I shy away from writing much about home education because really, I am only an “okay” home educator. The Internet is filled with brilliant women with beautiful binders filled with detailed plans + lists + reading logs. Their homeschool rooms are amazing, incredibly organized, and sources of inspirational eye-candy. Other mothers offer us gorgeous photography of their wild + free children who are watercoloring in nature journals with flower crowns on their heads while mama is eating homemade bran muffins on a cozy quilt in a meadow.
I’m not the administrative, binder type and the wild + free thing worked nicely when all my children were young together, but doesn’t match my reality of six children ranging from a senior in high school all the way down to a child in 4K.
I’m your everyday, okay, average homeschooler.
After 12 years, I have learned to pick and choose what works according to the season, my energy, and current ages of my children. Sometimes it’s been pretty relaxed, and other seasons have been pretty structured. I’ve always leaned towards a Charlotte Mason, interest-led philosophy, but that hasn’t resonated with all of my children. Some love more structure and workbooks and others want to be free to roam and explore. No philosophy has been neat and tidy for us.
This year five of my children are attending a university-model school two days a week while I follow up with the schoolwork the other three days at home. I have a 13-year-old home with me the two days when the others are gone. We’ve never done a rhythm like this before. The pressure to turn in schoolwork according to another person’s timetable doesn’t always bring out the best in me.
Homeschooling in these middle years isn’t usually glamorous, perfectly organized or delightfully inspiring. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worthy of a conversation. The days often look like waking up and doing the next page of phonics, the next math lesson, reading the next chapter of Mystery of History, or completing a module of Science.
Our days are a series of small steps of doing the next thing, day in and day out, with a faithful mom showing up for another year, reading another story. All the bright and shiny glitter of curricula and education philosophies wore away years ago, and we are left, a mother and her children.
That’s the essence of homeschooling. The connection with the Lord and with each other over days, months, and then years.
In our fatigue and our fear of not doing or being enough, relationship can be the thing we end up sacrificing. Deep tiredness catches up to us in the middle years. We haven’t practiced taking good care of ourselves on this long educational road so on many days we are irritable, critical or emotionally withdrawn. We fear that we haven’t given them what they need to get into college or to be “successful” in the world’s economy so we push harder and choose checkboxes and testing over tender connection in the teen years.
Honoring relationships. That’s what matters at the end of our lives. Serving at the altar of fear only leaves us trapped, confused, misled, and alone. Finishing all the modules or all the lessons “on time” will never be as important as creating a peaceful, loving and kind atmosphere.
As an okay homeschooler who makes a million mistakes and can pendulum swing between organization and chaos along with some pretty quilts thrown in, my deeper hope for my home is this foundation of abiding relationships.
Imperfect, broken and messy but connected.