It occurred to me tonight (while I couldn't get to sleep) that it's 25 years ago this month that I first became a homeschooler. Well, really it was a few months before that, when my mom pulled my two younger brothers out of school and my sister started the three of us on an intensive Lit program, even while I was still finishing up 8th grade and preparing to graduate. (It was a great lit class, by the way. I still have some of the study questions around and posted on Love2learn (they're not all hers, but quite a few are).
I want to always remember a few of the things that happened when we first got started. Especially those lovely, funny little things. One that stands out happened on the first day that my brother didn't return to school with me (the youngest hadn't started at that school yet). In religion class that morning, before I think my teacher could have even known the big news yet, Sister Helen was talking about the Church's teaching on education and parenting and mentioned that the Church's position was so strong on the parent's role that they even taught that parents could pull their children out of school and teach them themselves. Dang, I should have asked her if she had already heard the news or not. :)
Mostly, I wanted to try to catalogue some of the things I've learned about education and homeschooling over the course of these 25 years and many experiences and many conversations - starting with intense discussions on the potentials of homeschooling with my younger brother (In part we were critiquing our own present reality, but it was an extremely formative experience!) and going all the way up to a phone conversation on Friday with a mom just starting out with her oldest in kindergarten. I'll start with the things that clicked for me during those high school years. I'm sure some of them will seem silly. I've had a lot of "duh!" moments over that time, though perhaps because I have to deliberately think out each of these points, I'll actually remember them and they'll be useful to someone else too!
One of the first ones I remember figuring out in my head was a piece of the socialization question. I was thinking about the peculiarities of some of the homeschool families we had met and started falling into the mental trap of assuming that their quirks or whatever were related to the homeschooling. Then I realized (duh!) that people in schools have quirks, there are always students who work their way more or less (sometimes much more or less) smoothly than others in the schools. It's not about homeschooling, it's about the family!
That thing, "It's about the family!" was a big one that I've continued to stew on over the years. Even early on it was clear to me that that factor was much bigger than things like which curriculum you used, whether or not you used a formal homeschool program, etc. (The big "secret" of course, is that it's not even about whether you homeschool or not!)
Another thing I noticed from those years (though I didn't necessarily put it together until later on) was that attending a traditional grade school (quite a good one in fact) did not automatically make me a self-disciplined person. In fact, though it was beneficial in many ways (and I got a very decent education there), it tended to feed my laziness and I had a tendency to try to get by with the minimum. I was a good student and never got into any real trouble (well aside from a chewing out in front of the class in 5th grade for a messy spelling note book - one of the Sisters was pretty old school and was she ever mean!), but I did all of my homework at the ridiculously last possible moment and wasn't a particularly eager or enthusiastic student otherwise. Though my homeschool years were messy and chaotic in a number of ways (as are my children's at times, though not in quite the same ways), it was, in the end, a great gift to be given a great deal of responsibility for my own education - to actually start to make an attempt at real self-discipline (not that I've mastered that even now, far from it!). Having a formal structure and schedule put together by someone else for my benefit is, at least for me, much easier than holding myself accountable day in and day out.
...to be continued...