Our kids definitely benefited from homeschooling - both academically and emotionally. However, they weren't the only ones to benefit. Homeschooling also brought us closer as a family. Here's our story.
This Is Us
Our family has always been relatively close, but I truly believe homeschooling had a large part to play in that. After our first move with the Army, we decided we would pull our two children - our son and daughter - from public school and try homeschooling. We knew it would be more convenient for us as parents in many ways, but we didn't realize how much closer this move would bring us as a family.
Keep in mind, we were a very hands-on homeschool family. We did a lot of experiential learning, spent hours in history discussions, and took every field trip we could squeeze in. If we had chosen online programs that put our kids in front of a computer everyday to learn, perhaps our family dynamic would be different, but I still believe homeschooling brings a family closer together. Here's why...
A Shared Sense of Connectedness
When you homeschool, home becomes an even bigger part of your lives. For us, home was often the car, a hotel room, or a museum, depending on the week, but the common factor in all of these settings was that we were together.
When kids are away at school all day, they spend the majority of their time connected to the people in their classroom. When you homeschool, you develop those connections to the people at home. You see other sides of your siblings and your parents. You realize that your brother, who you thought was good at everything, is an awful speller, and the sister you thought was dumb as a box of rocks is actually incredibly creative. You begin to see strengths and values in each other that may not surface in the little amount of time families typically spend together today.
We also found that our children helped each other. They soon realized they were good at different things, and so they banded together to get through the tough spots. They also realized that the two-year age difference wasn't much of a barrier at all. Our daughter soon caught up to my son in math, but my daughter never reached the levels he did in literature. Age, gender, and stereotypes often dissipate during homeschooling. We saw this in social and co-op groups as well as in our own home.
Really Getting to Know Your Kids
Sure, most parents know their children better than anyone else, but with homeschooling, that gets ramped up! When you spend every day together, you really learn a child's behavioral and emotional patterns. You'll see first-hand how your child reacts to situations, stress, success, and failure. You'll be amazed at how much your child is capable of doing and understanding.
In addition, to teach your child and to select curricula requires you to identify your child's learning style. Learning style goes way beyond academics. It's reflected in everything your child attempts to learn to do, from tying their shoes to driving a car. How your child approaches problem solving is directly related to their learning style in that particular area.
The other thing you will quickly realize is just how different your children are from each other! Parents might know their son likes carrots and their daughter likes broccoli and so on, but when you homeschool, you really begin to see the deeper differences. If you have more than one kid, you'll also quickly learn that your children don't all learn the same way, at the same rate, or even at the same times of day! How much you decide to cater to this is up to you, but believe me, the differences will become apparent.
Knowing and understanding these differences can make dealing with your children (academically as well as parentally) so much easier. You can avoid the things you know will trigger frustration or anger, and you can promote an environment that facilitates learning and living together. Some say this isn't how the real world works, but it actually is. Successful marriages and businesses require people skills, compromise, and learning to get along. I believe homeschooling nurtured those things in our family.
More Quality Time Together
For us, one of the best parts of homeschooling is that we controlled our own schedules. Don't get me wrong, we were those parents the public school disliked - you know, the ones who would pull their kids from class to travel during the school year. Homeschooling allowed us to plan our schedules around my husband's Army travel. Sometimes, we went with him (homeschooling is portable and museums are a great learning tool), and sometimes homeschooling allowed us to take a day off when he was back in town.
As our kids got older and our son played competitive tennis, homeschooling allowed us to travel to tournaments together as a family without disrupting school. We went to places all over the country, and we were able to travel together, sharing experiences and laughter (and sometimes annoying each other) along the way. Teenagers are a special breed, and that doesn't magically go away just because you homeschool! However, I do think homeschooling made teen life less volatile and made our kids more willing to spend time together as a family.
Homeschooling also gave our kids more bonding time together. Believe me, they did not lack socialization (that's another topic entirely!). But the extracurriculars they did together, and even the extra time spent having lunch and breakfast together, added up. Sometimes, they banded together against the 'system' to initiate change in the way we homeschooled and in our schedule. Homeschooling gave them another common bond. They were not inseparable by any means, and my son can push my daughter's buttons like no one else, but there is still an underlying appreciation for each other and an awareness of each other's strengths, abilities, and vulnerabilities.
Today, my son has graduated from college, and my daughter is a junior majoring in elementary education. I miss those homeschool days, and at times, so do they. Homeschooling allowed us to spend time together that wouldn't have been otherwise possible, and we are a closer family because of it.