When I chose to homeschool my children, I was filled with excitement and energy, and a natural zest for the alternative path. I dreamt of all the precious memories we would make together, all the journey’s we would take, and the growth that would blossom with each experience. I was armored with all the different educational philosophies and stocked up with my ‘anti-system’ and ‘child-led’ quotes. I was ready to embrace the freedom, the flexibility and the togetherness of teaching and guiding our children, against the grain. But whilst I never expected it to look like a picture-perfect, Instagram worthy lifestyle, I wasn’t prepared for it to frequently look like a total shambles!
When I first began to homeschool, we were financially secure, on the brink of launching a new family business and about to welcome our third child into the world. I was driven by this sense of adventure and a passion to cultivate a family-focused way of life, where the children’s learning was interwoven with our every day.
Little did I know, that a few short months in, that business we had worked tirelessly for, would in fact fail, you can read more about that here. Not only was I navigating the strain of mothering three young children with little support, but I was also now homeschooling on a dramatically reduced budget and at times, no budget at all. This was followed by my husband taking a job that meant he would be working away from home during the week, not an ideal situation but one we had to accept all the same. This was not turning out to be the harmonious, thriving, care-free home education I had imagined! The dreams of having a little study in the basement of our shop were long gone and so was the flow of hard-earned cash to fund captivating curriculums and glorious days out.
For my husband and I, its been a strenuous time trying to piece ourselves back together without being sure what the picture on the puzzle is meant to be. It’s a challenge trying to figure it all out when your days are intertwined with your children as intensely as ours are. It’s been about how to create a positive learning environment when you feel so estranged from positivity. It’s been about stripping back, managing expectations and searching for joy within the simple moments of life. It’s been about appreciating the outdoors, the abundance of free parks and playgrounds, the calm and curiosity of the library and connections made through cozy playdates with loving friends.
However, weathering this storm has taught me how to build resilience, how to dig deep and trust God and to know that if you do something for His sake, He will pave a way forward for you, no matter what. There are days when I’ve questioned if I am giving my kids enough, if I have executed what I set out to do, if the quality is up where I would want it to be. There are days when they have had too much screen time, when they haven’t dressed till after lunch and when they’ve witnessed one too many fraught conversations between me and their dad.
But despite all of this, there are things I know they’ve gained in the last two years, that no lesson or school assembly would have taught them. They have seen that ALL feelings can be accepted (theirs and ours) even the, not so pretty ones. They’ve seen that the weather, both internal and external, is unpredictable but we have it within us to dress up, get out and dance in the rain. There is space to learn and grow without the need to scour Pinterest in search of the perfect activity. They’ve learned that as their parents, we will show up, no matter what our state, we’ll try our best with the tools that we have and we’ll apologise when we get it wrong. In our home, we celebrate the small wins, because brick by brick, this is what lays the foundation for their life-long learning. These collective small wins, made up of simple moments together, whether it be a story shared, a contentious question asked, or a conversation over afternoon tea, these are the moments that define our home school. These moments are worth more to me than spelling tests, records of achievements or displays of work on a classroom wall. These small wins are infused with deep love, with energy when there was none left to give and time when time was all we had.
It’s been hard, it’s been exhausting, it’s been scary. I’ve felt inferior, unqualified and inadequate but I’ve also felt stronger than I’ve ever felt before. Life wasn’t promised to be easy, and if you look beyond the mud, you see the richness of the soil, and this is where the roots will form and grow. So as I look around at the scraps of paper, the borrowed books, and the second-hand supplies, I see so much more than a home school. I see so much more than the lessons that are buried between the pages of untouched curriculums. I see the light within each of my children, who have gained the raw and authentic ups and downs of a life lived. They know that even when things are hard, there is always ease, there are solutions to problems and new possibilities awaiting them. They know that if you dare to lift the pen, you have the ability to write a new story or paint your dreams in colours when you cannot find the words. They can dance out the inner beatings of their hearts, do flips on the living room floor and play contently on a rainy day.
We may not have been able to travel as we hoped, or go to the theatre as often as we liked, or do the things that pictures in squares tell us we should do. But we’ve done us; the making and the shaping, the fixing and the finding. Sometimes you set out with a plan, but God’s plan is always better. We don’t always see it in the middle of the mess but we have to trust that there is wisdom in every season, even this one. When you lose, there is always the potential that through that loss you will gain more than you imagined. That is the hidden beauty of failure, it is there to remind you that risks are to be taken, you will win some and you lose some.
So I guess what I am trying to say, is that meshed between our expectation, is reality, and that reality is yours to own. Your homeschool isn’t built on what you have or where you go, it’s built on what you give. If all that you have to give is yourself, then trust that you are more than enough for them to learn everything they need to know.