Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Gifts of Homeschooling

Sometimes while walking this path, it is necessary to be reminded of why we chose to do this in the first place and be re-inspired. It is no secret that when we first started homeschooling, I did not want to be doing it. We took one year at a time at the beginning and for many of our early years I was on a quest to find the perfect-fit-for-us-Waldorf-school. There was no such perfect fit, however, and year after year we continued to choose homeschooling. While I cannot put my finger on the definite moment when I knew this was working for us but there was a time when I stopped looking for a Waldorf school and came to realize how very right for this path of Waldorf unschooling was for us.

Why did we start homeschooling and why did we continue? Initially, we chose to homeschool for almost purely financial reasons. We could not afford to keep sending out children to the local Waldorf school but we also could not see our way to sending our oldest to a traditional school setting after her four years with the local Waldorf school. Looking back on our 15 years of doing the homeschooling dance together, I cannot imagine having educated our children any other way. I came to realize the many gifts that homeschooling offered to all of us

The greatest gift of homeschooling is the gift of time.

Time to relax into the day. There was no frantic getting ready for the bus; there was no intense commute of many miles to the local Waldorf school through rush hour traffic. There was time to get to know our own biological rhythms at an early age and to learn to work with and use those rhythms. And, yes, now as they are older, they can and do make it to their work and classes on time. My oldest is usually the first to school ready with her eurythmy dress on and practicing before most of her peers are on campus; my middle has never skipped a class unlike many of her peers in college; my youngest has now faithfully and consistently clocked two hours of community service for the past three years.

Time together as a family. Our family unit and family relationships grew stronger even as we were able to give back to the larger community. Our children had time together to develop their sibling relationships into friendships. Now as the miles separate us, they stay connected daily. I firmly believe that my three, who are separated by age, gender, interests and now geography but have solid relationships with each other because of being homeschooled. Yes, there were daily, sometimes hourly squabbles; yes, often I felt more like the referee than mom or teacher. But they had to rub elbows with each other sometimes quite tightly; they had to come through the arguments and find a place of mutual respect for their good and the good of the family unit. And, they had time to do that.

Time to day dream. To look at the stars. To dig in the sand. To swing on the porch. To build a blanket fort in the house and snuggle with a good book. Time to think about who they wanted to become without even realizing that was what they were doing.

Time to be bored. Agatha Christie said "We owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness -- either enforced or voluntary." Most often when my three were bored, if I did not jump in and rescue them, their boredom led them to their greatest discoveries about themselves, about academics and about life.

Time to take advantage of traveling opportunities that came our way without the constraints of a school calendar. Time to take advantage of various other experiences and lessons because they did not have to spend so many hours in school much of which is wasted time.

Time to freely delve into their own interests without the constraints of bells or a teacher’s decision about the flow of their day. I firmly believe that because my three children had this freedom, they came to their own inner motivation which has propelled them to achieve goals they have set for themselves and in the process have come to know what they want out of life.

Time with us and others as their teachers that often was one-on-one. Because my three did not have to vie with 20+ other children day in/day out, I believe it was easier for them to take their turn and share when they were in those kinds of situations.

This is not to say that homeschooling is without its challenges and difficulties. No matter what educational path is chosen, there will be thorns as well as roses along the way. It is not always an easy decision and it is sometimes a decision that must be made over and over again. While homeschooling may not be for everyone, I do believe that anyone can succeed at homeschooling despite the challenges and hard work.

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