When I first started homeschooling more than 10 years ago, I felt a lot of pressure and judgment — not only from outsiders, but also family members and even my own children. For those first few years, I was very sensitive and defensive of our choice to homeschool. I also had a tendency to try to make our homeschool look like “school” at home because of all the outside pressure.
Although I had been homeschooled from middle school until college, we didn’t homeschool our daughters from the start. We pulled them out of public school when they were in 5th and 6th grades. In the beginning, my husband was supportive of the decision — but not sure how long we would continue. He was committed to seeing how it went through the middle school years. As a result, every year those first few years I felt like I had to prove myself to my husband. I was very defensive and sensitive to his questions and comments.
My eldest daughter was not happy at all with our decision to homeschool. That first year, she had me in tears almost every morning. At that time, I would get the girls up and ready for the day, give them instructions for their schoolwork, then trade places with my husband for a couple of hours. He would come home from opening the donut shop, and I would go work the counter until it closed at 11am. Then I would come home and pick up the schooling from there. Every morning by the time I got to the donut shop, I was emotionally spent from the struggles that started our day. However, after that first year, my eldest daughter realized the benefits of homeschooling and totally changed her attitude toward it — although she continued to push my buttons throughout the years.
Then there was my extended family. Because my parents had homeschooled myself and my siblings, they were fully supportive of our decision to homeschool: In fact, they had been disappointed when we sent our girls to public school to begin with. But once we started homeschooling, I was always sensitive to the fact that I didn’t homeschool the way they had — or the way they probably thought I should.
When I was around other family members who didn’t have the same experience and ready acceptance of homeschooling, I always made sure to talk about the great things the girls were learning and great social lives and activities they were involved in — as a preemptive defense of our homeschooling choice. Even though my personal friends never questioned or judged our decision to homeschool, I was still sensitive to the idea that they were watching and judging. Even when they made casual kindly remarks, I was defensive.
However, over the years I have learned to let that sensitivity and defensiveness go — for the most part. I know we don’t homeschool the way some others do, but now I am OK with that. We don’t even homeschool the same way every year: As circumstances change, so does our schooling process.
We don’t use out-of-the-box curriculum, and we don’t sit at school desks or around the table every day. We don’t even have the same routine every day —which drives me crazy as a natural planner, but it works for us. We fit learning into every nook and cranny of our life, wherever we are. Science in the kitchen… yep! We do reading in front of the fireplace, math flash cards in the car, and history CDs at bedtime. It works for us and I am good with that. I have learned to let go of that sensitivity to what other people think of our choices.
It has helped me along the way to remember the way I was homeschooled, which was very unconventional at the time. Yet I had no problem getting into Oral Roberts University: I kept up with other students my age, I made friends, and I graduated with a good GPA. Having two homeschool graduates myself (and one going to ORU on a scholarship) also gives me some validation for the decisions we’ve made.
I’m very thankful that I learned to let go of sensitivity to outside opinions of homeschooling. It has freed me up to enjoy the beauty of what we’ve created at home that works for our children and our lifestyle, knowing that we are still equipping our children for life in the way God is leading us as a family.
Are you sensitive to the opinions of others about your decision to homeschool or how you’ve chosen to homeschool? Do you feel pressure to measure up to the expectations of outside observers, family members or even your own children? How have you learned to find the freedom to enjoy your homeschooling experience? Join us this month at NextGen Homeschool as we discuss Ten Things to Let Go of This Year, and join the conversation! Find the series here.