This past fall my kids did not partake in the traditional back-to-school photos in the front yard. This year, my family is trying homeschooling. This explains why there were no Facebook photos with uniforms or backpacks or, for me, coffee with the moms. Instead, my three darlings posed barefooted in front of our fireplace with big grins.
We had been debating the kids’ school future for a while (the kids’ school transitions from co-ed to all-girl at 7th grade, so my son was going to need to switch schools next year anyway) and my 4th grader has been asking to homeschool for a while. I kept telling her I needed to finish a big project first – I’m writing the first guidebook to Mall of America – then after that we could discuss it. This summer though my son decided he’d like to try homeschooling, too. My husband and I were stunned. However, during an 18-day road trip from our Minnesota home to Florida (plus a Caribbean cruise) something became very clear to us: The kids retained what they learned along the way, and to them it wasn’t learning – it was fun. And somehow it all connected. Thus, we revisited the conversation and decided to move forward.
We are several months in and I have learned so much about my children, their learning styles, motivations, interests, talents, and habits (some good, some we are working on – Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success by Charlotte Mason changed my life). I’ve also learned about myself and my role as their mother.
Best of all, I have found some amazing benefits of homeschooling:
Travel. We’re not in the position to be able to travel full-time, but a homeschool lifestyle allows for more flexibility. For example, we took off for Hershey and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this fall when normally the kids would be in school. We explored caves, learned Pennsylvania history, and relished in the wonder of the chocolate-making process.
Since my daughter is a 4th grader, we get to take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park which means our family gets free entry into every National Park this school year through the summer. We’ve already picked a few to visit. Another perk of travel and homeschool is my daughter can earn Girl Scout badges and fun patches along the way.
Academic control. I will spare you a rant on standardized testing or today’s education system. What I will say is homeschool has allowed me to help my children flourish in their academics.
Hands-on learning. Immediately the kids and I started scouring the various homeschool field trips in the area. There are so many! We had a long gorgeous fall so we ventured to a local regional park a couple of times to learn about the wetland soil and animals and we all had fun – including my toddler. We also did a behind-the-scenes homeschool tour at Mall of America’s Sea Life Aquarium.
Self-learning. My son has recently decided he wants to explore the world of artificial flavoring and dyes and the impact they have on the body. (Run with it, son!) This topic turned into a science fair presentation that will be held next month.
Time management and goal setting. Both children have learned to manage their time, set goals, and even increase their workload throughout the week to have a day off or shortened school day.
Sleep. One of the most beneficial aspects of homeschooling, for my family, is well rested children. The grumpy wake-ups and pick-ups from school are long gone. My kids are now cheerful and optimistic most of the time (they are tweens after all) compared to the daily tired grumps.
Diet eating well/healthy food at lunch. In addition to lack of sleep, my kids are no longer hungry. I used to pick them up from school completely ravenous. What’s even better, the kids are learning to bake, cook, and create concoctions from scratch.
Housekeeping. Get this…my house is the tidiest and cleanest it has ever been. Seriously. The kids have daily chores they happily complete (okay, sometimes they grumble) but they know they have responsibilities so they check the chore chart every day to see what they need to accomplish. Both kids, ages 10 and 11, even wash their own sheets and clothes. High expectations = Ta-da!
Financial. Going from a pricey private school to homeschool is obviously going to be beneficial. I’m also not wasting gas (or time) on daily trips to school. We choose how we spend money on their education whether it’s a fancy-shmancy microscope, Science Museum membership, or art classes.
We can still be involved. I’m continuing to volunteer as a 4th grade Girl Scout leader (at the kids’ former school) and the kids are participating in the local sports and community classes/events. This week we had Girl Scouts, soccer, karate and basketball. We have a very full schedule. (And, yes, they are socialized.)
Bonding. Spending time with my kids has been THE BEST. I have a special bond with my three children and the trio has their own special relationships.
And there you have it. Those are the reasons I love homeschool and what I see as the benefits of homeschooling. This lifestyle may not be for everyone, but right now it’s working for my family. We’re taking it one year at a time but I can tell you right now that I won’t regret this era.