Wednesday, February 04, 2015

It's a Privilege

One question we get asked in fun each winter, since we live in an area that receives snow, is:

"Do your children get snow days?"

We homeschoolers even ask each other that out of curiosity.  Generally speaking, the simple answer is, "no".  However, if we look a little deeper we find that we get so much more than the occasional snow day.  In fact, viewed through the proper perspective, I would go as far to say that as homeschoolers we actually live a life of privilege.

There are many privileges of homeschooling.  Here are my top five:

1.   The Freedom to Sleep When it's Needed - At first I was going to say sleeping in, but there is so much more to it than that.  Even though my kids don't allow me to sleep as late as I would like compared to the alternative we are sleeping in.  Thankfully, my hubby is a morning person, and he's up and at 'em by 5:30 each morning, but the rest of us get to continue in slumber until about 7:30 when the house slowly comes to life.  We take our time waking up, cook breakfast, and wrap up the very beginning of our day by 9 o'clock.  Talk about a privilege!  I can guarantee you that at this point we've not even gotten out of our pajamas.  We're in the country, but we do happen to live on a public school bus route.  I can personally attest to the fact that none of the local kids that ride that yellow bus have that luxury.  That bus has long since driven past our home by the time we're wiping the sleep out of our eyes.

The privilege of sleeping in isn't the only way we are blessed.  What about when we're sick?  Both the parents and the children benefit in this regard as well.  There are no worries of missed days, piling up of assignments, loss of pay (if you were a paid teacher at the school), or sharing of germs.  It's a lot easier to cancel a get together or reschedule a meeting than it is to miss even one day of institutional school.  We can continue on with our routine while sipping hot tea, stopping to blow our nose, and breaking to medicate.  No doctor's note.  No prescription.  No penalty for taking the time to rest that we so desperately need.  No validation needed from anyone.  We simply listen to our bodies and act accordingly.  Being sick may not be fun, but being free to deal with it on our own terms is pure bliss.

This goes even further when the family faces a crisis or major life change.  We're honored with the privilege to take the time we need to grieve the loss of a loved one.  We can welcome a new family member, be it a new baby or other circumstance, without worrying about pressing on at the same speed.  We can adjust our routine to give us the time we need to ease into our new circumstances without the outside pressure of adhering to a schedule we did not create for ourselves.  I cannot begin to express just how beautiful a blessing this actually is for us.

2. The Freedom of Lifestyle Choice in Many Areas - Since we've moved to the country I appreciate our many differences even more-so.  Homeschoolers come from all different lifestyles.  There are homesteaders, RV travelers, world travelers, urban dwellers, commuters, small business owners, missionaries, the terminally ill, those suffering with chronic pain, multi-generational families, divorced families, military families, multi-cultural families, adoptive families, classic educators, unschoolers, single-income families, two-income families, single parent households, and on and on and on.  All of the different lifestyles we live make us unique.  As homeschoolers being unique is celebrated, not criticized.  Despite our differences, we are a community brought together by the simple fact that we home educate.  Being unique and different is encouraged and supported.  The freedom to live our life as we desire is not hindered by the artificial framework of institutional education.

We are in charge of our time to the fullest extent possible.  This means that milking the cows holds the same importance as wrote lessons.  The value of living, really living, is honored and even capitalized upon.  There is freedom to integrate learning into our life building our education around the lifestyle we live.  We are not forced to try to live around an artificial lifestyle created for us.  Having lived both within the confines of institutionalized education as well as with the freedom of homeschooling (using various methods over the past 18 years), Being able to take a vacation anytime we want, being free to set our routine around dad's work schedule, and seeing a movie in an empty theater or visiting a museum while everyone else is in school, I now recognize this freedom as a privilege not afforded to all.

3.  The Freedom to Set Our Own Pace - Have I told you lately how much I love this?  We actually have the privilege to choose how fast or slow we progress through any given learning experience.  My most recent "personal object lesson" in this area would have to be my nine-year-old and her struggle with understanding money and place value.  She really "should have" learned this by now, right?  Well, when I was trying to teach her last year I tried every method I could think of.  We used manipulatives, worksheets, computer programs, apps, and board games.  It just wasn't sinking in.  Once I had exhausted all of my avenues it finally clicked, "Hello!  She's not ready to learn this.  Back off, lady!".  Fortunately, I had enough experience with how children learn by this point to actually trust my instincts, and guess what?  Here we are six months or so later, and guess what I noticed?  She's understanding money and place value now.  I didn't notice it by giving her a test or forcing her to just keep at it until it had been drilled into her.  I noticed it by paying attention to her, by conversing with her, and providing no stress opportunities for her to experience money and place value outside the confines of intentional instruction.  She is now ready to take it to the next level, and it happened without my interference.

Another way I see the benefit of learning at our own speed goes in the opposite direction.  When I planned out our school year for 2014-15 I prepped a ton of preschool material for the then three and four year old.  It just so happened that once I started implementing the various resources and activities in my bag of tricks I quickly learned that everything I had planned for the four year old was not challenging enough.  We chucked everything.  At this point it didn't matter the time and effort I put into preparing it for him.  What mattered was meeting him where he was at, and this kid knew things at a level that I didn't even realize.  Since we are in charge of our pace he wasn't forced to just trudge along participating in activities that didn't stimulate or challenge him.  We were able to take a step back, regroup, and begin again.

4.  The Freedom to Learn What We Want To - That's not to say that we don't have certain obligations as homeschoolers.  Of course our children need to be taught the same core subjects offered to the public school students here in Michigan.  The difference?  What we teach in those broad categories, the length of time we spend exploring those topics, and the method we use for learning these subjects is up to us.  Our extracurricular activities are determined by us.  The elective courses we decide to explore are our choice.  What a privilege it is to be able to go super in depth in a subject that interests one of our children, and to have the freedom to abandon a subject when it no longer is of interest.  There is nothing better in the real of learning than a custom tailored education, and that is exactly what I am able to provide for my children.

We have the freedom to freely talk about God and the bible.  Things relevant to our lifestyle can be incorporated into our homeschool.  Things like entrepreneurship, animal husbandry, horticulture, astronomy, puzzles and games, art, 4-H, photography, music and singing, acts of service, morals and manners, hospitality, and home economics.  Our children can be gently guided in areas of moral and spiritual growth in the safety of our family and friends.  It is a privilege for them to be actively raised and guided by those that love them and have a vested interest in their success and safety, as well as a privilege for us as adults to be able to have the freedom to be afforded the time and opportunity to truly build relationship with our children.  Through the process of educating and guiding our children our family is made all the stronger by the time we spend working together toward ultimately ushering them into independence.

5.  The Freedom to REALLY be Ourselves - In today's culture we here so much about bullying.  I'm not that old to have forgotten the pressures that accompany spending all day with 1200 plus people all in my same age group.  In real life we do not only associate with people our own age.  I don't know about you, but I have friends and acquaintances of all ages.  I enjoy the company of my friend's nine-year-old (and the fact that she's not too intimidated or bored of my presence to carry on a real conversation with me) just as much as my fellow church members in their 80's.  We associate with people from infants to senior citizens, and my children can feel comfortable around them all.

We don't have to worry about the clothes we buy our children being in style, and even more important is that they don't have to worry either.  They can dress how they like without the worry of being picked on, ostracized, or being made to feel "less than".  There's just something different about these kids that makes them more accepting of each other.  Does that mean that everyone gets along with everyone, and no one is ever mean?  Well, of course not, but the instances are MUCH, much less within our community of home educating families.  This lack of need to fit in is a relief to both the parents and the children.  As a result the kids are more themselves, and the parents are freed the financial stress of school supply lists and back to school clothes shopping.  Instead, we purchase things as they are needed, and that is a wonderful privilege.

I know there are many, many more privileges associated with homeschooling.  I encourage you to share your thoughts.  I'd love to know what privileges and freedoms you are thankful for in your homeschooling life.

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