by Katie Julius
Sometimes when I hear about the “beauty” of homeschooling, it’s in reference to the benefits of private home education. “That’s the beauty of homeschooling…” Whether it is the flexibility of one’s schedule, the freedom to cater education decisions to the needs of each individual child, or the wonderful multi-age relationships kids form with other homeschoolers, there is beauty that can result as children flourish because of the non-traditional educational environment in which they are learning every day.
As wonderful as these benefits of private home education are, this isn’t the beauty of homeschooling that I want to share about. There is a greater beauty that we are beyond blessed to have a front row seat to.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are days that one might look at our homeschooling and not find much beauty in it. Even I struggle to find the beauty some days. Between lack of motivation, learning difficulties, and distractions of working part-time from home, our school days aren’t always pretty. In fact, I sometimes feel like our homeschool days are better described as being filled with “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
However, there was a situation recently that helped me see that, in spite of all the daily struggles, there IS much beauty in home education – and we would miss out on it if our children were away from us during the day.
I’ve shared before that my second grade daughter has struggled with some learning difficulties. While we haven’t pinpointed exactly what those are, I have tried several different approaches to help her learn. Things that require memorization seem to be particularly challenging – from reading to spelling to addition facts. In some instances, we’ve purchased a variety of curriculum and supplemental resources that, unfortunately, haven’t yielded the results we were hoping for.
Since my daughter is getting older and she’s noticing more that she struggles, I have been more fervent in my attempts to help her learn some of the “basics.” I was sharing my frustration and exasperation with all the different things we had tried with a friend recently. Her girls are in high school, so she’s got a few years of experience to learn from. She shared a resource for me that helped one of her daughters learn her multiplication facts.
As she explained that math facts were presented in a story format and shared one of the stories, I felt my brain going crazy! There was so much “extra” stuff in the story. I just needed the numbers and I could easily memorize the facts. But as she finished the story, I thought of my daughter – right-brained, insanely creative and imaginative, and a lover of stories (both hearing and telling them). While it would not have worked at all for me, this may just be the key for her.
I pulled out my phone and searched to see if I could find an addition resource that uses a similar format. I was ecstatic when it showed up in the search results and I ordered it to arrive just a few days later. I could hardly wait for it to show up on my porch so I could try it out.
The day it arrived was a bit busy for us, but I agreed to read a couple of the stories before bedtime (that’s always a win when you’re reading math stories before bed!). We read just two of the nonsensical stories; one about a three-bee, a four-door, and a park on seventh street; the other featuring a five who drives, another three-bee, and the eight-gate at the honey factory. The next morning, as we were eating breakfast, I casually asked her what three plus four equaled. Without even thinking, she said, “three plus four equals seven.”
I was dumbfounded. I asked her to share with me how she knew that. She was able to retell to me almost every detail of the story we had read just once the night before. I was cautiously optimistic as I asked her if she knew what three plus five was. “Three plus five equals eight because the three-bee takes the five who drives to the eight-gate of the honey factory.”
I looked my daughter, the one who has struggled for almost two years to understand and master addition facts, reciting addition facts to me after hearing a story with the most random characters and plot. I praised her for remembering the stories so well and left the room as my eyes welled up with tears and my heart swelled as she beamed with pride.
This story would not be the same if we weren’t homeschooling. I imagine she would have had her spirit trampled as she struggled to keep up with her peers who learn traditional academic subjects differently than her. I imagine her teachers would not have had the time to try three different math curriculums plus three different supplemental resources before finding something that’s so outside the box, but that works so incredibly for her. I KNOW I would have missed that moment when she realized she finally learned something she had been trying so hard to.
For me, this is the beauty of homeschooling. Being present for those “aha” moments. Whether academic, personal, or spiritual, there is so much learning and growth that happens in those 1,100-plus hours per year that most children are attending school. Moments I would have otherwise missed.
Despite the challenges, tears, and frustration that can sometimes bring me down, nothing is more beautiful to me than hearing my daughter proudly share with anyone who will listen about her new math book, the characters that fill its pages, and that three-bee plus four-door equals the seventh-street park.