This week on a forum I read, this question was posted, “What have you personally given up in order to be able to homeschool, and how do you reconcile that with yourself, if at all?”
Here’s my response:
Asking what we missed out on is like asking a brand new car driver if they miss driving their unreliable old clunker of a jalopy. Definitely not! Sure we’ll miss the familiarity of the jalopy. This new car makes us nervous at times and hardly any of our friends drive one. We might even lose a few of our old friends because they just can’t go the places we go, in their old jalopies. Ah but we’ll meet some really nice new car drivers and enjoy their company on our journey. We’ll be so busy on our journey and maintaining our new car that we’ll have hardly any time to go to work at our old jobs – jobs we really only needed to keep the old jalopy running and looking good on the outside to impress our old jalopy friends. Our new car costs hardly anything to run and our new friends don’t care so much about our outsides so we find that we stop caring too and just enjoy the ride and the company of our dear little passengers. Yeah we do spend a lot of time riding along in our car. It takes up much of our day so our houses are a little messy and projects tend to lie around unfinished but life’s too short to fret about such things when we have places to go and things to learn.
Thankfully I never ‘drove a jalopy’. When my passengers needed ‘a ride’ we went with the ‘new car’ from the beginning (hubby and I worked into the ‘jalopy dealership’ and we knew they were shonky) so I didn’t give up anything to make the change…well nothing that I hadn’t already given up by stopping work to raise my babies once they were born. There was certainly an adjustment period then – less money, less connection with working friends, less ‘me’ time, and a totally different life experience to get used to. But choosing ‘less’ of these things didn’t leave me feeling deprived when I had swapped them for – more time nurturing my family, more purpose and fulfillment in life, and more time to enjoy life and relationships. I gained much more than I chose to relinquish. I think of it like choosing between eating a chocolate bar or a healthy balanced meal. One is really nice on the lips for a short time but nasty on the hips and may just kill you in time. The other isn’t as thrilling, until we acquire a taste for it, but it ensures a healthier life for a much longer time. It’s a no brainer really. We’re giving up an empty dog-eat-dog life and gaining a better orientated more healthier life. I gave up nothing worthwhile.
My youngest (8) asked me the other day, “Why do people swap their kids for money?”. I didn’t understand what he meant at first. He clarified it by explaining that they send their kids away to child care and school so they can get money to buy stuff. Out of the mouths of babes. That’s how he sees the world he’s looking out at. My little men are worth more than a bigger house, an annual holiday and other material do-dads. I have no intentions of swapping my children for such things, nor for more ‘me’ time, more time to clean the house, more time to learn a hobby, more professional success, more of anything. But that’s just me. 99% of society will disagree. I’m okay with that.
Later, in response to the concern that we were not speaking to the initial question, I added:
I was thinking more on the “missed out on” and “gave up on” twist and for me I think it boils down to how I emotionally perceive what was left behind. I freely gave up my old life for my life as a mother and later a homeschool mother. Homeschooling was initially my idea and we’d always been unanimous about staying home with our babies so I was counting down the days. Hehehe. Perhaps I’d feel that I had “missed out on” various things if I hadn’t wholeheartedly given them up in the first place. If I had initially chosen school for my children, and homeschooling was my Plan B, then I suspect that there might be some “missed out on” feelings.
Besides, the things we gave up (or missed out on) in one world can be found in the other. I find that I have a deeper connection with my homeschooling friends than I had with my colleagues. At work we rarely left the surface level of communication, sadly spending a lot of time on gossip and slander, and virtually never moving to important topics like faith, family, and education (I taught in a private Christian school and still these things were hardly ever discussed…unless you count sharing the latest naughty thing that their child did). I think time, stress and true connection played a big part in our lack of real communication. In the homeschool world I choose the people I spend time with, and while our children happily play, we sit, relax and openly (and often deeply) share our lives. We have the time to enjoy a whole afternoon together. The pace is different, the people seem happier and we aren’t so closely bundled together that we feel threatened and desire to cut others down in gossip. I find friendships and conversations in this world are so much more rewarding.
Money is usually the biggest worry for people when leaving the world to homeschool but we haven’t found it to be a major issue. (Admittedly we still have a teaching income to live off which isn’t the case for everyone.) We spend less money now than we did when I was at work. We are definitely much better stewards of our resources, which I think is a valuable lesson for us to have learned (one we probably wouldn’t have learned on two incomes) and I’m glad my boys are learning it through us. But even on one income I don’t feel deprived of anything. Sure our cars are old but we still have two of them and they are our jalopies and not the banks. We look after them and in return they try not to break down too often. When they do, it’s an important lesson in life – things break, fix them, don’t buy a new one…unless the old one really is dead. I’m glad my boys are growing up in a world where things aren’t easily disposable.
I think I wear different world view glasses now, than our ‘other world’ friends. They ‘need’ an expensive holiday somewhere exotic each year and work awfully hard to get. We want to stay home and enjoy the company of our family on our holidays and only occasionally take trips to special places. They pity us, thinking that we’d take an expensive holiday every year if we could. But I honestly don’t have the same desires that they do. We can think of a million things we enjoy doing right here at home and they cost hardly anything in comparison. We don’t need to go looking for something more. We already have all the more we could want and we can see it.
Our ‘needs’ are definitely different in this world and we don’t have any Jones to keep up with, so our needs are our own and that makes life an awful lot cheaper, slower and more about the important things.
As for looking after ourselves, well I think it’s a fallacy that we have to look after our “me”s first before we can look after others. That kind of thinking comes from selfishness. I believe it’s when we give to others that we are enriched. People will argue that if we don’t look after ourselves then no one else will. But I argue that if we don’t look after others first then no one else will have an example for how to look after you, and everyone will crumble into selfishly looking after their “me”s. What a lonely world that would be. Just watch the news for a small taste of that world. Our “me”s need to serve and give. In serving we are filled to the brim and then others will overflow our “me”s when they in turn learn how to serve. If we find ourselves looking for “me” time then something is usually amiss somewhere.
Does that mean that I spend all day cleaning, feeding, educating and serving others? No. Here I am enjoying some computer time. Last night I stayed up late reading. Yesterday afternoon I was browsing the bookstores. It’s interesting. Once my family is loved, clean and fed, my house in order, my commitments fulfilled, then people and things aren’t desperately demanding my time. Their needs are met and suddenly a window opens up that I can use for my interests and passions. These little windows of time are plenty, if our “me”s are kept in check and aren’t used to selfish chunks of indulgences. If we take care of our “me”s first and then pile everyone and everything on top afterwards, we’ll be like an upside down pyramid. No wonder we feel squashed and lifeless. But if we put other things first and climb up to the apex of our pyramid-like day, that little bit of time leftover for our pursuits will put us on top of the world and keep our families and days from toppling over.
Our experiences always depend on how we look at things.
So what do you think? Have you “missed out” or “given up” anything to homeschool?