September-October 2008 Selected Content
Family Time All Day Long - Agnes Penny
When people tell me they think I'm a supermom, I always feel a bit surprised. I have to remember that people are simply amazed because I not only have six children, I homeschool them, too! I'm not sure what they think homeschooling is like. Perhaps they imagine I'm like a public school teacher, managing six classes with six curricula, all at once. Of course, that's something of an exaggeration, since my youngest is only four months old; nevertheless, I can see that the idea of homeschooling really daunts them.
I don't know why. My life is immeasurably easier than that of mothers of fewer children who don't homeschool. Can you imagine trying to get all the children up, dressed, fed, and bundled into coats, waiting for the school bus at some atrocious time in the morning like 7 a.m. when you're also nursing a baby? Not to mention packing all their lunches. (I know that could be done the night before, but how often do people really have the energy at night to be concerned about a meal that doesn't occur until the middle of the next day?) Or spending each evening trying to figure out what each teacher has required each child to bring into class tomorrow. Magic markers for Suzy (the thin ones, not the thick), an old shoe box for Jimmy, and an angel costume for Darlene! All at a moment's notice, of course. If children told you ahead of time what and when they would need, they wouldn't be children. And don't forget the permission slip you have to sign - or was it a form guaranteeing that your child had really read a book for fifteen minutes that day? And, after the dishes are done, sitting down at the table helping the children through their homework, when all of us are at our tiredest and crankiest stage of the day. I know what my friends go through, and frankly, I am not willing to go through it.
These are not my reasons for homeschooling. I didn't even consider this scenario when deciding to homeschool. However, now when I hear from friends and family about the hectic hustle and bustle of taking care of schooled children, I reflect on how natural and easy homeschooling is, and I smile. I can get up in the morning whenever the baby wakens me, and I feed him leisurely, not worrying about meeting any deadlines. Some of the children get up early and play, while others stay in bed until I've finished. Then they get dressed, make their beds, and eat. No pressure, no haste. I can enjoy kissing the toes of my toddler while I dress her, instead of frantically tying shoelaces and searching for mittens. The day continues along these lines. I spend an hour or two sitting with the three oldest girls, doing lessons, and then I sit down to read to my two toddlers. I fix lunch when we all get hungry, and my afternoon is spent on doing housework, playing games or making crafts with the children, and finally, fixing dinner. After dinner, we often read aloud or sing. No homework, no rushing around looking for a recent photo of Johnny for his project tomorrow. Just family time.
In fact, the whole day has been family time. You don't get much easier or more natural than that.
I didn't even begin to mention all the extra benefits. Hearing each child sound out his first word, and then, sitting back, and watching him read, eyes sparkling as he meets Heidi or Doctor Doolittle for the first time. As I teach geography or religion, I find the discussion wandering from the topic at hand to all sorts of current issues, politics and the like; we delve into issues sometimes considered too difficult for grade school children, and I savor the challenge of explaining complicated ideas in very simple terms, opening my children's minds to new concepts and ideas, helping them understand the world in which they live, without pushing them out into it before they're ready.
Beyond that, I can perceive when one child hates math, and I can ditch the textbook and buy or make a few math games to use instead, without having to schedule troublesome meetings with a teacher who has the needs of at least twenty other students on her mind and who can't ditch her curricula. And I can share the excitement of that same child who, exhilarated over her recent progress, tells me only a few months later, that math is now her favorite subject.
When lessons are done for the day, the benefits are not over. Now it's time to help the children gain practical experience - washing dishes, doing laundry, watching the toddler while Mommy makes dinner, and sometimes helping Mommy make dinner (and people are afraid homeschooled children won't learn about "real life" - what school lessons could mimic the real life of adults more than basic household chores?), but also taking time for fun things, like cross-stitching and latch hook and games. I love seeing the pride and joy in my children's faces as they crack an egg, or sew their first stitch, or read to a younger sibling. These are the true life skills I have the time to pass on to my children because I homeschool.
These reasons aren't why I started homeschooling, either.
The reasons I started homeschooling were very negative. I objected to the political agenda pushed on children by teachers and the unhealthy peer pressure exerted on them by classmates. Like many others I know, I dreaded homeschooling as a necessary evil in modern times. But now I actually consider myself extremely lucky to be able to spend all day long teaching, guiding, and enjoying my children.
No, I'm not a supermom. I just love being with my family.
© 2008, Agnes Penny