Today is Day 1 of Homeschool 2017 at our house. My thirteenth year of homeschooling. I’ve graduated one child, and have four more to go. You won’t hear me brag about any of mine being geniuses. But so far, everyone can read, write complete sentences, and do basic math. They have some general idea of geography and have read more than a few classic authors, like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. My oldest has a part-time job and is starting community college classes part-time. Overall, I’d say we have done pretty well in the homeschooling success department.
We’re not crushing it, like Spelling Bee champions or National Merit scholars, but I think everyone will go on to lead happy, grounded, productive lives. They will be employable and enjoyable. That should be the ultimate success by normal people’s standards.
You might think after all these years, I consider myself an expert, but I don’t. I’m not sure what makes you an expert on anything. All the education in the world without experience just means you’re a literate idiot. And all the experience in one area without an understanding of how anything else works makes you myopic – i.e. can’t see the forest for the trees.
However, I know one secret for homeschooling success. This is THE key everyone who homeschools NEEDS to know. Are you ready?
There is no secret.
Like Po in Kung Fu Panda 2, the secret is that there is no secret. Shocking! What does that mean?
It means that every family is unique. Every person is unique. There is no one secret that will work for every single homeschool. There is no perfect curriculum. There is no do-it-all schedule. No one else is doing it any better than you can do it, regardless of how much they brag on Facebook. Sure, I know families who have graduated children early or won full college scholarships or finished high school with enough dual credits to skip two years of college. That’s all great. But if mine don’t do that, we are not failures. We have different priorities, different goals, different abilities, different opportunities, and different schedules. Different is good and healthy.
This belief that there is some secret to homeschooling success we’re missing all comes down to comparison. Used rightly, comparison is a good thing. It’s perfectly fine to ask questions of other homeschoolers, especially ones who have graduated children and have faced similar challenges. It’s normal to consider alternatives when one approach isn’t working. It’s advisable to seek help when you hit a brick wall.
But it is NOT OK to jump on every bandwagon that comes along thinking that it will be the answer to all your problems. One way of teaching is not superior to another, like phonics vs. sight reading. Some kids do well with one way over the other, but neither is the absolutely only way to teach reading.
One curriculum is not going to magically teach your child everything they will ever need to know, like Sonlight vs. Abeka vs. Alpha Omega. They all have different approaches, and they are all good. It’s your job, as the homeschooling parent, to pick the one that best fits your unique situation. But what works for Kasey Know-It-All may not be your answer. Be adult enough to deal with it and find something else. No excuses. No apologies.
Schedules are great. I love schedules, but I can’t follow a single schedule to save my life. Why? Because my life is not like anyone else I know. I work part-time. Not just blogging, but I have a real network support business. I am on call for several businesses, and I often have to drop what I’m doing to answer calls and deal with problems. I also work away from home one or two days a week. That makes our schedule fluid, at best. We do what we can when we can, and when we have an interruption, we pick it back up later. Yeah, it gets a little crazy and stressful, but we get it all done.
So, remember as you start your school this year, There Is No Secret!
Weeeelllll, there might be one secret.
Homeschooling success boils down to one thing: Perseverance.
Yep, there’s no shortcut to educating children. You keep getting up every day and doing just about the same things over and over and over again. It’s like Groundhog Day. All. The. Time. It’s not brilliant curriculum. Or charismatic teaching. Or inspiring field trips.
It’s making breakfast. Having Bible time. Diagramming sentences. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers to infinity and beyond. Reading the same beginner readers for however many children you have. I can quote The Little Red Hen in my sleep. It’s like counting sheep but with chicks, a pig, a dog, and a cat.
Again, don’t believe your Facebook and Instagram friends who post pictures of their perfect projects and splendid field trips. I promise they have days where everyone is crying at the same time and a one page assignment takes three hours. People who don’t admit their problems need therapy. Just saying.
With thirteen years behind me and ten years in front of me, I will say that homeschooling is worth the price I’ve paid. That price is more than money. It is tears and fears and frustrations and doubts and arguments. But the love I have for my children and for teaching them every day is worth the price.
Today is the first day of a new homeschooling year, and I’m starting it with high hopes but realistic expectations. I know it will involve bad attitudes and difficult days. Homeschooling success is what you make of it. I resolve to persevere. I’ll get up every day and do it again. Will you?