I never intended to homeschool my kids, but several months ago, when we decided to move abroad, it meant a change in the school year and some time at home when I would be tasked with keeping up our children's schooling. We knew on the front end it was only temporary, but even in that short amount of time, I learned an invaluable lesson.
I can teach my children right from wrong. I can teach them kindness. I can teach them about the world. I potty-trained them (although that process was questionable at times). I taught them how to brush their teeth and get dressed and iconic dance moves that will surely take them far in life — the lawnmower, the sprinkler, and the Roger Rabbit.
But trying to teach beginning mathematical concepts or arts-and-crafts projects to help with motor skills proved to be a complete failure. I did my best, but teaching young children goes far beyond simple addition or sounding out letters. With my own children, it seemed they just wanted me — to spend time with Mommy. I have juggled family and my career for the entire time I have been a mother. Our time together was previously reserved for morning routines, drop-offs, pickup after school, and evenings filled with activities, family time, and bedtime stories. When we changed it all up, they thought it was a holiday every day.
I finally decided they would be in school soon enough and that I would rather spend our time together outside, hiking, swimming, and doing things that encouraged connection as opposed to trying to be their teacher, which left us all frustrated.
Parents and extended family aside, teachers are the single most influential people in our children's lives, and they not only deserve a medal for being saints, but the long-debated topic of teacher salaries has also been resolved in our home — they are severely underpaid.
I give full credit to and admire those who homeschool their children, as it is one of those things in life that I can say I tried and failed. It has since been placed in the "been there, done that" category, put to bed indefinitely. For me, it was something I was completely unprepared for. Doing so while working from home created a constant pull of trying to do too much. It simply didn't work. I couldn't do both.
I also realized that for our family, when it comes to their education, my children needed someone other than my husband or myself to teach them. We realized our strengths as parents were meant to be used in other ways to influence our children's lives.
Now that my children are back in school and thriving, I've gained a new appreciation for the people who spend a substantial portion of the day pouring into their lives.
I walked away from this experience realizing that my kids need:
In our experience, we realized that our children need the authoritative voice of other adults, particularly teachers. We spend so much time teaching them who to trust and how to listen, but they were only able to put it into practice with us. They weren't learning how to practice it in their daily lives with other people. Teachers serve that purpose — a voice that children learn to listen to — which allows us to simply be Mom and Dad when they come home at the end of the day.
Naturally, kids want to test their parents, so when you are trying to be both teacher and parent, you blur that line. We realized we spent so much time trying to get them to stop fighting as siblings that when it came time to be their teachers, they didn't want to listen. They wanted to continue to test that boundary.
Quality over quantity. While we love our children, we realized we needed a healthy dose of separation, and so did they. They need to grow independently from us, which allows us
time to miss one another. Now the time we do have together is valued because it's not constant. We can engage and be present because we aren't all wanting a break from one another.
Teachers are trained to bring out specific things in our children, like only a teacher can. As parents we know our children, their personalities, their likes and dislikes. Teachers help them to explore those things further through learning. And a great teacher has the ability to influence your child's life and experiences in a very profound way.
Particularly with all the changes in our lives this past year, our children's teachers have been our partners in making sure they are adjusting and thriving. And after walking in their shoes, I realize I couldn't walk 10 feet in them, much less a mile.