My daughter’s graduation party was last week.. It’s been a busy time. Menus. Tables, Invitations. Pictures and lots of set up. But it’s also been a lot of reminiscing; or maybe more accurately, evaluating. My daughter is graduated from high school. She’s homeschooled, taught at home exclusively since the 1st grade.
As I think back on the past 12 years, I have to ask myself, what would I have done differently?
The public perception of homeschooling has changed tremendously since our family started this journey in 2001. Back then, I was the outsider in the homeschool group because I had short hair, wore pantsuits, and somehow was managing homeschooling and a high profile career. I didn’t bake bread and I could care less about health.
Since that time I’ve served as our local homeschool association’s president. I’ve taught speech and writing classes to hundreds of homeschooled students. I’ve encouraged homeschooling families as a speaker at conventions all across the country. So I guess it is safe to say, I’ve been drawn into “the community.” And yes, I started to bake bread. I became a health fanatic. And I even bought a few denim jumpers and skirts. Okay, maybe a lot. At last count, I actually had 18. But I also still wear pants.
But this is not about me. I’ve complied a list of my “regrets.” Things I wish I’d done differently. Here we go:
1. I would have done less math.
– If you know me, then you have heard me talk about my daughter’s difficulty in math. From about 7th grade onward, she struggled and struggled. I don’t believe she struggled because she couldn’t actually process the problems. She struggled because I pushed too quickly too early. In 1st grade we completed two years of math and I was feeling really groovy. By the age of 11, she was ready for middle school math- at least according to our school schedule. But she: my little 11 year old girl. Was. Not. Ready. for pre-algebra, though I was convinced she was. So I pushed. I prodded. I insisted. I changed curriculum. I bought a DVD. I searched for a tutor. The bottom line was, her brain just hadn’t developed enough for the higher level math. Why was I so insistent on her being ahead at an early age? This year, she graduated with 3 years of high school math, plus financial literacy, but it was a struggle to “get them all done.” It all worked out in the end- but it never had to be the struggle it became, if I wasn’t so pushy at the start. Don’t worry Moms. You’re not behind!
2. I would have done fewer dishes.
– I hate clutter. I tell my kids I suffer from the clutter disease. It’s that feeling I get when I can’t see the table, the floor, and the chairs are being used as shelving units instead of seats. My homeschooling schedule always made it tough to keep up on daily housework. It’s not that I want to live in a pig sty, (I currently tell my husband I live in a garage, since he likes to store his tools in our foyer,) its just that it does not matter. Yes. I said it. The mess does not matter. Of course, there’s a matter of responsibility; we should not live in a house that looks like it belongs on the show Hoarders. There’s also something kind of importantly sanitary about washing the dishes. But…the dishes can wait so that the homeschooling can start on time. Our kids need solid schedules. The dishes can, well yes… they can wait. Walk out of the kitchen, Don’t look at the clutter. And remember, if you don’t educate your kids properly, they will grow up to do nothing more than clean your house and do your dishes. So educate them now and you can do plenty of dishes later when they grow up to be productive adults.
3. I would have taken more park days.
– Oh, why do I get so uptight? Why do I live and breathe those daily book lessons? I can’t believe I was so hung up on actually “doing school.” But what really is “doing school?” It’s learning- and folks, science in the park is just as effective as science in the book. Actually, it’s probably more so. Its not only the park I wish we would have visited more, but also nursing homes and other service related opportunities. While service projects were a required part of our annual curriculum, looking back, I wish we would have done more. Our society is becoming more and more self centered all the time, but more and more educated. I want educated kids who desire to help others. You’ll never regret teaching your children to selflessly help others. And it can be so easy. Even raking leaves for a neighbor is helping instill a sense of Godly service in your children. I hate to tell you this, but math facts just won’t do the same thing.
4. I would have listened to less advice.
– What? No advice? Well, I may have just lost all my readers right now. So, if you’re still with me, here’s my meaning behind that statement. When I started homeschooling in 2001, there were very few blogs. Since then, personal opinion has exploded everywhere, and too often people take opinion as fact. But what works for your son might not work for my daughter. My plans for my children might look really great to you, but maybe they’re not God’s plans for your family. And you know, what? That’s okay. If you are struggling with spelling, I’ll gladly give you my advice, but what if what works in my home isn’t what works well for your kids’ learning styles? Does that make you a bad teacher? Of course not. It is so easy to feel like”I am not doing enough” because I am not doing what “she is doing.” But if you’re doing what God is telling you to do, then it is more than enough.
5. I would have worried less.
– I vividly recall standing in an exhibitor booth at the CHEA convention, one year, when a woman asked me, “How do you know when you’ve done enough?” Immediately I answered, “You never do. You always wonder. You always worry.” For 12 years I was worried I was not doing enough. Every year I was convinced that, without God, I would have failed. Well, in the past year, I can say that my daughter did not get the greatest SAT score. She also could have done better on her math and chemistry scores. But as I look back, I realize now that she missed nothing. Yes, she missed nothing. She may missed on some of the history I’d intended for her, or a few tests, but now that I can analyze the big picture, she not only missed nothing, she has done more than most high school graduates I know. Every year I worried I was failing her. I took the job of homeschool teacher so seriously, knowing that if I screwed up her education, she would suffer for life. But now, seeing the fact that she’s been accepted to every college where she’s applied (so far, she’s applied to 4.) She’s been offered sizable scholarships ($32,000 currently the highest offered amount.) and she’s accomplished more by the age of 17 than many accomplish in all of their life, I recognize how many hours I worried when I shouldn’t have. Interestingly, my daughter has chosen against the college that offered her the $32,000 scholarship because she doesn’t feel its purpose is in line with Biblical principles. She’s not willing to accept the money, when she knows she will be encouraged to embrace (and demonstrate) an unGodly, worldly agenda for which the school is noted. Pray. Listen. Trust God. Then don’t worry. He is always your enough.
That’s a look at my top 5 regrets in homeschooing.
Jennifer Keat-Beck and her husband have homeschooled their 3 youngest children since 2001. Their older 7 children attended public and private schools. Dan is the retired Allen County, Ohio, Sheriff and full time homeschooling dad. Jennifer was the full time homeschooling parent for 10 years and is currently Director of Marketing at WTLW TV-44 in Lima, Ohio.
Update- in the fall of 2014, Dan returned to full time work in the law enforcement field and Jennifer resumed duties as full time homeschooling parent. She is still Director of Marketing at WTLW TV-44. At the time of this update (May 28,2016) the “Beck homeschool” students are 3 days from finishing 8th and 5th grades.
Photos from Hannah Beck (Bowers) graduation party in June, 2013.