Changing Mom’s Heart
I’ve homeschooled my children for almost twenty-two years. The other day I had a conversation with another homeschool mom, and we talked about how over the years we had changed as homeschooling moms. Our conversation started me thinking, “Why had I started to homeschool in the first place?”
I thought back to that December day when I was a junior in high school, sitting in geometry, wishing I was someplace else, far away from the excruciatingly boring geometry class where I was fighting hard just to keep my eyes open. I was so tempted that day to stand up and walk out of class, but I knew that would mean an automatic suspension. So I sat there yawning, in the second desk of the middle row, listening to one student after another ask the teacher to re-explain material we had already gone over and over for an entire hour. While I felt sorry that the other students did not understand the material, I wondered if they had even read the assignment or done the work the night before. Sitting there, I had an impromptu conversation with myself. “There has got to be a better way to get an education!” I thought. Of course I agreed with myself.
On that day, I vowed that my children would never go through the long hours, the bus rides, the boring lectures, and the dry textbooks that I endured. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I guess I thought my future family and I would just go and live on a sparsely populated tropical island where we would be free to learn in front of the softly lapping azure ocean water while wiggling our toes in the warm white sand as we studied dolphins. It was a great daydream and it kept me awake. Somehow I made it through that class but I never forgot that day or the talk I had with myself.
Years later, when my oldest child Rachel was four, she easily learned how to read and her continuing eagerness to learn launched our homeschool lifestyle on a frolicking and successful start. Every year or so after that, we added another of our seven children as we weaved back and forth on the path of our homeschool adventure.
Sometimes we were very successful in our homeschool lifestyle. There were times when we went to the library every Wednesday of every week, never missing a story time. We made sure that we checked out our family limit of one hundred books a week. And every weekday afternoon, right after lunch, we lay scattered about the den as we read our library books for one hour. Our homeschool life hummed along like clockwork. We did many fun, hands-on-activities and then the children eagerly did their pencil and paperwork at their desks.
But then there were months when everything was a mess. I was sick and couldn’t get out of bed. My young children cleaned the house and made me lunch. They fed themselves and watched so much Sesame Street it shocks me even now as I remember. Its funny how my children remember very little about those early days, but the memories are very clear and dear to me. I wondered then, if they were going to turn out all right. I wondered how we would catch up after having taken such a long break. I worried because there was so much I wanted them to learn about science and history, and so many books I wanted them to read, but I despaired that there would never be enough time to do all those things.
Which brings me back to the other day when this homeschool mom and I were talking on the phone. She and I agreed. Homeschooling is not really about the kids, its about changing moms’ hearts. Homeschooling propels a mom’s heart toward her children. She has to ponder things that are so much more important than who she’ll meet for lunch or how she will pick up the dry cleaning and get the kids to soccer. She has chosen not to pass off moral and academic decisions about her child’s education to someone else. She spends most of her life pondering and praying, “What have we done? What should we do next?”
A famous politician has stated that the most powerful force for educational reform in America is homeschooling. That statement boggles the mind. In our hearts we know it is true. But the homeschool mom can’t really feel the magnitude of the politician’s statement because she is too busy contemplating what she is going to do next year for earth science, or how she is going to nip Johnny’s bad behavior in the bud before it escalates. She is engrossed in the lives she is seeking to affect. And that is what homeschooling is really for, turning a mom inside out. Over thirty years ago, I sat in that classroom and couldn’t really imagine what homeschooling would be like. But looking at it from the hindsight side, I know that it is about changing ourselves, self-centered as we are, into moms whose feet are set firmly in principle and conviction as they to pour out their lives for their children.
Randi St. Denis is an educator, popular homeschool speaker, and a seasoned homeschooling mom. Randi works as a consultant to public, private, and homeschool families; providing teaching expertise and assistance for all types of children. You can visit her website at ChicagoHomeschoolExpo.com.