It’s been a long time since I was where you are. Even then, 20 years ago, I was the oldest of ten and had been homeschooled, so it had always been part of my life. But, you, you are a pioneer.
You are here, about to embark on a wonderful journey. But now, you are wondering if you will be able to make it.
I noticed you at the homeschool support group, looking at a veteran homeschool mom and almost pleading with her to tell you what you should do–what curriculum for writing, how to get them to do physics by the time they are seven, what to do about extracurriculars…
Because you are excited, but I see the tremors. I see the scared woman in there wondering if she can do this.
Schools seem so official and home, well, home…isn’t.
And deep down, you know that home is a sanctuary and can never be the same as a government building.
But you also know that while schools may seem official and authoritative–you just know–that home should be the most authoritative place on earth for the family.
And in the end, every choice you make is about the safety of your family.
And you are trying to reassert your authority. And it’s scary.
You wish there was a way that you could leave it to someone more “qualified.” But, they have their hands tied.
And, you, you’re just a mom who sacrificed her whole soul to bring these beautiful little people into the world.
And you have missed them.
And now they are here–no more rushing in the morning, no more harried evenings running to get from here to there and everywhere in between. The quiet, unhurried life is both amazingly peaceful and intensely terrifying.
And you didn’t go through all of the pain of labor, adoption, IVF, trying to conceive, or the myriad of other battles we modern day women face to bring these beautiful creatures here, to fail them.
At home, you are going to have something–different. More organic. More natural.You can smell the earth after the rain with them and dig in the dirt and laugh and learn and love and grow and be.
But right now you feel like you are falling and you can’t catch your breath.
You are exhausted because you have been up until 2 or 3 am night after night, worrying and rearranging and changing everything because your life has just been turned upside down.
You might find yourself overcomplicating things because you are worried you will miss something.
When you do, remember that it takes very little to educate a human being. Mostly, it takes love. And books.
Follow your instinct. If your child is under the age of eight, take time to soak in the world with her. Read to him. Teach her to read. Walk. Study together. Soak in the spirit of love and unity that comes from God.
“. . . if it came down to choosing between extra therapy and blowing dandelion fluff at each other in the backyard, we went with the dandelions every time. I truly believe that decision was a contributing factor in enabling Jake to rejoin the world . . . .” –Kristine Barnett
I have nearly 20 years of homeschooling experience, and the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to simplify.
Your child will learn more if you just read books together and pay math games then they might in eight hours of public school instruction. Or even eight days.
Don’t give up on that.
No matter what everyone tells you, don’t try to overcomplicate it. Don’t buy things because you don’t know what else to do, and it feels like buying this or that learning/educational item will be the thing you need to be “good at this.”
Don’t conform. It’s okay to be different.
Do what your gut tells you to do. There are many, many ways to an education. As many as there are people. Just because you are different doesn’t mean you are lacking in any way. Stick with inspiration and search out things that match your gut feelings for your kids. Don’t get distracted with all the other stuff.
Do not ever let anyone else make you feel inferior. Don’t ever let any curriculum make you feel inferior.
Don’t compare yourself to the homeschool mom of seven whose children are all college graduates at age 10. And starred on American Idol. And started a multi-million dollar business in their spare time. And yodel.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone.
Don’t. Because it will make you miserable. The best thing about schooling at home is that it is unique to every family.
Your amazing job is to uncover the genius in each child. And you are the best person for the job. Who knows them better than you do?
You already have the most amazing tool you will ever need to be a successful teacher: love.
When we truly learn something, we are motivated by love. By passion. By desire to know.
You are love to your child.
You are passion.
You are everything to these little wonders.
You can do this, because they have you. You are everything to them. And if you remember that and stay true to that little spark of divinity in you telling you daily how best to coax their genius out of them, it will be enough.
There will be bad days. Fail days. It’s okay. Just keep trying.
Because, at the end of those days, they will be stronger and braver and better because you walked beside them on this journey.
And somewhere along the way, you will give them the tools and trust them to go further up and further in. And you will merely be an influence, like a warm, golden sun, or a soft, gentle breeze, gently echoing whispers of encouragement in their ears.
Sometimes your children will not know what “the other kids” know. Sometimes they will not “get it.” And that is okay. Let them go and fly and find their genius anyway.
Kristine Barnett can give you courage. When therapists told her that her autistic, non-verbal son would be lucky to ever be able to tie his shoes, when they told her he wouldn’t read, she took him out of school and coaxed his genius out of him. Jake, her son, is now known all over the world as the “child genius” who may someday win a Nobel Prize.
I wrote this book because I believe Jake’s story is emblematic for all children. Though his gifts are unique, his story highlights the possibilities we all have of realizing what is extraordinary in ourselves, and maybe even opens the door to the possibilities that “genius” might not be all that rare. I’m not suggesting every autistic child is a prodigy, or every typical child, for that matter. But if you fuel a child’s innate spark, it will always point the way to far greater heights than you could ever have imagined.
It’s hard to trust your child to find his or her own path, especially when we’re told everyday by professionals that children must fit into rigid boxes. We all want to give our kids the best opportunities we can, which is why it feels like such a disservice if we don’t push them in the “right” direction. Celebrating your children’s passions rather than re-directing them, especially when those passions don’t line up neatly with a checklist for future success, can feel like jumping off a cliff. But that leap of faith is necessary if your kids are going to fly.