The Truth Behind Homeschooling

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I am probably not your typical homeschooler. When I first began 18 years ago I was way more structured and rigid. I even got my daughter a little school desk for her to sit in. (And apparently, according to my husband, I made her call me Mrs. Walden. Neither she nor I remember that, thank goodness!) The desk lasted all of about two days. Her little brother was about 20 months old at the time and into everything. Staying in one spot for any length of time was a chore.

In my first couple of years I bought some sort of curriculum with a guide I could check off as done each day. I was not happy when I didn’t get to check something off. Security meant following someone else’s ideas of school because, surely, they must know more than me. They had  to know just the right books to read, the correct phonics program to use and the best math flash cards to buy because I had no clue what I was doing.

Back when we started in 1994 I didn’t know anything about learning styles, character development, curriculum choices or support systems. I just knew I wanted to spend time  with my kids and teach them to read and write and do math. I wanted them to love learning as much as I did and be excited about books and games and family time. I wanted to show them God and raise them up to be godly men and women. All I knew was I wanted to have “good” teenagers and not dread those years. The only way I knew how to do that was through the time we spent living life together.

I had no idea when I started homeschooling that we would adopt three more children in 2000 who would eventually blow everything I believed about homeschooling methods out the window! I didn’t know my bio kids were neuro-typical and fairly easy to homeschool. Nothing like the emotional, mental and physical needs of my adopted kiddos. I was in for a roller coaster ride!

I do believe that the foundation that was laid in those first few years of homeschooling sustained me in the years of turmoil, frustrations and fears.  Staying home to teach my kids allowed us to blend into a new family, warts and all. Struggles and battles lay ahead but we have persevered on our homeschooling journey through it all.

Homeschooling special needs children, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, is both a joy and a challenge. We are entering year 19 of homeschooling and in many ways I feel like a dinosaur. However, I don’t have all the answers or pretend to know it all. Each year is different, filled with life circumstances and struggles unique to that time. I cling to those same desires from my early years. I want my children to desire God, love learning and live life to the fullest, equipped with a foundation of knowledge and relationships that will endure. 

With all that said, I am probably not a typical homeschooler. I no longer plan out every day, week and month. I actually don’t really “plan” at all in the sense that I don’t have a daily goal that has to be met. I can’t live with the feeling that I didn’t accomplish enough or get enough done. I had to experience the death of perfection to realize God wants me to teach my children how to live, not just do worksheets or sit at a table and check off a list.

In the very difficult years of raising children of trauma, taking care of my elderly parents and homeschooling through it all, the transparent truth was there were many days that my only “goal” for the day was to get dinner on the table. That was it. If I cooked a homemade meal for us all to share together I had done enough for that day. Does that mean school didn’t happen? No. Does that mean the day might have involved visiting my parents, doing their laundry, paying their bills, managing 60 years of their possessions together and talking to numerous doctors? Yes. It may have also involved hours of therapy dealing with past and present wounds and emotional traumas and abuse for my adopted children. Did I also take children to jobs and piano lessons and church activities? Yes. Did we do math? Yes. Did we read together? Always. Did we do devotions? Absolutely. Was every day the same? Never. Did I do every single one of these things every day? No.

So what does this look like in our lives? How do I figure out if my children are doing “enough?” For each year I have an over arching goal/desire for my kids. When I had all five at home I was more organized and precise and detailed because it made me feel better to write down what we had done. It didn’t make me a better teacher or make them learn more. It just made me feel more secure. Oh, the things God continues to teach me! He wants me to rely on Him, live one day at a time and not waste today worrying about tomorrow.

This year I’ve decided the hill I’m ready to die on (the over arching “goal”) is communications. Now that sounds like a fancy college type class, but to me it is the ability to both speak and write clearly. My youngest two are in 8th grade, and I have felt the pressure to be more consistent and disciplined, and dare I say it, firm? Homeschooling children with attachment disorder presents unique challenges, but my kids have made such strides in healing that I feel it’s time to push them in areas of academics that will prepare them for life. My two struggle with expressing their thoughts  in spoken language. This is an area where we obviously have plenty of opportunities to practice. We are also working on body language and social cues, learning how to be unique without acting out for negative attention, increasing vocabulary and using correct grammar. I am also emphasizing their written language skills, implementing the same grammar and language tools through their writing. My daughter can write for pages with nary a paragraph in sight. My son writes much younger than his age because he doesn’t want to misspell a word and have to look it up. He wants it perfect the first time so he doesn’t have to do it again. They are practicing their writing skills through snail mail and assignments that help with organization and thought processing. It is very often a struggle but we will push through.

The benefit of years of homeschooling? Seeing the results in the lives of my adult children. Rachel is happily married, working full time and living with her husband in their first purchased home. Joshua is starting his second year at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary majoring in Christian studies with an emphasis on music. He has done well academically as well as personally, spiritually and emotionally. Both my kids are well adjusted, smart, funny and fun to be around. I thank God for them each day and am grateful to have no regrets for having invested so many years in their lives. I talk to both of them almost every day, through calls, texting, email or facebook. Our family get togethers are tightly held, joyfully celebrated traditions that are unique to us.

The truth behind homeschooling? Each day is an opportunity to model love and faith in front of our children, showing and receiving grace from each other. Academics matter but they are not everything. Academics are merely the tool we have chosen to teach and help our children practice real life.

Would you like to know more about a day in the life of a homeschooler?

How about the lessons learned in a corn maze?

Do you know how to create your own unit study?

Join us as put real life homeschooling and coupon math to the test.   

Linking with: Intentional Me, Living Life Intentionally, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, The Better Mom, Finding Beauty, A Mama’s Story, The Modest Mom Blog, Hip Homeschool Moms, Far Above Rubies, Thankful Homemaker, Homemaker by Choice, 3 boys and a Dog, True Aim 

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  1. My daughter home schools, & I do worry that her sweet daughters are not getting the curriculum they will need for college. They are both athletic, & there is so much more they could have access to if they were in public school. I hold my tongue, because it really isn’t any of my business; but I do still worry….lol.

  2. Thank you so much for leaving your comment. I completely understand the worry. When my son got ready for college I worried if he would get in. Then I worried about how he’d do academically. It turned out he did great ! Both my older kids tell me that they are grateful they learned how to LEARN. To find their own interests and gifts. To be given opportunities to explore and fail and keep discovering.

    Good for you for holding your tongue. As a mom to adult kids I sure know that’s hard at times! Public school does have some things to offer, but there are also many things they are exposed to and experience that our kids haven’t missed. Humiliation, bullying, extreme peer pressure, dating pressures. I’m glad mine missed those. There’s enough of it in the rest of the world.

    Homeschooled children do tend to do better adjusting in college than other students because they have been encouraged to learn independently and take responsibility for much of their own education. My daughter didn’t go to college, saved that expense, and has a good job and her first home. My son is in college following God’s will for his life. Trust your daughter and support her any way you can, maybe even helping with the athletics? She will value your presence in their lives. God bless!

  3. Thanks so much, Marty, for your kind words of encouragement. It does make me feel better hearing from someone who has had your many years of experience.

  4. Beautiful family and post. I admire moms who homeschool very much 🙂

  5. Love your blog and this post is inspiring. If you have time, i’d love for you to link this up and any other homeschooling mommy resources on my weekly hop, Mommy Solutions. We are new to homeschooling and I can’t wait to learn more from blogs like yours.


    • I did link up to your blog and look forward to getting to know you each week as I link away! Homeschooling is amazing and exhausting and worthwhile, often within the same day!

  6. What a beautiful family you have! We’re gearing up to start our 9th year of homeschooling. It’s had its ups-and-downs the last couple of year (because Mom…ME!…veered away from what naturally fits for us learning wise and copied a friend), but every year is a chance to start fresh!

    • You’re right. Every year is a fresh start. And it’s almost guaranteed what worked last year will not work as well this year. Or life intervenes with difficult circumstances. Homeschooling is about life so congrats to you for staying with it!

  7. you are so inspiring!

    Have a lovely day! Stop by and say hello! 🙂

  8. I loved this post. I do not homeschool…I kind of want to, but not sure I am the right person to be doing that. In your case it sounds like you have made amazing decisions that are “perfect” for your children and their personalities and circumstances.

    • Thank you, Holly. There is no perfect school, homeschool or otherewise. For me, it’s just about continuing to learn and grow each year. You love your children the most and that makes you the “perfect” teacher regardless of how scary it is. Or you can be the best facilitator and champion at home. Moms are so important!

  9. This was exactly what I needed. We are getting ready to start our 2nd official year of homeschooling and I have been feeling overwhelmed! I have bought way too much curriculum and need to step back and pray about how to proceed. I love the way you explained it in your post. Thank you again!

    • I often get overwhelmed and worried and scared and I just step back and gain perspective over the long haul. Curriculum should facilitate learning, not control it. I’m sure you’re doing great!

  10. This was good to read! We’re in our 15th year of homeschooling. We live in South Africa, where things are not the same as in the USA. (I think that’s where you are??) Many people have put their children back into school here due to various issues, and sometimes I’m left feeling like, ‘So why am I still carrying on?’ Sometimes I feel like my children don’t realise the benefits of what they’ve had – I hope one day they’ll be able to see.
    I also don’t have a clear daily plan or schedule – I kind of just roll with the day. I’m not always sure it’s a good thing, but we’re still progressing and that’s the most important 🙂

    • You are a veteran as well, I see! For me, the longer I homeschool the more I see the need for less rigid structure, in a sense. Days are still full, but the time we have with our kids is limited so we need to make the most of it in all areas. Thanks for visiting!

  11. Wonderful post, just today I felt like just putting the books away and just have family time, but due to us missing 3 days of schooling last week because of a family emergency which turned in to a funeral I just couldn’t bring myself to saying, “Put the books Away.” I really should have. Thanks for the reminders that you have placed in my mind again. The main one being, “Slow & Steady, as long as we are progressing then we are schooling.” Thanks so much.

    • I am so glad you read this and it encouraged you! It is such a struggle, isn’t it, to remember that the academics aren’t everything. I am there each and every day and it’s just a process of meeting needs and doing the best you can. Thanks so much for encouraging ME, today!

  12. Mary,
    I began homeschooling the year you did, 1994, and graduated my last after 17 years. I recently wrote a post called “The Hardest Thing I Ever Did,” and concluded with, “. . . and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” Obviously we concur. With two young adult daughters doing well, I am humbly grateful that God enabled us to homeschool. No regrets. Visiting today from Be Not Weary and glad I did.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, it was very helpful! I’m starting my first year of homeschooling to a 13yr old and 9yr old, so I’m beyond nervous! It was something God lead me to, I think he was trying to before…but I wasn’t listening very well, luckily he didn’t give up on me 🙂 I have been reading and reading and reading to prepare… One thing I’ve learned from all the reading is exactly what you said; it doesn’t have to be so structured & serious all the time. I’m excited to have a closer relationship with my girls and see them blossom as the people God intended them to be. Thanks again for your post!

  14. What a great post! I love learning from veteran homeschoolers. There is an obvious pattern from veterans…from rigid to fluid…the recommendation is almost always to relax and enjoy the process.

    My hardest thing is to let go of the preconceptions of others. I’ve only been doing this for a few years, but I have learned to embrace the beauty of schooling at home. My kids learn so much better when they are left to their own devices in a peaceful environment.

    Always needing to have the books open and “schooling” just transplants a public school mentality into your home. Instead, being open to what each day brings is part of the beauty.

    For example, in February, my husband was being sent for 6 weeks of training out of state. Instead of saying goodbye to him, we packed everyone up (with 2 days notice) and headed out for 3,500 mile drive from Alaska to Oklahoma. The kids are flexible and fun loving, able to enjoy just the little things…knowing that the most important thing is that we’re together as a family. We took their Math and they did lots of reading. The experiences they got to have on that trip cannot be replicated in a book.

  15. Wow. 19 years of homeschooling. That is amazing! I’m considering embarking on this journey, but we haven’t quite decided yet! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  16. New to your blog and I really love this post!

  17. Dia por Dia says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is timely as I confront that my two oldest are now “middle schoolers” and I am not sure they would have been exposed to all the content expected of them if I decided to enroll them in “regular” school. We have homeschooled for 3 years and sometimes I don’t feel like I am doing everything I should with they schooling. We gave up daily schedules and goals a long time ago and I think things have gone better since then. My kids (technically both 7th graders) are content “geeks” especially in science and social studies so we do everything through those subjects but mostly we work on writing and communicating. They each do several different kinds of writing each day as a way to help them communicate, organize their thoughts and ideas coherently, and for one of them “write/speak” a clear sentence or idea. Somedays it doesn’t seem like I do much or I do a whole lot of the same thing but when I think about it, they are gaining a life skill for whatever they choose next. Do we “cover” all the “required” content? No. But when they hook into a concept or topic they are interested in, they can dig in and stick with it during school hours and beyond, which I think ultimately makes them better learners.

  18. I especially enjoyed the first paragraph, just genning her calling you Mrs. Walden. 🙂

  19. I just got some REAL CLARITY from your post. Thank you Marty for sharing this. This is our second year of homeschooling and I’ve scrambled around on the internet collecting what free curriculum I could find. I believe I have fried my own brain in search of what getting the right information that my girls need to learn. This is a big help for me and since our new school year started yesterday, your post couldn’t have come at a better time…except maybe a year earlier…lol.

    • I’m so glad my post ministered to you. When I first started I knew no homeschoolers in my area and had no support groups. I determined long ago I would try and encourage others and “keep it real.” It’s a way of life, not just a way of education. Have a blessed day!

  20. I am so glad I found your post. You have made me feel more sane that I have since I started home schooling 3 years ago. I am homeschooling 12 year old identical triplet boys. It has been a challenge only because I was so frustrated that they were so far behind and gilt ridden because I did not catch it earlier. Not that it was an excuse but the 2 year stretch before , I was caring for my Dad who passed away and had a very bad accident and had 6 surgeries to put me ” back together” so to speak. The boys are very close to being caught up, math being the worst, but we all have our spots we must work harder on. I too held firm to schedules and to do lists that many times were impossible to get thru. The past year has gone so much smoother because I allowed for change in my own goal for perfection and got more out of every day for it. May sound funny but very true. Thank you for your post and may God Bless you and your family, I know he has blessed mine.

    • Your comment is one of the main reasons I blog, to help and encourage other moms, whether it be regarding children or homeschooling or adoption. I’m afraid as homeschoolers we hold ourselves to a standard we will most certainly fail at, when God just asks us to love our children and teach them about Him. Thank YOU for encouraging me as well.

  21. wow!! learnt a lot from your post.. I am also venturing into homeschooling since 2010 and as we go along a lot of new things to learn and it is just beautiful how dynamic it is..

    • Congrats on beginning homeschooling and continuing it! I’m glad my post encouraged you as you decide what is most important in your homeschool. Blessings to you!

  22. So glad I came across your website from the Leaving a Legacy Linkup! We’re in our 4th year of homeschooling, grades 6 and 4 now. It’s hard to convey the thought of having an “academic focus” (your overriding goal) for the year, as opposed to daily goals. We are hit and miss on every. single. subject … although we DO hit them all eventually. But I have a certain concept or skill or focus that we work on each year (the kids don’t actually know this). The first year was just trying to figure out HOW to homeschool. I worked hard at keeping myself from panicking in that respect. I just rolled with it and focused on building the relationships and reading out loud … a LOT! The second year, we were still figuring it out, but I had to show myself a lot of grace. My dad was dying of cancer and I had two older children going through and graduating public high school and going off to college … I kept telling myself that the relationships were the most important thing that year, and the academics could be learned ANY year! Then, last year, the focus was on developing much better reading skills. We were hit and miss with the other subjects (they LOVE history, so they’ve gotten a lot of that, and I’ve always made sure they were learning their math facts during those early grades). This year, as they’re getting older and we’ve gotten a better idea of what “school” is *for us,* we are focusing on increasing their knowledge of arithmetic processes and building their reading and spelling skills. Your post has left me feeling reassured that they won’t be “behind” if we still don’t get around to doing much writing this year. They are great communicators, verbally. We just don’t write. (Well, they don’t. I’m a writer … so I guess I don’t fit into that “we!”) You have a lovely site and I will continue to check in! For His glory, Jane

  23. Very inspiring post. When I read about what you were going through while you were trying to homeschool, I feel more confident and excited. Your children seem amazing and I am very impressed with how you are raising your other children. I hadn’t heard about RAD before I talked to a friend whose Mom did foster care for a long time. I would like to adopt some day so it is something that I appreciate other parents talking about. Thanks for sharing at Moms Library!

    • Thank you, Tulip, for the encouraging words. I’m glad you’ve heard about RAD. Those of us who have struggled with our kids with attachment disorder try to educate folks thinking about adopting. The more you know the better prepared you are to endure because it is a battle for our children’s hearts. Love your website by the way!

  24. Thank you, Lord, that I came across this while looking at your entry on Between Naps on the Porch. You and all of the comments above have blessed me. I am also homeschooling my 9 and 10 year old boys, third year. After reading all of the comments, which I am going to re-read as many times as necessary to get it through my head, I figured out it’s okay-it’s all okay! Okay that I don’t sit my kids at a desk to do their work. That there are days it’s more important to help someone in need instead of math. That it will be okay even though I feel immense guilt about “am I making sure” they are “learning what they are supposed to” and not teaching them all of the stuff public schools teach that I realize I HAVE NEVER USED! (Lord help me if I ever go on a game show!) I can’t help but wonder what I would of been like as a honeschooled child. I LOVED public school until high school. But socially, I was very backward and did’t develop a sense of self, which, I believe, comes from living life, forgiving and helping others, showing Christ in my walk, words, thoughts, actions, feelings and the way I treat people. Am I worried if they can’t get ALL of their math problems right? (Do I? Or do I use a calculator?) Have I trained them to use one? If I recall right, Einstein even mentioned not wasting time on memorizing things if he knew where to find the answers when, and if, he ever needed them.
    I believe there comes a time in every person’s life where they can choose to erase anything and everything from the past and make and create a totally new person, custom made by the individual. Education is learning….it’s a lifetime process and we don’t have a time limit, unless self imposed, on what, when, how etc.
    Thanks for the encouragement. Everything IS going to be okay…..thanks for listening….

    • Hi, Karen. I’m so glad you stopped by Marty’s Musings to read one of my homeschooling posts. Homeschooling is indeed unique to each family and challenges us as the adults just as much as the kids! I’m sure you’re a wonderful mom who wants the best for your kids. You read and research and keep trying every day, and I’m so glad something I said encourages you to continue on the path God has started.

  25. Mary Thank you for this wonderful post. I am a single Mom with one child at home in 7th grade. When I went back to work my children did not want to go to public school (they had been there). Recently I have been struggling with the question am I doing the right thing with my son. After reading this post the commitment we made as a family many years ago is renewed. We did have a goal, and I do see the training working in my oldest ones life. Thank you for the reminder why I started homeshooling and the reason I keep homeschooling.

    • Sorry spelled your name wrong Marty

    • Hi, Nanette. Thank you so much for commenting on my post about my philosophy of homeschooling. I’m so glad it reminded you of the reasons you began homeschooling. It is so hard, day in and day out, not to lose sight of why we’re living this crazy lifestyle! But I know it works because I’ve seen it in the lives of my two older children. God bless you as you continue!
      [email protected]’s Musings

  26. Thank you for this. I needed to hear all of it. I’ve been homeschooling for 13 yrs now, have graduated my oldest (who is now married) and am into my first year of homeschooling my newly adopted RAD son. I want to give up, throw in the towel and put EVERYBODY in school (I’ve got 5 kids at home still, I did send my kindergartner to school this year, who also has RAD). I’m just done. My son just revealed to me he’s been faking his lack of knowledge for the pas 4 months, pretending to not know things. I am angry and just.done. So thank you for this post. It comes at the perfect time, of course b/c our God is great! You’ve given me hope and that’s something that doesn’t come easy anymore.

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