Interview with a Veteran Homeschooler #4

As I mentioned last week, I recently  made a post in the new Hip Homeschool Moms Facebook Community asking if there was any seasoned home educators willing to take part in our interview series. Today I’ll be sharing one of the respondents from that post, Cari Miller.
Cari has been homeschooling her three daughters for the last decade and half. Her enthusiasm for the homeschool life style was very evident in my communications with her.
Suzy: First tell us a bit about your yourself and your family.
How many years have you homeschooled? How many children do you have and what ages are they?
Cari: We are finishing up our 16th year of homeschooling.  I have three daughters; 21, 16 (junior), 14 (8th grade).
Suzy: How would you classify your teaching style? Has it changed since you first started homeschooling?
Cari: I would describe our homeschooling as eclectic.  Pulling different curriculum and resources for each kid.  Our homeschooling has changed drastically from the beginning.  When I first started this journey I used a boxed all in one curriculum which was very rigorous.  Over the years, I’ve become confident in picking and choosing different things for each kid and tailoring each child’s education based upon their learning styles and what they are wanting to become in life.
Suzy: Despite its rising popularity, homeschoolers are still in the minority. How did you respond if/when family, friends, or even complete strangers would make negative comments?
Cari: I simply say that homeschooling is not for everyone but that it’s been the right choice for our family.  I tell them what a blessing it has been teaching my girls and walking through this educational journey together; that I would not trade one single moment with them and that every day, good and bad, has been worth it!
Suzy: Stay at home moms, both homeschooling and not, often feel lonely and isolated due to the long hours spent alone with small children. Did you ever struggle with this? And if so, what helped you through it the most?
Cari: Honestly, I have not struggled much with feeling isolated.  First, because I am a homebody so being at home for most of the time has been easy for me.  Also, I have known a great many other family’s who also homeschool so that has helped as well.  And, we have always been very involved in our church and our kids have been involved in extra curricular activities.  
Suzy: As moms we wear many hats and homeschooling is a very time consuming matter. Did you ever struggle to take your “teacher hat” off and reconnect with your children or your husband or even yourself- away from homeschooling? What advice, if any, would you give to women regarding this balance?
Cari: I have not struggled with finding balance between mom and teacher.  I’ve tried to make those be compatible; I feel they are one in the same. Teaching my girls both educationally and spiritually I feel is a lifelong job and I embrace that.  The thing I’ve most had to work on is learning how to be flexible and be able to let my schedule go at times to embrace fun activities or bumps that come along in life sometimes.  I’m a very detailed, scheduled person, so learning to be flexible has been the biggest challenge.  While I shoulder the responsibility of teaching my kids, my husband has been so great about giving me time when I need to take a break. I’ve had to learn how to tell him when I’m feeling overwhelmed and let him help.  Also, a huge way I’ve tried to connect with my kids outside of schooling is to take regular breaks with each one of them.  Every so often I declare a movie day- I take turns with each one of the kids and they get to have a few hours alone with mom; they get to chose what movie we watch together and I take them into my room and we snuggle in on my bed and we watch their movie and have a special snack and spend time alone- other kids not allowed.  That has been special throughout the years and my 21 year old still looks forward to “mommy and me movie time”.  
My advice would be to communicate as best you can with your husband as to what your struggles are, when you need a break, and how he can help.  He can’t be of help if he is not aware of what the struggle is.  We often as women assume it should be obvious to our husbands, but it is often not.  We are responsible for communicating our needs so he can be our support where we need it.  Secondly, I would advise homeschooling moms to take regular time with each of their kids doing something fun.  Third, relax; have fun with your kids; enjoy being at home with them; learn that if you’re so consumed with schedules and “finishing” curriculum, you very well may be missing out on why God called you to be at home with them in the first place. Raising loving, kind, God fearing kids is #1; education is 2nd.  
Suzy: Many people are curious about the results of homeschooling. Questions plague them like, “will my homeschooled child succeed in college?” “will they resent being homeschooled?” “will they be especially close with their siblings?” In your experiences, has homeschooling hindered or benefited your children?
Cari: I feel homeschooling has greatly benefited my kids.  Now that I have one who has graduated and is an adult, she will tell anyone who asks how much she feels homeschooling was the right choice.  She has expressed desire to homeschool someday when she has her own children.  Each of my kids has had moments where they’ve wondered about “regular” school and expressed interest in it, however, we’ve tried to answer that with, “this is what God has asked of us, so we will continue on until He speaks differently”.  Our philosophy is that we’re the parents and it’s our job to be obedient to what God asks us to do in regard to our children whether they like it or not.  They may not always agree but it’s our job to see it through whether or not they agree.  It may not be what they would choose but it’s what God has asked.  Fortunately, for the most part, they’ve seen the benefit and enjoy the freedom homeschooling has given them.
My children are definitely close with each other but at times they’ve struggled just like any other siblings would.  Having them at home allows us the opportunity to work on those relationships and cultivate them.  Any character issues that come up are a lot easier to deal with having them at home on a regular basis rather than only a few hours in the evenings if they were in public school.  
I feel homeschooling will definitely help my kids succeed in whatever they pursue whether it be college or career or motherhood.  They’ve learned how to problem solve and be independent learners.  We’ve been able to tailor their education based upon what they want to do in life.  That definitely sets them up for success and they will in theory be ahead of the game. 
Suzy: During the difficult times in one’s life, it can be easy to focus on the current situation rather than on the bigger picture. Many homeschooling moms feel defeated after a bad day. Looking back on your years homeschooing, was it worth it?
Cari: It has been worth every struggle, every bad day, every good day, all of it.  I would not trade the time I’ve had with my kids for anything.  Being able to be the one to teach them has been the absolute most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I love spending every day with my kids; even the rough days.  To me it’s the same as marriage; there will be good days, bad days; highs and lows.  Nothing worth doing is easy.
Suzy: If you could say only one sentence to a new homeschooling mom, what would that sentence be?
Cari: You will never, ever regret the time you sacrificed to spend with your kids; you’ll only regret the time you didn’t. 
I want to thank Cari for her time and for sharing her passion with us. I hope you all have enjoyed what she’s had to say and can walk away from this feeling as inspired as I do.
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