Homeschooling | Too Hard? Part II
Most things in life that are worth doing are not easy. Homeschooling for us is very worth doing. I find that a lot of times when families are facing the choice of whether to homeschool or not, looking ahead can appear to be a series of hurdles. Many well wishers including myself might say things like "Oh, it'll all be O.K. You'll be fine! You can do this! You just figure it out." And, they're right! But I also get that it can seem daunting and sometimes it's just nice to have an honest look at the hard things and how other families have worked through them. It might not be how you would work through them, but at least you'll know that it can be done.
Onwards to the hard things!
Going Against the Flow
When you choose to homeschool you make a major family lifestyle choice that is opposite of probably 99% of the population. It can feel as though you are literally swimming against the stream. The reality for us however is that I feel more like we jumped out of the stream and are adventuring all over the place. Up hills, down some valleys, through forests, in the ocean and through the fields! Like I said in my previous post, I refuse to adopt an "us vs them" mentality. Our decision to school our children is not a rebellious act or some type of "rage against the machine". It is a lifestyle we chose because we felt it was the best use of our time and energy for these years that our kids are in our care.
That said, I run into a lot of families that feel very misunderstood and don't have a lot of support from people in their circle. Some homeschooling parents find themselves in a mode of constantly defending their right and ability to guide their child's education. I am subject to these types of interrogation occasionally and can see how it would be exhausting. Well meaning bystanders often feel it is their responsibility to keep homeschoolers accountable by grilling them on how they socialize their children, whether or not they have them in outside activities, on who tests them to make sure they actually know what they're supposed to know, and whether they put in the standard 6 hour school days because if you homeschool you better be keeping up with what the schools do.
Because I have an education degree I find that I get a pass from a lot of those conversations. However, I understand that they occur and that they are not valid. I love when people dialogue in an effort to understand, I don't love it when people use these conversations to push an agenda or to attempt to undermine a homeschooling parents ability.
When I do come up against a conversation that is more of an interrogation and I can see that the person isn't in it for understanding but rather to push their ideas on what I should do I have a few options.
a) I steer the conversation elsewhere. I don't actually OWE anyone an explanation for our choice or a daily itinerary.
b) If it's someone who I am in relationship with and this is a recurring thing I will lovingly create a boundary. It might look something like this, "I appreciate that you are concerned about our family and our children's education. We have given this a lot of thought and we are committed to doing this and doing our best at it. I won't continue to have this conversation over and over again though. So, if you feel you need to discuss homeschooling with me it'll have to be about ways you can support and encourage us."
Tough to actually say to someone you love? Absolutely ... but WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
c) I can still choose to answer their question out a place of sharing freely and to promote understanding all the while understanding that I do not need their approval.
When you choose to homeschool you are taking on a lifestyle that likely results in living off of one income or at least necessitates that one parent is home during the days (or some block of schooling time). We live in a culture where that is definitely not the norm. There can often be a pressure for bigger houses, newer vehicles, more stuff and constant entertainment and extracurricular spending. Homeschooling requires sacrifice. Sacrifice can be hard. I also believe though that sacrifice is good for us.
In my opinion, it is a very first world thing to believe that we can and should "have it all." Whether we are being intentional about it or not, we are all constantly making choices. I have found one of the most helpful principles for us that we live by daily is "I know the things I have said a big YES to and therefore it makes it easy to say NO to anything that does not line up with or competes with that YES."
So, for example, we have said yes to homeschooling. That means that I don't work full time outside of the home. It also means that we aren't in the market for a newer, bigger home because the added financial burden would require me to work full time and sabotage our plan to homeschool. It means we remodel this home.
It sounds so simple but it seriously brings so much clarity to our thinking and to our financial plan.
I'd love to share a few more strategies that have really helped us.
The first is that any time we have transitioned to less income (like when I went on mat leave), we gave ourselves at least 6 months of practice time before the transition date. So, for 6 months prior to leaving work we started to put my ENTIRE paycheque into savings immediately. Then, we would practice living off of my husbands income. The first month we inevitably WAY overspent. But that was O.K. We expected it. We would just draw from savings what we needed and tried again next month. By the end of that term we had learned to live off of one income and also ended up with a pretty large savings account!
Another piece of advice - get a financial planner. We preferred one that was not affiliated with any particular bank and thus we felt unbiased in regards to the investments and such that they would offer. We love the financial team we work with. They help us manage everything from our investments, our mortgage, our cash flow, our tax planning, our life insurance, etc. They understand our goals and do everything they can to help us meet them. (Message me if you want a recommendation for a great team.)
Because you homeschool also doesn't mean that you can not work outside the home. I myself am a photographer and it works great with a homeschooling schedule. It allows me to plan sessions for evenings and I can use my time at home during the day to deal with all the admin and editing. I have other friends who homeschool during the day and have an evening job. If you want to make it work - you can make it work.
Interestingly enough this post didn't really have anything to do with the obstacles involved in our actual day to day schooling of children but I think they are two hurdles that often seem really daunting to families.
I had wanted to go even further and tackle "getting time on your own" and what we do with that need to get out of the house as a homeschool parent but I think it'll require it's own post!
Again, if you have any more hard stuff you want addressed don't hesitate to comment!