When that letter of intent to homeschool got sent off via registered mail my husband and I had many reasons for pulling our four kids out of the public school system.
Like many new homeschoolers we left the system to escape Common Core and testing that has spiraled out of control, but mostly to reclaim our little family and to help our kids to become more independent thinkers. As new homeschoolers we looked forward to many freedoms, both academic and personal. But there have been a few unexpected benefits of homeschooling that snuck up on us that we’re enjoying just the same!
Kids, Playing with Kids…..of All Ages
Did you know that kids can play with kids of a variety of ages? Apparently, this is news to my own kids. I’m not sure if this is any kind of universal homeschool truth, but homeschooling definitely changed this dynamic at my house. Prior to the homeschool jump each of my kids (with the exception of my then four year old) had their core group of school friends, all within a few months in age of themselves. When one child had a friend over to play they specifically played together, not really with any of the other kids that might be around. My kids didn’t complain about this; its just the way it was.
Fast forward to a year later. My kids often forget what grade they are in. It’s not so important these days. Each of them does work at a variety of levels. When kids come over I often see them join in all together. Its amazing. Little people playing with big people. Little kids being helped by bigger kids, and vice versa as well. I’ve seen my big kids learn to accommodate their younger counterparts and I like it; a totally worthwhile skill!
Kids Learning From Kids
When we started homeschooling I pictured myself as the teacher passing information neatly down to each of my kids. Sure, sometimes they might pick something up from one another, but that would be just an occasional occurrence. No way! You guys, the secret is I’m not really the only teacher. It’s amazing how much they teach each other. Sure, they occasionally help each other out with their work. But I’m talking about learning that is bigger than that. As in they are having actual discussions about what they are learning. I’m talking making stuff and problem solving. Together. I am SO grateful they have each other to learn from.
I had this mental picture of my kids having all these grand ideas of what they wanted to learn and goals they wanted to achieve through learning at home. They would finally have input into their own education. Instead of the brainstorm of excitement I expected I was met with more of a blank stare and a “Huh?” After spending their entire educational lives being told what to learn, when to learn, and for how long they had absolutely no idea what they were really interested in or how to steer their own days.
I wish I could say I was that awesome relaxed homeschool mom of legends that deschooled and allowed my kids to figure out their own way. Nope. I’m more of a put your head down and push through it mom, for better or worse. If I could redo our first year of homeschool I would relax a little more. Those benefits of homeschooling would have been evident even sooner, I’m sure.
Although we kept schooling they still had tons of newfound time and freedom on their hands to figure out how to fill. It’s been a year and a half away from public school and I’m honestly just now beginning to see them know how to do this. Find something to do! (Without my direction. Gasp!) Glimmers of independent thinking, ideas taken to the next step, small steps outside the comfort zone all point to one thing.
They are beginning to think for themselves. Woohoo!
Kids That Love Their Siblings
My kids have always spent lots of time together. We do family dinner, family vacation, weekend outings, Sunday morning church and lunch. But as the kids have gotten older the amount of activities that vie for their time has spiraled out of control. Sports alone could take up six days a week. Time spent together was dwindling. Now they can’t escape one another. (Mwhahaha.) School work is usually done in the morning and most sporting activities don’t take place till evening. That gives them plenty of time to connect.
Sure, some days they fight like cats and dogs and make me crazy. But some days they get it. There is give and take. There is a little brother that adores his older siblings. I’m glad they get the chance to drive each other crazy.
Most of the time they actually like one another.
Kids That Stay Healthy
I’m honestly scared to put this in print. Can you hear me knocking on wood? I’m scared that we will all be struck down with a contagious illness before I push the publish button, but I will say it anyway. My kids get sick a fraction of the amount they did when they were in public school. We’re not hermits either. (As much as I might enjoy that life.) We still go to classes at our local YMCA, homeschool co-op, classes at the nature center and science center, countless field trips, Boy Scouts, football, soccer, basketball, softball, youth group, and church. Its a rare day when we don’t have to go somewhere for something, or multiple somethings.
Germs are still a ‘flying .
But my kids get sleep. My older boys go to bed about the same time they did when they were in public school. We are not night owls. They get a solid extra couple hours of sleep each morning. Fridays are not a strict school day in our house. My older boys might sleep in even a couple of hours more that day! My second son hasn’t been feeling well the past couple of days. He gets the extra rest his body needs and then does his work. It’s not that they are not exposed to germs. I believe they are just well rested enough to fight germs off!
At least one of my kids is crazy sensitive to chemicals and environmental allergens. Sending him to school was a bit like exposing him to a chemical cocktail. I don’t miss the wear and tear on his immune system from dealing with everything inside the school building one bit.
Kids That Know How To Do Stuff
Everyday stuff. Laundry, cleaning, making an appointment over the phone, making a simple meal, mowing; just good ‘ole work that needs done in any household. These skills are absolutely not specific to homeschoolers. There is no reason that my kids couldn’t have learned these things while enrolled in public school except for one little thing. Time.
There wasn’t time to let them try. School, sports, and homework pretty much wiped out at least five days a week. Weekends were a catch all for everything we didn’t get to during the week.
My two older boys have been lucky enough to have a family friend employ them periodically as manual labor. They are a essentially a clean up crew. Work hours are scheduled into their week and they do their school work around it. They come home tired and with money in their pocket. Time with other grownups and handling themselves in a way that gets them asked to come back is a worthwhile experience. What a great opportunity to practice being grown up, learn the value of working hard and making money; not to mention witnessing trade work. (Before anyone wonders; we aren’t running a sweat shop here. It’s a couple of hours here and there, small potatoes in the big picture.)
Knowing how to work and how to do things has been a huge confidence builder for my kids. I ask for help all the time around the house and try to remember to brag on them when they do a great job!
Making them a contributor to our household changes the dynamics of our whole family!
The Benefits of Homeschooling Keep Growing
But mostly this. It gets easier. It gets better. And we continue to see more and more benefits of homeschooling.
Do you identify with this list? Do you see it in your own school? Please share it!