The cumulative effects are good (aka: it all works out in the end)

Julie and JacobMy son, Jacob, and I at homecoming at OSU this year.

It’s hard to see in the middle of your homeschool career (a career you didn’t train for) that what you are doing will work. The ever-present anxiety that this form of education is not quite good enough pervades, even among the most cheery, bright-eyed home educators.

I’m here to tell you: it works out.

  • Even if your kids don’t go to college right away (or at all!).
  • Even if they decide to go to traditional high school.
  • Even if they never care about history or catch your enthusiasm for literature.
  • Even if they compare themselves to their schooled peers and worry that they have missed some critical piece of information or instruction.
  • Even if you are sick of home educating and are doing a poor job of it.
  • Even if… yes, even that.

You know what you have going for you?

  • Your ideals and your heart.
  • Time and space.
  • Room to grow personalized passions.

It’s been demonstrated that parental involvement in a child’s life is the key to a lifelong love of learning, whether you home educate or put your kids in school. By choosing to homeschool, you’ve made an extraordinary commitment to that ideal. Keep chugging along. Good stuff is on its way.

Your adult conversations with your kids about growing up and becoming who they are meant to be, the glorious reading you do together through cliff-hangers and inside jokes, the incidental discussions about the stars and skies and weather, the experiences you share about how to get along with people you don’t like, the research you do to figure out how far it is to China from where you live and how to learn Chinese while a kid and what jobs one could find if one wanted to go live there when all grown up…

THIS is the education.

It’s the invisible, impossible-to-quantify benefit of being at home all the time with your kids.

They will turn to you and say: “What bird is that?” and a month later, you are the proud owners of field guides, binoculars, several types of bird feeders, and a clipboard to keep track.

THIS is what we do as home educators. Keep going! You don’t always remember to “count” this stuff, but I promise you! It’s the real deal.

Yes, to math facts, and spelling, too. But you’ll be surprised. The struggling speller at 12 catches on by 15 in most cases without you doing much of anything. Reading, copywork, dictation, and a child’s consistent editing of his or her own work does it. It’s not like you have to create some super-duper specialized multi media curriculum to learn to spell. Millions learned without the computer and now we have Spell Check. It’s just not nearly as critical to success in life as knowing how to pick a mate or being awed by the constellations or finding a passion and pursuing it with gusto.

Math comes. Kids can get tutored in math. Kids can get tutored in any area of weakness that you have.

What they can’t get from others is YOU! You give them grounding, your interest, the resources that you freely share, the curiosity about their current hopes and dreams, the space to revise those as they change their minds or exhaust one idea and move on to the next. That’s what makes home education so different.

Homeschooling is a journey of shared enthusiasms: theirs, supported by yours; yours, catalyzing theirs.

As they explore the world (even stuff like rap music, online video games, and Candy Crush levels on the iPad), they are discovering connections between all manner of information. There isn’t some boundary line between what is “real” learning and what is “fake” learning. It’s all the same: school subjects bleed into personal pastimes. That’s how it is for adults and homeschooled kids discover this much sooner than we did.

Likewise, your children are more fitted for college if they’ve dug deeply into the ideas that fascinate them:

  • Writing and taking pictures for a personal fashion blog,
  • Learning how to create constructed languages with a group of linguists,
  • Reading Jane Austen’s novels, and rewriting them into different settings to create new novels,
  • Crafting poems during math tests,
  • Spending hours on end watching “Top Gear” about cars and learning all the details that make quality engines and machinery,
  • Acting in a Shakespeare company,
  • Reading every single J.R.R. Tolkien book and film over and over again,
  • Learning the night sky through a telescope,
  • Immersing oneself in Korean pop music until learning the Korean language becomes a criteria for desirable colleges.

These are all various pleasures of our homeschool that I did not create or generate, yet each item represents activities and passions my kids had as they grew up.

Our family created time and space for that kind of living. Yes, we had math books. Honestly, I was an awful math teacher. I tried as best I could but eventually had to let tutors take over for high school. Somehow the kids were okay—got through college math, or started teaching themselves on their own when they were adults and not in college at all!

Yet who would have taught them to value time to explore what interested them on their own? Only their parents!

No one can know how it all fits together–homeschool, personal passion, study, immersion, exploration. The kids who acted in the Shakespeare company aren’t studying Shakespeare now. But they were shaped by Shakespeare in ways I couldn’t possibly teach them—to think in beautiful words, to create connections between modern story lines and the bard’s primal ones, to be “wordy” people, to think about morality and social conventions.

They’ve become whole people—grounded, well-rounded, curious (with and without college!).

So deep breath. Make room for living and learning today, without worrying too much about all the picky details of any one subject. You will always cover math, spelling, grammar, history because that’s what we do. You’ll get through enough of it in the end to send your kids to college. Colleges are businesses and they know homeschooled kids are good risks. So breathe.

In the meantime, enjoy learning about every little thing under the sun, and trust it.

It works.

2 Responses to “The cumulative effects are good (aka: it all works out in the end)”

  1. Darcy says:

    Hi Autumn! I homeschooled my youngest from 4th grade through high school. I thought I had “failed” when she didn’t want to go to college and basically did nothing! She didn’t want to work and as far as I could tell she just wrote stories and played games. Then one day when she was 22 she told me she had been accepted to Penn State Online University! She just completed her freshman year with all A’s and is excited about her future. All that playing games and writing is paying off with her major in English as she wants to become a writer! She and her husband are moving to Germany in a couple of months and her online college will go with her!

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