After our friend, Mike, served multiple military tours overseas and was back in civilian life, he explained to me that one is never an ex-Marine. You may not be on active service, but you are still a Marine. I hope he and his comrades won’t find this offensive, but I feel somewhat the same way about being a homeschooling mom.
Although I have no children left in my homeschool, a large part of my identity was forged by those years, and I have no desire to leave it behind. One of the most important lessons I learned, and I hope that my children did as well, is that learning is not confined to a particular time or place. Learning takes place as long as one is alive and isn’t necessarily related to sitting for a certain number of hours in a specific location during designated months. You certainly can learn in a classroom setting; you just as certainly can accomplish no more than logging wasted time. Worse, you can be indoctrinated with the idea that once school is over, so is learning.
God created us with a natural desire to learn and to communicate with others. It is enchanting to watch a baby manipulate an object until he understands its properties. As he bangs it, chews on it, and throws it, he is learning to discern textures, shapes and size. A toddler’s frustration as he yearns to get an idea across before he actually has the language skills to do so may result in furious tears and make him difficult to handle, but it is a sign of growth.
Over the years that wonder diminishes. There is a natural attrition as we become competent enough to navigate through life and less curious about what there still is to explore. Too often our love of learning is actively squelched, often sadly by the very institutions that are officially dedicated to advancing it. Homeschooling parents aren’t immune from this malady either. Well-intentioned parents and teachers all need to actively work to nurture the joy that can be found in hard work and intellectual inquiry.
For me, one great benefit of being a homeschooling mom was an opportunity to expand my own knowledge. There were subjects that I did not enjoy when I was in school, like ninth grade algebra, that I not only began to understand but actually began to have fun with when I covered it for the second, third and fourth time as a homeschooling mom. I had the opportunity to spend Wednesday mornings for an eight week period sitting in on a series of fascinating World War I history classes at our local library.
I no longer have time for activities like that. Since I am no longer technically homeschooling it is hard to justify spending hours reading biographies or trying some really fun kitchen science experiments as a valid part of working hours.
My children may not (yet) enjoy algebra, might confuse Woodrow Wilson with country singer Gretchen Wilson and most likely don’t remember what all the abbreviations on the periodic table stand for. The one thing that I do hope they acquired and internalized is a love of learning and the realization that it can and should be pursued at all times and through limitless paths. I believe that my children benefited from our homeschooling adventure. I, for one, miss it.