This morning, I met a mother who had decided that next year, she was going to homeschool her son. As the only homeschooler in the room, I was pulled into the conversation and asked if I had any advice.
Here it is, friends:
You will have many panic attacks.
Yes, that is my advice to the newly homeschooled. I realize now that I could have probably given her better advice, but at the same time, I wish someone had given that advice to my mother when she started homeschooling me, and then to me when I started taking control of my education.
Thoughts about homeschooling tend to fall into two categories: the rainbows-and-unicorn “oh, it was a wonderful experience, easy as pie!”, and the horror story “I sent my kids back to school otherwise I would have become a murderess”. Reality falls somewhere in the middle. I think we embarked with the quintessential homeschooling image, the one where the smiley parent and child sit together at a table, cheerfully doing homework.
Let me tell you, it does not work that way. We literally tore up textbooks in frustration at one point. The textbooks in question happened to be math books, so it’s no great loss, but that’s how it played out for us. Come to think of it, the only time we ever had the classic homeschooling picture was when I learned German. And this was for the very simple reason that German is my second language.
Don’t get me wrong, homeschooling is an amazing experience, and much more rewarding than brick-and-mortar school, but there comes a time when either the parent or student, whoever is in charge of the education, hits a wall of doubt. To paraphrase Stuart Mclean, “our old friend Doubt saddles up his mule”, and the following thoughts worm their way into our heads:
What if I’m doing this all wrong?
What if my child (or I) will never be able to deal with the real world?
What if I made some heinous mistake, and it all goes to heck?
What if the classes I’ve been taking actually don’t get me any credit?
What if I (or my child) never get into college?
What if…what if…?
At some point, you just have to take a deep breath, and step back. Have faith that everything will turn out all right.
Yeah, right. Actually, you run around, hyperventilating, taking as many classes as possible, bemoaning the fact that the AP classes you’ve been taking for years won’t get you any credit at the colleges of your choice, and looking at your practice SAT score in math, wondering how on Earth it came to this.
Then, you look at the college of your choice, see that it actually requires homeschoolers to take three extra SAT subject tests, one of which must be a math test (looking at you, Northwestern) and apply to West Point, because it has a special application just for homeschoolers.
Just kidding! It’s not that bad, although it will feel that way–trust me on this one. I’ll get through it, you’ll get through it, we’ll get through it. And we’ll be stronger because of it.
So, my rephrased advice to the newly homeschooled:
It’s an amazing experience, but at some point, you will wonder if you did everything wrong. And the best part: then you’ll realize that you did everything exactly right.
That‘s my advice.