Matching outfits, polite toddlers, award-winning students, fifteen-passenger vans, and family Web sites.
It is easy to think homeschooling families are "perfect," but what if you want to homeschool and your family isn't perfect? What if you're already homeschooling and there are days when you aren't sure if what you did actually qualifies as "educational hours" under your state's requirements? A typical day includes a trip to the store in the same car you had when you met your husband in college, and you realize just as you enter the store that one of your children isn't wearing shoes, and then your toddler has a meltdown the moment you run into your critical neighbor in the produce aisle. If your family did have a Web site, it would look more like homeschooling with The Three Stooges than Leave It to Beaver.
With the pressures placed on homeschoolers to be perfect and the commitment required to successfully teach a child at home, it's no wonder many families throw in the towel before they have an opportunity to develop their own rhythm or experience the benefits of teaching at home.
Frequently, information for homeschoolers or those considering homeschooling concentrates on perfect families, perfect children, perfect curricula, and even perfect schedules. Or at least they appear perfect. Although this type of material is appealing (who doesn't want to be perfect?), it's impractical for the average household. Even if perfection could be achieved, what's the cost to your sanity?
Magazines tell homeschoolers to relax, yet they consistently have photos of families in handmade matching clothes that the sixteen-year-old daughter designed when she wasn't volunteering at the local hospice center.
Books present one extreme viewpoint or another: If people don't homeschool, it's a sin. Anyone interested in homeschooling for religious reasons is a fanatic. If you simply follow the suggestions in the book, it will fix all your problems.
Moreover, as society places pressure on homeschoolers to be perfect, media reports can perpetuate myths about how homeschooling is harmful for children. They tell stories of homeschooled students who have been locked away from society and are abused. Yet many of these stories are unfounded and involve truancy cases rather than actual homeschoolers. Homeschoolers are also portrayed as ultra-intelligent freaks that have been drilled by obsessive parents living out their academic-achievement fantasies through their children.
At the other end of the spectrum, we see on TV how the Duggars, a homeschooling family with eighteen children (at last count), live an idealistic, debt-free, non-voice-raising, godly child-training life in Arkansas. I have great respect for any family who seems to have it all together, but I would wager that most homeschooling families are taking baby steps toward achieving their goals.
So where does this leave the rest of us?
For the nearly three million homeschoolers in the United States and the millions more worldwide, this leaves the majority of us in the middle of perfectly normal families trying to make sense of the world, find joy in the midst of chaos, and educate our children.
In the following chapters you will discover that there is no perfect homeschooling family, child, curriculum, schedule, or disciplinary method. Hopefully you will not feel judged, chastised, or condemned while reading this book. My husband and I have learned many lessons homeschooling our five children, now ages six to thirteen, and parenting over fifty foster children from newborn through age eighteen. Although some anecdotes may make it seem like we have all the answers, I assure you we do not. We still make mistakes-daily. But I hope our experiences will help you avoid common mistakes and try some approaches you hadn't considered before.
Also included are stories and insights from other "imperfect" homeschoolers. You'll find helpful suggestions and ideas, laugh at the stories of others, and mourn with those who have suffered-all while continuing to develop your own homeschooling philosophies.
The impossible goal of perfection can stress and harm families, but there are things you can do to be perfectly happy with your situation, make changes where possible, and discover a realistic vision of homeschooling for your family. This book is about creating a path of your own amid the maze of home education options and the challenges you'll encounter over the years. For the parents and children who will be influenced by this information, it is my prayer that you will be able to make a difference in the lives of generations to come.
Excerpted from Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins Copyright © 2010 by Sonya Haskins. Excerpted by permission.
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