleges, they are being recruited by them. Homeschoolers routinely test ahead of grade level. Homeschoolers kick butt in spelling bees.
But I’m starting to wonder if even those good things matter that much, because they are still rooted in comparison, and I don’t think we need to keep comparing.
I believe as homeschoolers that we need to step away from the trap of thinking that just because something has become the educational “standard” that we need to apply it to children outside of that system.
One homeschooled child might accelerate through a math program because there’s no reason not to; while her brother or sister might eschew math for a year until the time is right.
A homeschooled child might develop an interest and dive into it so deeply that there’s little time for much else. They may spend days, weeks, even months so immersed in a topic that they become an expert. An 8-year-old expert.
They also might waste time. They might flounder. They might lallygag.
They might discover exactly who they are.
Because they can.
Outside of a conventional school setting, the world opens up. Our kids have time to explore, grow and have adventures.
They also have time to fail. They have time to make mistakes.
They have time to ask questions (oh so many questions.)
So what are we doing even comparing our children to publicly schooled kids? Isn’t it about time we shut that door?
We can let that one go.
And sure — many of us still have goals for our kids. We can’t help it. We want to set them up for a positive future.
But what I want for my kids isn’t to push them toward graduation.
I want them to find what makes them happy. I want them to seek out loving relationships. I want them to know how to take really good care of themselves.
I want them to know that they don’t have to compare themselves to anyone else.
And I want them to know that as we continue on this journey together, I’m OK with the bumps in the road. I embrace the lallygagging. I love the exploration of life with them. I love being by their side.
I’m not in a hurry.
I learning to let go of specific educational goals for my children, because I’m finally seeing that as a homeschooler, I can. And I’m learning that with the space to do so, they create their own learning goals.
My job isn’t to push and cajole. It certainly isn’t to force them into the future with a goal of being “done” by a given date.
My job is to help them facilitate their own learning, and to support them each step of the way. Even if it takes longer. Even if it looks messy. Even if it’s hard.
Because this commitment we make to our kids — when we take on the role of homeschooling parent — it isn’t just to help them learn.
It’s to be their partner on this ride, to hold their hand as they lead us, and to only let go when the time is finally right.