Thanks for checking back with us! I hope you’ll enjoy this second half of our little series on how second generation homeschoolers’ experiences affect their educational choices for their children. The first half can be found here.
My homeschooling experience began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when I was starting fourth grade. My parents had answered a call to be missionaries in the great city, and my mom homeschooled me and my older sister while we lived there (my brother was in college). She had homeschooled my siblings off and on since I was a baby, so she was quite comfortable with it by the time she started teaching me. When we eventually returned to the States, we continued homeschooling all the way through our high school graduations. To say that my own homeschooling days have affected the way my husband and I educate our children now would be an understatement.
In many ways, second generation homeschoolers have an advantage over parents who were never homeschooled themselves. There isn’t a book, blog, YouTube video, or podcast that can speak as loudly as the voice of experience. And I appreciate that. I joke sometimes that my college degrees didn’t actually prepare me for my life, but the truth is that homeschooling did prepare me, no matter how much my children’s education differs from my own.
At the very least, my homeschooling experience saved me from any anxiety I might have otherwise felt when my oldest kids reached school age. Since our dating days, my husband (who was homeschooled for a short time) and I knew that we would choose this kind of education for our children. We were confident in and content with our choice; there was no wrestling over what to do when the time came. The thought of homeschooling was never overwhelming. It was normal.
But both second and first generation homeschoolers have in common the tendency to compare our own educations with what we’re providing to our kids. I’ve heard countless first generation homeschoolers talk about the first time they realized that homeschooling does not mean imitating public or private school at home. This often came after many struggles that were direct results of their initial attempts to force homeschooling to be “school at home.” Guess what? Second generation homeschoolers experience a similar phenomenon, but instead of rebuilding traditional classroom expectations in our homeschool, we tend to expect that our kids’ education will look a certain way based off what we remember from our own childhoods. And just like first generation homeschoolers, we end up realizing at some point that our children’s schooling won’t look like what we imagined in the beginning, and that’s okay.
When Mom was homeschooling us kids twenty and thirty years ago, the vast majority of the options we have today simply didn’t exist. And when I began looking into what was available for my own family, I was amazed. The incredible variety of curriculum and resources was spread like a feast before my eyes, but I found that I gravitated to the same things that I’d used as a child. And when my daughters were only in kindergarten, I had my first opportunity to recognize that their education wouldn’t be the same as mine- and to acknowledge that that was good.
I have one daughter who is hard-wired pretty much like me. In addition to her, I’ve got three other wonderful children who are all as different from each other as they can get in regards to temperament, personality, and ability. I learned early on that our homeschool days were going to look vastly different from my own memories. I was six grades behind my older sister, whereas my children are triplets plus one more three years younger. Obviously, our experiences would be different. That one daughter who’s so much like me? She had no trouble at all with enthusiastically jumping into the same routines and resources I used as a kid. Those other two daughters who are so different from her (and me)? Not exactly a perfect fit for them. I had to learn how to determine ways to meet all their needs as well as how to mold it all together to fit our whole family (including little brother). And after three years now (counting pre-K), you could look at my childhood homeschooling compared to my children’s homeschooling and find very few similarities. Not because I had a poor education by any means, but because our homeschool has evolved from an imitation of my memories into something that fits who we are as a family, taking into consideration everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and learning styles, including my own. It’s not the same thing that I did, but for my kids, it’s better because it meets them where they are and draws them forward.
I look at my son sometimes and wish that some of the things his older sisters enjoyed due to their being my first babies were available to him too. But then I see how his sisters play with him and read to him and cuddle him, and I’m halfway sorry they don’t have an older sibling to dote on them! Each of my children’s experiences growing up in our family will be unique, and the same is true for homeschooling. Their education isn’t going to be the exact same as each other’s, and it certainly won’t be the same as mine. But that’s just one of the many benefits of homeschooling. Each child’s journey is as unique as he or she is.
As I grow more experienced as a homeschool mom, I am more and more grateful to my own mother and others like her who were working hard to figure out homeschooling long before it was considered a popular – or even acceptable – choice. My education served me very well and led to unique opportunities, great success in jobs and college, and a firm foundation on which to build my family’s own homeschooling culture. I have experienced personally what a blessing this kind of education can be in every aspect of life, and I’m confident that when my children are grown they will say the same thing.
Charity and Katie obviously enjoyed their homeschooling years as children. But that isn’t the case for everyone. Next week we’ll have a follow up piece for former homeschoolers who have rejected homeschooling as an option for their children because of their negative experiences with it. I hope it will offer some much-needed encouragement and a refreshing perspective.