I’ve always said I wanted to homeschool. At least, from the time my husband and I got married. I don’t really know what exactly inspired me, but the idea of staying at home with my children and homeschooling them was so appealing. I didn’t know much about either of those things, but I knew the idea of being in control of my children’s education and upbringing was something I valued. As someone who struggled immensely in school and was lead to believe for many years that I had learning disabilities and was, for lack of a better word, “dumb,” I know the importance of our children getting a proper education in which they are not treated as just another number.
Growing up, I went to a Christian school. And I loved it. I did pretty well, I had lots of friends, the teachers cared and the classes were smaller so I could focus better. It was also way more hands on, which is how I learn best. The second I stepped foot in public school in high school I struggled. I was a number, not a human being. Anytime I expressed confusion, it was met with irritation and ignorance, not teaching. I needed one-on-one explanations and hands on experiments, not constant packets of papers and memorization. It was like there was a mental block in my head stopping me from learning the best that I could. Maybe I did have learning disabilities that I’ve since overcome, or maybe my teachers didn’t really care about me and let me slip by while they concerned themselves with the golden children. It was a rough time, for other reasons as well. I was miserable. I ended up dropping out in 11th grade at the tender age of 16. I let my parents believe I would get my GED and then pursue my dream of acting. Somehow they agreed, probably because they were tired of me crying everyday and constantly being “sick.”
Fast forward a few years of floating around, being depressed, getting into things I shouldn’t have, and I finally received my GED at age 19. I’m sure you can probably guess that I didn’t pursue that dream of acting, either. Well, I sort of did on a local level, but my lack of discipline and believing in myself really held me back from my potential. It wasn’t until I passed my GED with FLYING COLORS that I started to believe in myself and see that I wasn’t dumb, I just learned differently. I was actually pretty smart once I got the hang of learning. For the first time, I considered college as something I could actually do.
I attended a few semesters of college, both in person and online, and did really well. I actually LOVED it! I loved the challenge, I loved the victorious feeling of grasping something that at one time didn’t make sense, I just loved learning. But eventually I discovered the route I was going wasn’t what I wanted to do in life. During this time, I met my now husband, and building a family was all I wanted to do. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do professionally, so I quit college because I wasn’t about to go tens of thousands more into debt before getting married- especially when I had no idea what to study.
Shortly after dropping out of college (YAY for high school AND college dropouts!), we got married and started our family. And given my background with school, I always had this deep desire to homeschool my kids so I could give them their best chance at a good education. That’s NOT to say that I don’t think kids can get a good education at a private/public school. I have nothing against parents who send their kids to school. That would just be ignorant of me to think that way, and I try to be pretty open-minded. And I actually loved school up until high school! But I am not a fan of the public school system, especially these days, so this is just my heart on why homeschool always appealed to me so much. I loved the idea of having time freedom, being able to go on our own field trips to wherever we deemed necessary for the current lesson, having our own schedule, and deciding what we learn based off my kids’ interests. And probably one of the major reasons I love homeschool- the ability to tailor our curriculum to our children’s needs. Being able to mix and match different “brands” of curriculum to best meet my child’s needs, and being able to try as many as we need to find the right one, it’s pretty spectacular. I really believe that if our children are given the tools they need to learn about the things they’re interested in, and the freedom to choose what that is, they can and will go far. I think back to all the things I tried to learn as a child and how quickly I gave up once it got hard or I didn’t understand something. I have so much regret not following through with many of those things. Not only did I not have the right learning tools, but I didn’t believe in myself and therefore I didn’t have any drive to continue, let alone excel. I don’t want that for my kids. I want to create an atmosphere of learning where they are free to learn inside and outside of the “school” walls, and aren’t burnt out from the constant heavy load that many schools burden their kids with. I want to cultivate a home full of trust and honesty and freedom, a place where “why?” is encouraged and questions are answered, an environment where learning is possible anytime through any means necessary. And a place where learning is FUN!
Even though I always knew I wanted to homeschool, I still spent many years questioning myself and contemplating the alternative. Over the past 5 years since my son was born, I’ve gone back and forth between homeschool and school. There were many times I felt conflicted about what to do. With my life being so revolved around business, I thought it would be impossible to also homeschool. If it were my dream to have a coffeeshop and storefront boutique, it made more sense for my kids to go to school so I could be free to run my business and not have to worry about their schooling. But I knew that wasn’t what I really wanted. In a way, that was the easy way out.
Last year, I bit the bullet and bought some curriculum. At the time, I was surrounded by a lot of outside influence regarding homeschool and I let myself become really overwhelmed by it all. The pretty Instagram posts, the millions of aesthetically pleasing Pinterest ideas, the homeschool moms that seemed to have the perfect routine down for their young kids while I seemed to just barely make it through each day with my sanity intact- it was all so much. I did way too much comparing, and I thought if I mimicked someone who had it down pat, I would easily be able to follow suit. I was way wrong! I ended up purchasing a curriculum because it was beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the idea behind it, being inspired by nature and classical living, but it just wasn’t… us. My kids are naturally quite wild. They’re loud, hyper, full of energy, and find it hard to sit still for more than a few minutes. They also never stop talking (or fighting). And this curriculum I purchased was so formal. I couldn’t fathom how any preschooler was supposed to sit down and study a piece of classical art or music, or memorize scripture, or even simply stay quiet and focused while doing the different activities I picked out for them. I honestly couldn’t imagine us having a 'morning basket routine' everyday, let alone a formal homeschool schedule or lesson plan. But regardless of what I felt in my heart, I was so set on this curriculum. The funny part is, it sort of got lost in all of our moving and transitions so every time I’d say I was going to start homeschool I couldn’t because I couldn’t find the materials. I intended on starting last fall, but we packed up our house to prepare for our big move down south, and stayed in a rental for three months before making the move. We only had the bare necessities in the rental, so I figured I would just start homeschool once we moved and got settled in. Then we moved and spent 7 weeks in hotels while we renovated our house, so it continued to be on hold. THEN big changes happened in our lives and we ended up packing up to move BACK up north. I could never find the curriculum during this whole time despite looking in every single box. Once we moved back to North Dakota, I about gave up on the search for the curriculum. I really wanted to start my kids on a good homeschool routine well before our third little one was due, but I couldn’t for the life of me find the box. One day, my husband came home and said “guess what I found at the shop?” referring to his business’ welding shop. Yep, sure enough, the homeschool box had been sitting in his welding shop the entire past year, even when we moved down south. I had a feeling that was some sort of a sign to just let it go, ha, and I was right… Once I finally dug into that curriculum to officially plan our homeschooling, I became so overwhelmed and angry that I began crying. I immediately reverted back to that mindset of “I can’t do it,” the one that has followed me my whole life. I started freaking out and told my husband “I can’t do this. I can’t homeschool. It doesn’t MAKE SENSE!” and proceeded to throw the box of homeschool curriculum out the door. His response, although I was annoyed at the time because I just wanted someone to lick my wounds, was simple and graceful: “why can’t it just be simple?"
I knew he was right. Of course he was right. But I didn’t really want him to be right. I wanted to be right and I was saying I couldn’t do it and the kids were just going to go to school, end of story. But thankfully I’ve learned a bit of humility over the last few years, and I allowed myself to calm down enough to think about it. Of course it can be simple. It should be simple. Recently, we had gone to a small local event for parents that homeschooled or were interested in homeschooling. The speakers were a married couple who successfully homeschooled all 6 of their kids. My husband and I both learned so much, but one of the things that stuck with me was how simple they made it seem. One thing I had been hearing a lot from multiple people was that not every kid is ready at the same age. One child might be ready to start learning formally at age 3 while another isn’t ready until 6. That’s the beauty of homeschool- it doesn’t have to be started at any certain time or age. Seeing all of these 3, 4 and 5 year olds on Instagram that can read and write and paint a beautiful watercolor scene made me feel like my kids were behind because they weren’t really interested in those things, let alone had the attention span to try. I realized I was so set on homeschooling right away because my friends’ kids that were the same age were already learning to read and write and do all of these things that my kids couldn’t do, and that wasn’t right. It’s also not fair to my kids, who are amazing and excel in other aspects. By forcing them to learn what I wanted them to learn it could do much more harm than good. I know this from experience! So, of course, when my husband suggested the obvious, I knew it was time to give up my crazy ideals and expectations and follow my mommy gut. And my mommy gut told me that right now my kids need simplicity. They need excitement and fun and hands-on activities that simultaneously teach them preschool basics. They need books, lots and lots of interactive books. They need me to be patient with them, and to have fun with them. Once I had this revelation, homeschool finally started to be something I was excited about. Instead of being overwhelmed by the pretty pictures I so desperately wanted to recreate, I had the freedom to be excited and feel like I could do it, and that I could do it my own way. I started searching for simple preschool activities, sensory play ideas, simple crafts that busy little ones could handle, and didn’t base anything on how I thought it looked or if it would make a “pretty picture,” but rather if my kids would enjoy it. I ditched the idea of a specific morning routine, at least for right now, and have clung to the truth that my kids will be ready when they’re ready and I don’t need to force anything. If all we get is 10 minutes of reading in, so be it. If we don’t do any reading but they do some painting books or play dough, sweet. If they don’t do any particular learning activity, but they find themselves playing with a letter puzzle or playing “mom and dad” or simply stacking blocks, that’s okay too. I’m no longer pressured by what I thought I needed to accomplish, or rather needed them to accomplish. There is no pressure for my 3 and 4 year old to be in preschool, and that is so freeing for all of us. They learn so much everyday just in life, and that’s pretty amazing.
So here I sit, the super unlikely “homeschool” mom of two wild toddlers and a soon-to-be baby. A mom who almost cringes at the term “homeschool mom” because it has such weird and negative tones attached to it. But a homeschool mom nonetheless!
I hope this story resonates with someone today, and inspires you to tune out the outside influence and trust your mommy instinct. Whatever mommy battle you’re facing in your mind and heart, I hope you start to believe that you can win. In the famous words of Rob Schneider- you can do it!