Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The best thing

I've been asked twice recently what the best thing about homeschooling my kids has been. In both cases, these women were looking for outcomes. They wanted to hear about a positive result while they are in the thick of multiple little kids, picking curriculum, managing household routines, trying to overcome family objections, and all the rest that can go along with homeschooling your children.

I always start to answer this question and then switch answers midway through. Often more than once. Because there isn't any one best thing. There are lots of elements that are all tied in together, but they are different things.

The best things now are different than the best things ten years ago. Ten years ago, when my kids were 7, 9, 12, and 16 the best thing was probably how much fun we were all having together. Five years ago, when my kids were 12, 14, 17, and 21 the best thing was probably that homeschooling--and foregoing most attempts at recreating the kind of "socialization" that kids get in school--meant that the teen years were far less stressful than I had expected. My kids still liked me most of the time. I still liked them most of the time. I wasn't having to deal with most of the attitude problems that I had seen and heard about others dealing with. My 17 year old saw my twelve year old as a buddy, not as a pest.

There were times when the best thing--honestly--was not needing to get them up and out the door to the bus. Pack lunches. Find homework.

Today the best thing is the people that I see my kids becoming. They are each themselves--and know something of who that is--in a way that I never achieved until I was about 40. They have a better sense of their strengths and a better understanding of their weaknesses. I love their closeness. I love to wake up in the morning to hear my two college students cracking up together before they leave for class. I love the way all three "boys" can't get to the page fast enough when there's a new picture of their niece on Facebook, and the sounds they make when they see it.

The best things have never had to do with academic outcomes, although there are positives there. The bests are about life, family, faith, relationships. Maybe this is because for us homeschooling quickly became less a way to "school" than a way to live.