by Sarah Schofield
I am a loner by nature. Or, as I like to call it, extremely independent. I assume that I can do most things by myself, without the aid of others. It’s not that I don’t like hanging around with my peers or that I am hostile to any outside influence, it’s just that I like to be, um . . . in control.
I would venture to say that most of you who are reading this article feel the same way. Let’s face it, you’re homeschooling. Can you think of anything that is more do-it-yourself than homeschooling? I doubt it. Maybe this is why I take to homeschooling so well. My terms, my way, my timing. Perfect.
It was because of this attitude that I found myself really questioning the need for involvement in my homeschooling community during my first few years as a homeschool mom. Do I really need to be a member of all of these organizations? Is it really necessary for me to belong to a local support group? Do my boys really need to identify with others who are like them? Aren’t those groups sort of exclusionary?
Another reason I questioned my need for involvement, or at least my level of involvement, was that most of this support stuff wasn’t around when I was being homeschooled. My family was part of a pioneering movement. My parents did belong to the big organizations, but I remember that most of the time we were just doing our own thing.
There were few PSPs, and co-ops were nearly non-existent. You had to have an independent attitude just to survive. It felt kind of like being the Ingalls family out there on the ginormous prairie, with the nearest neighbor 80 miles away. It created a can-do spirit to find a way that has made the homeschooling of today that much easier.
So, with that attitude stuck in my brain, I jumped into my own homeschooling experience. I did end up joining all of the big groups, mostly because that’s what everybody did. I certainly didn’t want to look like the weirdo. (Note to self: I’m a homeschool mom. I’ll always be weird.) But I wasn’t so sure about the local support groups and co-ops. Did I really need all of that outside influence or help? After all, I was homeschooled, so how hard can it really be?
This train of thought lasted for about the first two years of my homeschooling career. The only reason it lasted that long is because it wasn’t that stressful teaching my six year old how to print his name. But by the time he reached third grade I realized that this was a whole different ballgame. Do you have elementary-aged kids? You get my drift. All of a sudden, I found myself heading into unknown lands of (slightly) higher education.
I realized that my third grader was going to have to learn to give oral reports on history and geography. Somehow, the seriousness of the oral report wasn’t translating when it was given to the mom and the younger brothers. Maybe the verbal heckling from the five year old wasn’t helpful. Anyway, what was I going to do to expose my boys to the benefits of a class environment without the bad things that made me homeschool in the first place?
But even worse than the intensified schooling was the fact that I was getting burned out. Plain and simple. If only you knew how painful it is for me to admit that to you, but it’s the brutal truth. Here I thought I had it all together, seeing as how I was a second-generation homeschooler and all, but I found myself lacking the fire and the motivation to truly teach my boys. I was in need of some serious encouragement.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but those of you who have been there know how hard it is just to get through an average day. You question your very existence and wonder at random moments throughout the day, Why am I doing this again? I felt like the burning coal that has rolled away from the group and was slowly dying out.
So what did I do? I went to the source of encouragement. Okay, Lord. Here I am . . . totally exhausted and needing you to pick me up. Again. Can you give me something, Lord? Just a bit of encouragement? It was a total duh moment. Of course He was giving me encouragement. I’d been just too stubborn to receive it. It had been there all along in the form of support groups, co-ops, mom’s morning out coffee breaks on a Saturday. But in my independent, I got this thinking, I had totally brushed it off. Here He was, providing for my every need, and I thought I was too good. Way to go.
I started actually attending the meetings of my local group, as well as participating in the extra curricular activities that they provided every month. After a while, my boys learned that they aren’t the only homeschooled children in America and that homeschooled kids are actually pretty cool. I met amazing women who, to this day, continue to show me that I do not know everything there is to know and I do not need to blaze this trail by myself any more.
When I think of what I’ve learned this past year, Hebrews 10:24-25 come to mind. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV).
So, I guess the pioneering do-it-yourself days are over. But not really. Because the beauty of homeschooling is that I am able to be a loner who builds my own curriculum to fit each of my kids’ learning styles and needs, while at the same time being a part of the homeschooling community as a whole, both providing and receiving help and tips along the way.
Let’s face it: if Laura Ingalls could have had a community on that prairie to make living in that little house more fun, I think she would have taken it.
Sarah Schofield is a homeschooling mother of three boys. She was homeschooled from fifth grade through high school, and all seven of her younger siblings were homeschooled from start to finish. She is coordinating the homeschool graduation ceremony at the Pasadena Convention Center July 15, 2017.
This article originally appeared in the California Parent Educator magazine.
Find a homeschool group near you in CHEA’s Homeschool Directory.