When I first started down the path of homeschooling, I found a wealth of information on curricula and learning styles and the benefits of homeschooling, but I was still left questioning what exactly homeschooling would be like. What would it really be like to be a homeschooling mom? This was the question I set out to answer when I reached out to seasoned homeschooling moms.
Today we are hearing from Melinda S.
Melinda has been homeschooling her 4 children for the past 16 years and she has a very realistic view of the homeschooling lifestyle.
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? How would you classify your teaching style? Has it changed since you first started homeschooling?
Melinda: I have homeschooled 16 years. I have 4 children from 20 down to 10yo. I would say my homeschooling is ecclectic, but I tend most towards whole books. In the beginning, I tried to do most of the planning myself, but that did not work well for me with several small children. Once I found Sonlight, my basic approach has changed very little, though we became more formal as the kids got older.
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?
Melinda: To be honest, I very rarely get negative comments. The one person who has given me negative comments was a person who was pretty negative towards just about everything I did, so it didn’t really sink in as a specific criticism. I do often get the “I could never do that” comment, which I don’t take as a negative, and I usually respond with something like, “You shouldn’t feel pressured to do it. It’s not the right thing for everyone, but sometimes people are surprised by what they can do if they need to.” I also often hear, “My cousin does that” or “I thought you might–you have so many books!”
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?
Melinda: I did feel isolated, especially when I had little kids. (Once they are old enough that you can leave them home alone, usually when the oldest is around 12yo, you can get out a bit more and it’s not so bad.) I never really found a great solution. I knew it was a time in my life, and eventually it would not be any more, and I just put up with it. It was still hard, but knowing I had made a deliberate choice was helpful.
Also, having one really good friend was very important to me. When she moved away about 6 years ago, it was really, really hard again–but by then my kids were a little older, so I was able to go out a bit easier and join things a bit better. It took time, though, lots of it, and I still feel it sometimes.
The rise of the internet has also been key–I have a lot of friends I can bounce things off of online. It’s not as good as IRL friends, but it’s a ton better than it used to be!
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?
Melinda: I never really had a “teacher” hat and a “mom” hat. I do have times of day when I am trying to help with math versus times of day when I am doing laundry or having fun. However, when I’m a teacher I’m still concerned with mom stuff, such as helping my kid deal with emotional issues, and when I’m a mom I still am a teacher at heart. I think I would be a fair amount of both, no matter what I did, so perhaps I’m not the best one to talk about balance here.
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?
Melinda: I truly believe that homeschooling has benefited my children. It has given them time to pursue the things they enjoy, and given my kids the ability to be themselves without worrying about what everyone else will think. I have kids who were far ahead in school (reading before 4yo), and kids who have been 2 years behind in writing and emotional/social development. I have kids who have dyslexia and kids who have ADHD. I have a National Merit Scholar and kids who never stop talking. And several of these are the SAME CHILD! But they have had time to learn and to grow into themselves. We were able to do things orally for my struggling writer, until her fine motor skills developed–and she became a highly talented writer in her teens. My noise-sensitive child did not have to fight the chaos, loud bells, and crowded hallways of the public school, but instead had time to think and dig up ants eggs and other interesting and creative endeavors.
My geeky child would still have been geeky anyways (as my husband always was). The difference is that my child has more self-confidence, since she didn’t spend her early years feeling like everyone thought she was weird.
I would do it again in a heartbeat.
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?
Melinda: I definitely feel it was worth it for us. I always went into it one year at a time, so if it had not been worth it, I would have stopped. But it always seemed to me to be the best possible option, and even in the hard times, I felt it wouldn’t have been easier to have to deal with my kids after a day being hyped up at school, either.
Suzy: If you could say only one sentence to a new homeschooling mom, what would that sentence be?
Melinda: Trust your instincts–God gave them to you for a reason.
I want to say a big “thank you” to Melinda S for her time and her thought in answering our questions. I know I feel encouraged by her words and I hope you do to.