Friday, August 21, 2009

Homeschool or High School? -- Finding Our Niche

Published in The Collierville Herald, 8/20, 2009
as "Finding our niche -- Change of plans is core to homeschooling success"

As summer winds down and the start of a new school year approaches, parents hustle to finish their last minute back-to-school shopping and revamp their schedules to accommodate the schedule changes that are inevitable. Most parents will breathe a sigh of relief when the last child heads out the door to school. However, when my son gets on the bus and heads off to high school, I will be sad because his new beginning will signal the end of one of the best years of my life.

As a family new to homeschooling, we fumbled our way through our first year. My daughter took to the new routine and flexibility like a duck to water. My son, on the other hand, was just the opposite. Although he started out enthusiastic about learning at home, it didn’t take long for him to feel as though he were missing out on something, and for me to figure out that what works for one child does not necessarily work for another.

Homeschool has provided many benefits for our family that extend beyond mere academics. Our children have learned how to work through sibling conflicts, look at others less critically because we have had time to discuss their impressions of other people, and recognize that blessings come in many forms. They have learned that money doesn’t grow on trees and that it is indeed more blessed to give than receive. While most of their learning came from the textbooks and computer programs they used, they developed an appreciation for all they could learn from God’s classroom as we took nature walks and field trips.

As a parent I grew more convinced than ever that my children are special and unique. Not only did the differences in their learning styles present challenges to me as a teacher, but they also helped me understand that in order for learning to be maximized, it should be tailored to the needs of the student. In facing my own challenges, I gained a new appreciation for teachers everywhere and realized that the demands of their career are endless.

Homeschool is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for everyone. But I am absolutely convinced that if your heart leads you to educate your children at home, you should embrace the adventure and see where it will take you. We discovered along the way that our son performs better in a traditional classroom; therefore, we are sending him back to school this fall. Does this mean that we failed as a homeschool family? Not at all. We learned more about each other this year than if our children had been in a more traditional school. Part of that learning involved realizing and accepting that we each have a niche, a place in this world where we can excel and be effective as students, as parents, and as individuals.

Whether you homeschool your children or not, make it a point to truly get to know them this year. Be involved in their education and take an interest in their friends and their activities. If our children are to excel and succeed in their endeavors, whether academically, vocationally, or athletically, they will need the love and support of their parents and family. Help them find their niche and give them wings to fly.