Reflecting on having been homeschooled from preschool to graduation and more recently homeschooling my own children these past 10 years I am surprised at the depth in which I am able to dive into in retrieving memories from both experiences. Yes, time has a way of moving like that. And with my first child now in Jr. High and last child learning to read there is a mix of anticipation and desire to slow time. I am intrigued at how the past, in the form of perspectives and beliefs can be interwoven with the present. Our pasts shape us and affect the way we live out our lives. During my pondering and musings over this intermingling of my homeschooling experiences, I've sieved out some takeaways on the blessings I've been given and lessons I have learned as a second generation homeschooler.
-SUPPORT is hopefully something all second generation homeschoolers will have from one source or another. My husband and I both being second generation homeschoolers we were blessed to have support from both sides of our families of origin in our decision to home educate. We never had to educate our families of origin on the benefits of home education, the academic validity, the social benefits etc. Support was there from the start.
-CONFIDENCE and joyful anticipation at the start of our journey in home educating our own children. Choosing a board, choosing curriculum, and being successful at teaching my children did not fill me with uncertainty. It wasn't as though I didn't question those things. Rather those things were simply secondary and I knew they would work themselves out. Some of my first-time homeschooling friends were struggling with the weight of overwhelm and uncertainty. I hated to see my friends stressing over their questions when I felt they should be enjoying the early years of gentle explorations with their wee littles. I wanted to calm their fears and douse my friends with encouragement. I felt my words were effortlessly deflected and I was hurt and disappointed to have little influence on their perspectives. It took me a while to learn that these friends needed to sort this out for themselves and work their own way through the uncertainties.
-FAMILIARITY with what home education can look like day to day, the available options and resources, what a facilitator's role is and so on. Sure we second generation homeschoolers need to figure this out for ourselves on a deeper level in a way that makes sense for ourselves. But just think of the overwhelm this could be to someone who is brand new to the scene.
-UNDERSTANDING what your child may be experiencing as a homeschooler may come more easily to you having been there yourself. This understanding may better help you anticipate how you can navigate your child's homeschooling experience in ways that are beneficial to him.
-UNREALISTIC SELF-EXPECTATIONS: No you don't have to have it all together just because you were homeschooled yourself. Being homeschooled is not the same thing as homeschooling. You're allowed to make mistakes, to ask for help and to not have all the answers.
-YOU DON'T HAVE TO HOME EDUCATE YOUR CHILDREN. I don't like to say that but it is true. One year we sent our daughter to a Christian program operating within a public school when I had never attended a public school as a student myself. I'm sure they didn't know what planet I was from with all the questions I asked the school staff! That didn't matter to me. I needed to know a few things before I was going to plunk my daughter in there.
I knew in my heart that sending our daughter to school outside of the home would be a one-year thing and I would never hold judgement over someone else for not homeschooling. Yet, I struggled to be ok with myself. Having to defend our decision to homeschool our own children to mere acquaintances and in my past having to defend myself as a child being homeschooled -even if only quietly in my own mind, for my own sake- made sending my daughter to public school now more difficult. At the root of this inner turmoil was a strong "homeschooler" identity. I felt like in sending my daughter to public school I was selling out; I was a traitor. I feared judgement in the homeschool community and concern over how my intentions may be perceived within that community. But having my husband's support and accepting God's peace for me we went ahead. And you know what?! We did just fine. Yes, there were adjustments but it was a surprisingly smooth transition not to mention a positive year for my daughter. With only my two boys being homeschooled that year I was enabled to focus on my own continuing education as well as my boy's education while not neglecting my daughter's academic learning.
Loyalty to homeschooling and operating from a homeschool identity should never come before doing what is best for your whole family. Several times I was blown away to see the values we had prayed for and worked to instill in our daughter show up in unexpected ways during her year at school away from home. My heart swelled with thankfulness as I listened to her tell me the reasons she chose the friends she did. The friends she brought into her inner circle were chosen for their character. Thank you, Lord.
-TOUGH SKIN & SOFT HEART -if you are a second generation homsechooler chances are you've had to deal with a lot of skepticism, misunderstanding and plain old ignorance concerning homeschooling. Most likely you dealt with that much more so as a homeschooled child back (80's anyone?) then than you do as a homeschooling parent today. Chances are that you've developed a tough skin. Great. Is there still a soft heart in there? I learned early on that you don't need the approval of others to be ok. However, for those of us who are softies like me the trick is developing a tough skin and KEEPING the soft heart we were given. Without that softness being vulnerable enough to ask for help is difficult -and we all need to ask for help at some point. It is easy to take the mentality of independence too far, becoming aloof. "I don't need your approval" becomes "I don't need you" and if this is applied to everyone outside our tiny net of safety then we have lost connection with the community around us. Our children need to be able to be able to operate within a community beyond their family and support groups. With a tough skin and a soft heart we can demonstrate for them how that is done.