Imagine you’ve arrived at an intersection. On one side a smooth, paved, super highway with elegant, easy turns and architectural overpasses awaits you. This road has mile markers indicating how far you’ve traveled, exit numbers so you don’t miss a turn, and crystal clear GPS tracking to equip you for the inevitable question every parent gets, “Are we there yet?”.
Then imagine beside it, a back road pulled straight from the latest country song. At least it looks like a road. Paved in dirt, overgrown with weeds and fresh four wheeler tracks catch your eye at first. To travel down this one you might hit the ditch, get bit by a snake, or even get lost. Road signs? Mile markers? GPS signal? Not a chance.
Welcome to the decision of whether to homeschool or public school.
There aren’t many road signs marking the way for homeschoolers. There aren’t classes you choose, or teachers picked for you. There isn’t a curriculum handed to you. There’s just you and your kids staring at this back road and packing bug spray, snake bite kits, a cooler and a sack lunch all the while hoping this decision won’t screw up both of us!
Thankfully, thousands of people have taken this homeschool journey before and thrived. I wish I could gather a few of them in my living room and all of us swap stories and questions over a cup of coffee and a slice of brownies. But I can’t. So instead, think of this as a tailgate party before you head off – minus the alcohol, of course. Pack these stories up in your back pack with the fix-a-flat and carry ‘em with you down this old country road.
My first friend with us today is Maggie Ghrist. Maggie really couldn’t meet at my kitchen table right now because she lives in Mombasa, Kenya. Maggie just completed her first year of homeschooling. She admits adamantly telling people who assumed she homeschooled that she did not. She would proceed to give her list of reasons why.
One summer, God changed her heart 180 degrees in a 2- hour conversation with her husband. She said God surrounded her with a peace that passes all understanding and logic. Thankfully, that peace continues to this day.
I asked Maggie what was hard about that first year. Here’s what she said.
“We travelled a lot our first year, and I realized my schedule has never had to put teaching kids first. Making that a priority was a struggle our first year. Consequently, we took forever to reach a point where I felt OK about shutting the books and calling it a year.”
That’s good advice, because so often we think we must finish everything. Every book. Every. Workbook. Page. Mastery, yes. Perfect completion, no!
Along the way, Maggie discovered what she and her kids loved doing together.
“We love reading together! We didn’t know that, but we love reading and discussing and learning. We also love life schooling. Our adventures have taught us a lot of stuff we can’t find in books and that has made this decision to homeschool easier.”
Yes, when I had the privilege to visit Maggie, I thought – who needs books when you have Africa! But then again, we all have opportunities right outside our door to take advantage of.
The last thing I asked Maggie was what would she tell a Mom who’s getting ready to walk this back road journey of homeschooling right now?
She said, “Be flexible. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, and make changes. Try to find something to enjoy each day to make it a positive experience.”
Maggie, thank you for stopping by and speaking encouragement into other Moms. If this is your first time to meet Maggie, you can find out more about her on her blog. She and Josh belong to Lighthouse for Christ, a ministry that’s spreading the gospel, developing pastors and planting churches in the Mombasa area.
My next guest is another mom who finished up year #1 in May. Mother to 4 boys, Orpha Horst will talk us through some of her first year challenges, what she learned through them and also what blessed her.
Orpha begins, “I learned I am a person that needs my quiet time! When I sent my kids to private school, I had time to catch up. But, when I started homeschooling, I had to learn to be OK with my work not getting done. Floors no longer got mopped every week. Dishes learned to wait very patiently. Before, I had certain days to do laundry and now I do them any hour of the day…or night!”
I can definitely relate to all that – except the dishes part. The dishes wait patiently, it’s the people who don’t as much!
“To be very honest, I realized how I liked to look all put together and self-sufficient. But my strength for each day had to come from another source beyond my own love for looking like a well put-together mom!”
Wow, Orpha. You are right. I want to look like I have it together. I don’t want my smeared make-up giving it away that I don’t! The good thing is, Orpha realized it’s OK not to have it all together.
“It’s OK to cry when talking with other moms. It’s OK to take a deep breath and put books away or stop for the day and go to the park, simply to get a different perspective.”
When I asked her what she enjoyed about the first year, she described the quality time and talks she often had with her boys. Even when the conversations weren’t pleasant, and mother and son had to work through some tough issues, she was glad to be the one helping her sons work through the struggles they were facing. It also made her aware of the things that went under the rug during the time they went away to school.
This is my favorite. After hashing out the difficult conversations, she was there to pray. Pray for and over each of her sons.
When I asked Orpha what she would say to another first time homeschooling Momma, she said this:
“This is the hardest, most heart searching experience you will ever have! If you want to know where you are with your kids emotionally, spiritually, academically and where you are as a whole family including yourselves as parents….just try homeschooling!”
She continues with, “I promise it can strengthen you tremendously and bond you with your family in a way you never imagined.”
Thank you Orpha and Maggie for stopping by today. Thank you for reading. Still have questions? Concerns? So do I! But I’d love to chat with you – Let me know your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, remember, this first year of homeschooling is about you learning your child. As Orpha mentioned, you will learn more about yourself this year than anything else! God bless you in this journey! Don’t forget, you may be on an old, back road with no GPS signal, but He always knows your location!
Photo Credit: Flickr