I am glad I didn't buy the goat!
Had I listened only to popular trends twenty-one years ago when I began homeschooling there'd be a goat in the back yard (or maybe several) and an AA in my son's back pocket when he graduated from home.
Neither would have been helpful to our family, and particularly for our son.
There's wisdom in learning from the experiences of those who have walked the path. I've learned from many. However, sometimes the experiences of others are not the best provisions or plans for us. Had I not taken the time to really ponder (insert prayerfully consider over a period of time) the goat purchase would have relegated my family to something short of best for them.
Families are unique, as unique as the number and ages of siblings, as unique as the colorful array of personalities. Our growing family? No different; though some days I longed for it to be the same as another family, somewhere. It would have been easier to just do what they did.
Those first years of homeschooling taught me that if I wanted to be successful (whatever that was in any given year) I was going to have to do my homework, and love the family in front of me, not the family next door or the next state over. I needed to learn, but I also needed to find the goodness in what I had. I tried to
- Connect with my husband and my children, daily. When this started slipping, others things slipped, too.
- Attend local homeschool support group meetings--especially the panel format meetings where several moms shared their journeys--but prayerfully sift out the gold nuggets our family needed, not just take home what sounded good or ideal.
- Made time for the state homeschool convention. It was big! My first several years, I took in small bites at a time as not to overwhelm my brain with could haves, should haves, if onlys.
- Subscribe to a magazine for encouragement and continuing education. From this resource (I like resources I can highlight and dog ear) I got ideas and perspectives from a wider and broader community of homeschooling families. I wasn't taking surveys, but I did want to get ideas of what worked for others. I could tweak for our learners.
- Read widely--again for continuing education and personal renewal--but reminded myself that anyone, even those not fully versed in the subject, could write an article or blog post. I learned this early on when I began regularly reading a column specific to homeschooling high school, only to discover the author was high schooling her oldest at the time she wrote the articles. Yes, she had wonderful insight and ideas, but I realized I wanted perspective from someone who could offer "been there done that" or "I would have done this differently" or "this worked for one, but not the other".
I didn't do all of the above my first year! YOU don't have to, either.
As I reflect on our homeschooling years, more than two decades and several graduates later, I realize though I have experienced a wealth of opportunities and milestones, and gained nuggets of wisdom, I am still learning. There are still learners in my home--more learners, more unique perspectives and needs--ripe with potential.
And, I do know this, looking back, pondering...
- My son didn't need the goat. He didn't need the AA, either. He needed a mom who would allow him to study Chemistry for hours at a time, practice math problems over and over, and read books from a variety of interests all afternoon, if he wanted. This is what prepared him for college coursework: long stretches of study on the same subject.
- My other son didn't need the goat, either (but dual enrollment and an AA was helpful). He needed a mom who would put aside pride (fear of what other homeschooling parents would think) and allow him to join Boy Scouts. His time in scouting offered opportunities to learn experientially from wildlife commissioners, ornithologists, biologists, contractors, and business professionals. Interacting with people of all ages and a variety of backgrounds prepared him for his career as a physical therapist. And, he gained valuable leadership skills as he climbed to Eagle.
- My oldest daughter needed choices. Choices for how to learn. Choices in curriculum. Choices in course content. And, she didn't choose goat.
I know other families chose goat, and it served them well. In some cases, very well. Ah, the beauty of home education and unique paths. Your child might need a goat. Then again, he or she may not.
Glean from the experience of others, but don't be afraid to ponder and give second thought.
YOU have the wonderful opportunity to make choices for your family--goat (or other fascinating experience), the gift of time, undivided attention, personal tutoring, or a hand to hold along the way. The list is infinite because the needs of every family--and every member in that family--are different, not like any other family.
Embrace the difference, the uniqueness. Time passes quickly.
(I am just so glad our homeschooling hasn't--at least so far--involved goats!)