You may have noticed that I changed the title of this series to Why We Homeschool. I questioned whether or not to do this (all of the blog gurus will tell you not to mess with your post titles) but the unmistakable fact is I cannot separate the two. I love being a mom BECAUSE I homeschool.
Our decision to homeschool began a chain reaction that ultimately ended up changing my nature. A few months ago I wrote:
It is not in the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that we have to homeschool; in fact, most of us do not homeschool. But the teachings of the church do state that we should follow promptings from the Spirit or Holy Ghost. After much prayer and fasting seeking an answer to the problems that I was having with my family and children I was prompted to homeschool. I know that inspiration came from the Lord and it has made me a much better mother, happier wife and more fulfilled woman than I would be if I hadn’t followed His commands. I am much closer to being the woman that I want to be because I followed the Lord’s instructions for my family. Why am I telling you this? I know I was commanded to homeschool my children by the God that I worship so if ever I am asked if I homeschool for religious reasons I can, without pause, answer in the affirmative.
Saying that I was commanded to homeschool is not hyperbole. I am so drastically different than I was five years ago that the only conclusion I can draw is that my family is meant to be a homeschooling family. Period. I’m sure some people would say that I would continue to be a good mom even if I sent them back in to public school but to be perfectly frank with you, I’m not willing to take that chance. It’s far to easy for me to fall back in to my old habits. I know because I have to fight them every day.
I know countless inspiring, loving and dedicated mothers who do not homeschool. Two of my sisters are a few of them (the third is my homeschooling guru), as are several friends from dental school, several from Maine, New Mexico, and here in New Jersey. I certainly don’t believe that homeschooling is necessary for you to be devoted to your family. But, those things do not come naturally to me and I have to create an environment in which I can succeed and our family can thrive. Sending my children away to be in the company of their peers for 40+ hours a week does not a happy Courtney make.
Homeschooling has done so many positive things for our family that it would be difficult to count them all but I will try and give you a few examples. Again, I am not saying that these things don’t happen in non-homeschooling families (or in EVERY homeschooling family for that matter) but for our family, these things have happened as a direct result of our decision to homeschool.
Changes in Our Family Dynamics
- My kids are nicer. Within the first few days of homeschooling the attitudes of my children started to improve. My kids had been acting out because they wanted attention and when I started to give it to them (in a positive way) they stopped acting out. It REALLY was that simple for us.
- I enjoy my children. An amazing thing happened when I spent more time with my kids. They weren’t just kids anymore, they were people. I began to appreciate their little personalities and quirks. I am more attentive to their individual needs because I know them better.
- They talk to Matt and me. They come to US when they have questions about life and growing up. They ask us for help and advice instead of other eight and ten year olds. I can’t tell you how much I prefer that to the alternative.
- My kids are friends with each other. I couldn’t stand my little sister growing up. Thankfully we have been able to become friends now that we are both adults but I morn the relationship we could have had as children if I had been kinder to her. My kids don’t have a choice. They can’t escape to their friends at school. Choosing to be hateful to one another means that they will have a very sorry and angry existence. They have learned that life is so much easier if you are nice to the people you spend the bulk of your time with.
Changes in My Marriage
- Matt trusts me more. Before, whenever he would say, “whatever you want” I always felt like it was his way of trying to avoid confrontation with me because he didn’t want me to throw a grown-up woman tantrum. Now when he says it I know it is because he means it. He trusts me, my abilities, and the revelation I receive for our family.
- I trust him more. The support he has given me over the last four years has been amazing. He has never once questioned my thoughts or motives or ability to help our children get a superb education. Because of this, when he makes suggestions or brings up concerns I am much more likely to listen (though I haven’t quite kicked the “knee jerk vocal dismissal” habit, his concerns are alway seriously pondered and addressed… even if he doesn’t know it ;)
- I am more curious, which makes Matt really happy. A lack of curiosity was something that Matt could never understand and often upset him.
- We have SO much more to talk about. Instead of complaining, gossiping, or only talking about our kids, Matt and I talk about ideas, politics, science, history, books, articles, religion, and more.
Changes in Me
- I have to be intentional about my life. This is a blessing in disguise. I can’t take anything for granted and while having to be vigilant about my actions and thoughts can be exhausting sometimes, it has made me much more self-aware. I know exactly who I am.
- I am the mom I have always wanted to be. I am far from perfect (FAR from perfect) and still struggle daily with trying to avoid the bad habits that put me in such misery in the first place. But now that I am awakened and aware I know what to do when I start to see myself slipping into the funk. It’s much easier to avoid the pitfalls now that I know what will will happen if I don’t.
- I love to learn. I was a straight B- student who couldn’t wait to be done with school forever. Now I love learning. I always wished I was the kind of person who read non-fiction for fun and now I AM. I love history, science, politics, literature, Shakespeare, music, art, geology, and math. YES, MATH! I get a HUGE kick out of fractions, and algebra and I am determined to learn calculus based physics even though I never touched calculus in high school or college.
- I’m am far less fearful than I used to be. I love to try new things. Before, I was scared to try anything for fear of failing. Now I know that failure is nothing more than a stepping stone to greatness.
- I’m not shy anymore. I’m STILL an introvert and prefer a select few people to large crowds but I would like to think that I’m not a wallflower anymore.
- I’m more patient. See “my kids are nicer” and “I enjoy my children”. Patience is a nice byproduct of both.
- I’m happier. I am much, MUCH happier than I was before.
- I find much more satisfaction in being a woman and motherhood in general.
- I work harder during the day with little or no resentment or self-pity (mostly).
- I am FAR less uptight. The fact of the matter is when I have five children running around my house all day every day I can’t get upset about things like mess and noise. Pinterest envy aside, it’s a lot easier to accept the fact that it’s NOT possible to be health-food mommy, crafty mommy, super-ultra-fit mommy, fashion mommy, and super-clean house mommy all the time when you don’t have the bulk of your kids gone for several hours a day. I’m content with being teacher-mommy for most of the day with limited appearances of the other versions of myself when necessary.
I don’t want to pretend that it’s all sunshine and lollipops here. It’s not. Not by a LONG shot. Maybe one day in ten goes perfectly. We still have all of the struggles that normal families have. Just because I homeschool doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with a messy house, talking back, sibling rivalry, and other normal problems… it’s just that when they happen, they don’t last very long. The family dynamic that homeschooling gives us creates an environment that encourages love and understanding. And on those days that it doesn’t happen all I have to do is take inventory of my own behavior to know whether my child is truly struggling or if I have knocked us off balance. And to be perfectly honest, most of the time it’s me. Most of the time I’ve spent a little to much time reading, or painting furniture, cleaning without involving them, or writing. If I’ve done everything I know I should be doing and they are STILL having issues then I know there is a deeper issue going on.