In the beginning there was a Mom and her child and it was good. And they bought some books and began home learning and their lives were enriched. Then co-op started and the child took seven classes and Mom taught two and they also began piano lessons and soccer and equestrian vaulting, because who would pass up an opportunity like that? They also participated in 4-H and community service and volunteered at the Food Bank. In order that this child should not be left behind and should also have not one single hole in her education, Mom also enrolled her in classes with the nice lady next door, a former school teacher, now a tutor. And it was not so good any more and Mom hid in the bathroom and cried and the child practiced piano and pen-and-ink drawing and equestrian vaulting on the barrel horse Dad built in the back yard and handwriting and Latin and Spanish and creative writing and algebra and soccer and finally Dad came home one night and no one even noticed that he was there. And this was not so good.
It's so easy to get caught up in the stuff that we forget what's really important to us and our children. These things may be different for each family. For ours, it's the ability to move at our own pace and to learn quietly at home. I've been soccer mom, baseball mom, horse show mom, high school athlete mom and more. It's fun and exhausting and I'm done with that for now. I have kids who are basically grown and whatever holes I left seem to have filled in on their own. At this point in my life I have realized that it is okay to pick one thing and do it well and that it's okay to look past great opportunities every so often. We cannot do it all. My Dad's famous advice is true, "People are like tires. Every one has a flat spot," and that's okay. I also believe that sometimes our flat spots are what make us who we are.
Living in an area with an active homeschooling community is fabulous. I greatly admire those adults who get out there and do things like found a co-op or sponsor a Creative Writing Contest. These things can be wonderful for homeschooling parents who are hoping to find a friends for their children, chat with other adults or who pine after one special class that they just cannot teach at home. Often these things can be found (or founded) at your homeschooling co-op. It is also possible, though, that your days will be eaten up by lessons and classes and sports to the point that you can no longer realistically call what you do 'homeschooling' because little or none of the learning is done at home. When this happens you might want to examine if any in-depth learning is happening, regardless of where, and make sure that you are satisfied with the answer.
Something that has been immensely helpful to my family is for the parents to sit down and make a list of what's important to us. Here are a few of our categories: how much family time do we want; what do we want our children to believe is important; what subjects do we want or need to focus on with the children; where do we want to spend our discretionary dollars; how much are we going to spend on purchased curricula; where will our children's social life happen--at co-ops or park days or play dates, etc; what sort of adults do we want our children to become; what are we doing to help them become those people. These questions, or ones you make up for your family and circumstances, help to focus your thoughts away from the smörgåsbord of activities and put them back on your children and their education and upbringing.
It's always difficult to look away when you see a message offering Junior Toastmasters or Monart at the local co-op but if it's not on your list, it becomes a bit easier. It also helps to have a couple of kids who are turning into the wonderful people you dreamed of way back when.
Bettina Colonna Essert is a native of the Virginia/North Carolina borderland. She currently lives on a 'farmette' in rural NE NC with her husband, 2 home schooled children and a menagerie of farm animals. Bettina is an Equine Sports Massage Therapist and also handcrafts a line of fine, organic bath products, Alchemy Redefined.