By Vida Mercer
Don’t worry, Mom. It will all be worth it. I was on the receiving end of all that effort. And the greatest homeschooling benefits I got were the ones my parents, perhaps, didn’t even think about.
When I was homeschooled in the 80’s and early 90’s it was still relatively uncharted territory. Most people had never even heard of homeschooling. After you told people you were homeschooled, and explained what that was, it was almost always met with skepticism at best–if not outright scorn. My mother had a lot of concern about the school board trying to intervene (even though I was always well above grade level). And resources were few and hard to find.
My parents were pioneers. And they were brave to even attempt it. But they knew in their hearts it was right–and it was the best thing they ever did for me. I entered college early and graduated summa cum laude. I had a very rewarding career in the legal field and then was able to transition my skills to work from home when my family became the priority.
But, more than all that, do you want to know what I really owe to homeschooling–to my mom and dad? Here are the things that mattered most:
I learned that I can learn anything on my own. I have always felt a pang of sadness whenever I have heard someone say, “I wish I could do [insert activity], but [insert excuse].” Reasons I have heard range from, “I don’t have anyone to show me,” “My mother never taught me how,” “I don’t have time/money to take classes,” or the absolute worst one, “I’m not smart enough.”
With the help of books and the internet, I have yet to run across something that I could not learn how to do on my own. And, without a doubt, it is homeschooling that instilled this in me. There is something about homeschooling that helps children own their education. NOT growing up with the experience of going to a big building somewhere and sitting in front of a person deemed worthy to dispense knowledge to me was transformative.
Instead, your children will learn to seek knowledge everywhere. And you will take an active part in that. The “teacher” (a.k.a. mom) becomes the guide and assistant in finding knowledge. So what does that translate into for your kids in adulthood? An unhesitating confidence in their ability to adapt and learn new things. Rather it’s to fulfill a need or a desire, homeschooling taught me there is nothing that hinders me.
I learned that NOT being the same as everyone else is okay (and you will still have friends). As if having a name that no one has ever heard before isn’t hard enough…“Yes, I go to school at home.” “Yes, my mom is my teacher.” “No, she’s not a real teacher.” “No, I’m not dumb.” “No, I don’t get to do whatever I want all day.” “What grade am I in? Well, that’s complicated.” And yet, despite all that, I had friends–real friends. And you learn that real friends are made because of who you are. Not being in the same home room. Not wearing the same brand of shoes.
And when you learn to be that different and still make friends, it becomes a lot easier to be different in other ways too. It’s a lot easier to be the “good girl,” to make the unpopular choices. It’s a lot easier to ignore the peer pressure when you are already known for being the different one.
And I valued my education all the more because I knew it was a trade-off. Homeschooling is a choice to not have what the public school system offers in order to have the better education. And even as a kid, I knew that. When my friends asked me if I didn’t miss the school dances, field days, pep rallies, graduation ceremonies–my answer was no. And it was honest. I knew I was getting something better.
I learned to question authority (respectfully). What this means is that I look much deeper than titles or accolades. When you learn at an early age that having a teaching degree and a title “teacher” doesn’t make you the absolute authority on teaching, then what else will you question?
And what this helps ensure is that no boss, no pastor, no one with a fancy title or degree, not even well-meaning friends, will be able to easily feed your children untruths or hold too much influence over them. Homeschooling, by nature, teaches children to search out fact and truth for themselves. Homeschooling taught me to question people’s premises, even when their logic might seem sound. It taught me to research topics with a variety of different sources. It taught me to never just “take their word for it.”
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have great respect for people. In fact, I highly respect the effort that people put into their educational and professional achievements. I simply prefer to withhold judgement on matters until I’ve researched them myself. I have a healthy skepticism of anything that I haven’t looked into for myself–even if the “experts” say so.
When done properly, even you, Mom, will be subject to a healthy and respectful fact-checking.
I learned to love learning–and to never, never stop. And that just says it all right there. That is the goal of so many of us homeschooling moms. We want that insatiable love of learning for our kids that stays with them far beyond school. We want them to see learning as both a useful tool and a joyful experience.
I have great memories of learning at home. Peaceful ones. Funny ones. Happy ones. Frustrating ones where I pushed through and overcame. But the learning never stopped. It was just a part of life. And it still is–helping me reinvent my career path, helping me share homeschooling with others, helping me teach my children these same lessons.
And even more than all of that…
Homeschooling demonstrated to me that my parents must love me a tremendous amount to make so many sacrifices and fly in the face of the accepted wisdom to do what they believed was right for me. That taught me about love, about determination, about bravery. And I’m NOT saying that if you don’t homeschool you don’t love your kids and they won’t learn these things–not at all.
But at the end of the day–when we ask ourselves why we are doing all of this–it’s because we love them. And this is just one way that we live that love out for them in our homes every day.
Above reading all the homeschooling books, scrutinizing all the curriculum, talking to the other moms, and even above my own experiences teaching my children–the most valuable thing I bring to my homeschool every day is what I have learned from being homeschooled myself. Because I learned that it works, in powerful ways.
And this is what I wish I could leave every mom with who is homeschooling or considering homeschooling–keep on. It’s not the high test scores, or the college degree, or the great jobs that are the biggest successes–although those are great too–it’s the lessons like the ones I’ve talked about here. It’s the lessons there are no workbooks for. It’s the unintentional teaching you do every day that you press forward.
So keep on, Mom. It’s worth it, from one who knows.
Vida Mercer is a writer and second-generation homeschooling mom of two daughters. Her website is www.mercerhomeschooling.com, where she provides resources and encouragement to help others find success in their homeschooling journey.