The best part of this series is meeting interesting, new home educated graduates. Corrie Kangas is one such graduate. She shares a humorous, “real-life” picture of what goes on inside a homeschool family that has nothing to do with halos and spelling trophies.
I always think it’s so funny when people ask me about homeschooling. Take this summer for example. I’m in nursing school, and at some point while I was talking with some classmates during a clinical rotation they found out that I was homeschooled. My classmate looked a little shocked and said, “But you’re so normal.” I giggle a little on the inside whenever people say that, mostly because homeschooling seems 100% normal to me.
I grew up as the oldest of eight children. I have four brothers, three sisters, and two sisters-in-law. (You will hear from my sister, Susannah, in November. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) My story is not one of perfection. With eight children in the family it’s safe to say my entire experience homeschooling revolved around my mom being pregnant, sick, and tired or nursing and tired. I say this to her credit because she persevered through it. Second, my homeschool experience was not all about academics. It involved a lot of diaper changing, babysitting, menu planning, and meal preparation.
I was not a model student. In fact, I remember writing a note of apology to my mom one day in 1st or 2nd grade after a particularly miserable spelling test. It went something along the lines of, “Dear mom, I’m sorry I’m such a flunk.” And, I misspelled the word “flunk.” During my 6th grade year, during one of those brand new baby and toddler times, when I was supposed to be correcting my own math, I cheated and copied the answers instead of actually doing the work. This went on for several weeks. So, I was far from the model, or even sometimes a good student. (But I was so much better than my brothers, it didn’t really matter!)
By the time I got to high school, I was a pretty motivated student, and managed to finish the coursework in three years. I spent the fourth year of high school working, writing papers on subjects that interested me, and trying to figure out what to do when I grew up. This is one of the unique aspects of home education, it can be tailored to fit the needs or interests of the student. This was certainly the case for me.
The one aspect of homeschooling that was consistent throughout the years was my parent’s commitment to teaching us to love Jesus. One of the main ways they did this was through scripture memory—lots and lots of scripture memory. I was not always the biggest fan of this little exercise, but my family is very competitive, and I was pretty good at memorization, so that made it better. However, many years later, I am extremely grateful to my parents for that decision. The Bible promises that “God’s word will not return void. It will accomplish the purposes for which it was sent.” (Isaiah 55:11) There have been numerous times when a verse I learned has popped in my head at just the right moment and has impacted someone’s life.
In fact, one morning, instead of our typical unit study, my mom said we were going to listen to a sermon on passive rebellion in children. (Evidently, she had a not-so-subtle message she was trying to get across!) So, for 45 minutes or an hour, we sat in the living room and listened to that tape. During that message, the conviction of the Holy Spirit fell on my heart. At the end of the sermon, as my mom and I were getting lunch ready, I asked her how I could be sure that I was a Christian. That day, my mom saw the first fruits of her personal revival as I joined the family of God.
There were other benefits of homeschooling like building sibling relationships. This was not always my favorite thing. As the oldest, I was apparently “bossy” and my younger brother was not a fan of this so-called “bossiness.” (I use the quotes because I was not really “bossy.” If he would have been more cooperative, I would not have had to micro-manage his life for him.) Regardless, there was a lot of tension in our relationship growing up. This drove my parents a little crazy. At one point, my brother and I were assigned to clean up dinner dishes together for a week. Every time we argued during that week, we would have to clean up the dishes for an additional week. After inflicting this punishment my dad looks at my sister, Susannah, and says, “So, do you think you will ever have to clean up dishes again?” (It was at that point I decided that my life calling was probably doing the dishes.) My parents had a bunch of other really creative ideas for helping us get along, but I’ll spare the children of the parents reading this their ideas.
Somewhere in the midst of my parents creative relationship builders (discipline), my brother and I became friends. As an adult, I am grateful for this. I love my siblings, appreciate their input in my life, and consider them among my closest friends.
The interesting thing about homeschooling is how it takes imperfect parents and imperfect kids, puts them together in a difficult situation, and demands above average results. Not only are you, as parents, raising your children, you are trying to make them productive, well-educated members of society. That’s a lot of pressure.
Only having a student’s perspective, I can’t understand the full breadth and weight of the responsibility that you carry, but I do know that it’s hard. (And, that’s probably one of the biggest understatements I can make!) I was homeschooled for my whole life, so I know that there are terrible days in homeschooling. I know there are days when the mom and kids both cry, or scream, or yell at each other—or all 3 in some cases! I know there are days when moms have the kids call schools to get enrollment information or tuition information because you’ve had enough, but still you stay the course.
After I graduated from high school, I took the scenic route through college, working in politics as I took classes. I got my first degree at the age of 27. After spending ten years in government and working on various campaigns, I moved on. I am currently in nursing school and will graduate in May. (I actually blog about my experiences at http://adventuresinstudentnursing.blogspot.com. Who knew a ridiculous number of high school writing assignments would lead to me writing regularly. My mom might be a little bit of an evil genius.)
Our reader, Traci, asks:
Will you homeschool your own children one day?
When I first graduated from high school, there was no way I was EVER going to homeschool my children—not because I didn’t believe in homeschooling, but because it was just too much work. Having gotten a little distance, some perspective, and hopefully some wisdom, I think that I would homeschool my own children someday, for a couple of years at least. After all, it’s normal to me.