My oldest is a senior this year. His journey through homeschooling is almost over, but mine will be going strong for another seven years as my youngest is 9. Despite the lack of picture perfect kitchens and quietly quintessential days, I am perfectly happy with what we have done together. I am content and happy that this journey will continue for another decade.
And I think it is time for an ‘older’ mom to share all the things she DOESN’T regret. Because regret can only get you so far in life. Warning you about mistakes is more likely to make you start wondering what you are doing wrong, than to bring you comfort and inspiration.
It’s true, I have made mistakes. But you know what? They don’t matter much. Mistakes are not what shaped my homeschool or formed the souls of my children. I sweep my mistakes out of the house of my life, just like they are crumbs on my kitchen floor. I will try not to spill so many crumbs next time, but I also know that the floor will always need sweeping.
Honestly, I think giving mistakes any more attention than that gives them too much power. And giving mistakes too much energy takes that energy away from something else. I don’t know about you, but after this many years of homeschooling, I cherish every ounce of energy I get, because I know it is a precious resource.
1. I don’t regret the hours I wasted reading aloud to my kids.
In fact, I have such a deep lack of regret in this area, that I continue, daily, to waste another 90 minutes a day reading aloud. And they all listen. That’s right. My 17-year-old high school teen sits and listens to mom read for an hour and a half every day.
And you know what? He loves it. It’s his favorite part of the day. He remembers fondly days when he was younger and I would end up reading 2 or 3 hours throughout the course of a day. He says, “Those were the days.” as if he is an old man reminiscing.
I read to my kids because it was natural and intuitive. It is a place of restful learning. We relax, connect, and learn, all at the same time. Yes, I needed great vats of warm liquids to sustain my throat, but it was all worth it.
The thing is, I didn’t start because I knew the science behind reading aloud. There is a lot of science behind reading aloud. Long lists of the benefits have been researched and published. The truth behind reading aloud is that it is one of the most powerful tools of learning.
My point is this, it’s great to understand the science of learning, but when all else fails, trust your intuition. I read aloud because it made sense and I wanted to, and as I learned more and more about the brain, I realized how much I had helped my kids on their learning journey by prioritizing something born from the desire of my heart.
2. I don’t regret being my silly, sarcastic, contemplative self.
This might sound like a weird not-regret, but you know, I am weird. The thing is, sometimes in trying to be all the things we think a kid needs a mom to be, we forget to be ourselves.
This is bad for us, because our sense of identity is one of the things that can transform this time of intensive service to others. When we are our own best selves with our kids, instead of the perfect moms we imagine we need to be, our sacrifices are embellished with joy and we are filled with a sense of deep purpose and power, in the giving of ourselves to the feeding, cleaning, and education of our children.
When we got lost in being some other version of a mom, it is bad for our kids. First and foremost, it is bad for them because we are not happy. Kids take on the power of mom’s emotions.
“If mama ain’t happy, ain’t no-one happy.”
It’s a real thing. We set the tone, mood, and emotion of our day. It is our job to be the anchor. Our kids will recover from the winds of their emotions much more easily and learn their own emotional reactions from mom. When we are steady, yet real, they learn how to navigate this part of life.
Secondly, it is bad for our kids because they have a crazy sixth sense. And if our kids see mom wake up every day and strive to be some person other than herself, it sends a strong message. A message that only some selves are acceptable. That one personality is superior to another. That they, too, will need to wake up every morning and strive to be someone other than who they are. They will absorb this message, subconsciously, whether or not we like it.
The only way to combat this message is to start with ourselves. By being our own silly selves. If it is okay for mom to be herself, then our kids will feel that maybe it is okay to be who their own silly self too.
I want to be clear here; I am not suggesting we don’t strive for our own growth. It’s just that there is a huge difference between trying to be your best self and trying to be some other person who you imagine to be better than icky, old, you.
I am silly, sarcastic, contemplative, and weird. And my comfort in my own skin has produced kids that are comfortable in their own skin. Even though they spend countless hours together, (cause of the homeschooling thing), they are each individually very different. There are no copycats in my family. Even when my kids do things together, they bring their own personalities, quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, to the table.
And you know what? That makes life interesting, exciting, fascinating, and fun. It also grows kids that are both confident and humble.
3. I don’t regret the time it took to teach my kids the ‘other’ stuff.
You know, the stuff like how to make a bed, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, cook a meal, vacuum, and shampoo a carpet. Things like how to have a conversation, which they learn best when they get lots of practice with those they are closest to. Stuff like being kind to brothers and sisters and respecting people.
All the things in life that are not academic subjects. Without those things, we become an arrested distortion of who we have the potential to be. Helping my kids grown into their full selves instead of just a reflection in the mirror of what they could be, was worth every minute.
Yes, sometimes it did take time away from academics. Sometimes their little souls need other kinds of food. We need to remember that the time we spend on all the ‘other’ stuff is not time wasted. It is all a part of homeschooling. Too often, we treat academics as if they are the point of life and get annoyed or angry when other things get in the way.
But the point of life is life, and that means we need to embrace all the parts of living it, from cleaning the toilet, to cooking meals, getting outside, and moving our bodies. And even taking the time to deal with emotions. Although these things may mean you spend fewer minutes a day on academics, they don’t mean your child is any less smart when they are ready to leave your home.
Our brains, bodies, and hearts are not separate entities. When we take the time to take care of all our different needs, we become better at all the different parts of life.
4. I don’t regret slow studies.
Getting distracted in conversation with your kids is never a bad idea. Meandering through a topic, taking time to dive deep, and spending the time needed to get to the heart of a topic take time. Taking the time to invoke curiosity and ask questions is not measurable learning. But it is the most important kind of learning.
It was never a waste to study this way. Even though it meant there were fewer completed workbooks or visible accomplishments. Learning is not about the papers we keep in our basement. It is about what is going on in our children’s mind. And most of that work? It’s invisible to us. We can’t pull back our kid’s scalp and see if they have more neurons firing up today than yesterday. But that is not an excuse for reducing learning to the worksheet. We must have faith in the invisible part of the learning process.
Learning any subject well takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Sometimes a lot of redos. It can be slow. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t sticky. Slow learning is always worth the journey.
5. I don’t regret going at the pace my kids need.
I think one of the most misunderstood concepts in modern education has to do with pacing our kid’s studies. Kids learn at different rates. The learning process itself is very similar from kid to kid. But some kids need more repetition, and some don’t.
Teaching at the pace our kids need, moving them through the curriculum at their own heart rate is the most important way we can individualize education for our kids.
It sounds simple, but if we push children to go faster through material than they are able, they will get lost and frustrated. Soon new information will have no network to plug into, because they didn’t get the last 12 concepts. But we insisted on moving forward, anyway. Now their brain doesn’t know where to store this new information. At this point it is in one ear and out the other.
And if we go too slow, repeating information when the child already knows it and refusing to move forward faster just because the curriculum has 12 more pages of practice for that one concept, our kids are going to get bored. They will space out, because they already know this stuff.
Soon their brain will be in the habit of ignoring ‘school stuff’ because it isn’t important. The student has not had to go to the effort to think about anything for 2 weeks. The effort of thinking is a signal to our brain that what we are thinking about is important. This signal encourages our brain to store that information in our memory banks for later.
So, whether I had to buy extra stuff because a child was flying through material, or had to go over a concept 3 different ways, perhaps getting supplementary materials, or even if they just needed to go back and review a large amount of content before moving on, I have never regretted those decisions.
And if you know your kids well, if you focus on relationship, you will know when they need to speed up, when they need to slow down, and how to help them with both those things.
6. I don’t regret all the breaks.
I have written before about year round homeschooling. The thing I loved about it the most was how frequently we could have breaks. When you don’t take a 3 month summer break, there is time in the year to have a break every 4-6 weeks. When my kids were young, we took a lot of breaks. Now we keep a schedule which is closer to the local schools, mostly because all the extra-curricular activities are on that schedule too. But we still have more flexibility within that space, to take breaks when we need to.
Yes, sometimes taking an ‘extra’ week off during the school year means you have another week in May or June before you ‘wrap it up’ for the summer. But it was always worth taking the break when we needed it.
And you know what is even better? My kids are cognizant of when they need a break, because they have had this freedom to take a break, they are more self aware of their own state of energy. I hope this skill will serve them well in adulthood. Taking breaks when needed is a skill that many adults have yet to master. But it is a skill worth having.
7. I don’t regret pushing my kids.
How can I talk about pushing my kids when I just went on about how important it is to teach at their own pace? Because kids don’t know what they are capable of, they have no idea how much they can do. But you do. To push kids well, though, we first have to know them well. Because pushing them too hard or too fast, will hurt them.
But pushing them just right helps them realize how much they can do. Pushing them just right helps they realize the powerful art of trying. It gives them first hand experience with the power of practice to grow the brain. And it will be the beginning of their own embrace of the growth mindset.
8. I don’t regret finding laughter with my kids.
Sometimes, you just need to stop and watch funny cat video’s during lunch. Or a Charlie Chaplin movie. Or have a tickle fight. Laughing is medicine, and it is the spice of a happy home.
I don’t regret being distracted from either serious or mundane duties, to stop and ‘waste’ my time, doing something silly, and laughing with my kids, or even just enjoying their laughter.
These are moments, guys, don’t let them slip by without savoring them. And don’t cram so much into your life that they never come.
9. I don’t regret the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to be there every day, in every way, for my kids.
Being a homeschool mom is exhausting. In fact, being a mom is exhausting. And, actually, I’m pretty sure being a dad is exhausting too. Being there for our kids, no matter what their emotional state, no matter our emotional, or physical, or mental state is 24/7, 7 days a week is exhausting. Yes, you may be so exhausted you cut yourself while chopping on onion. You bleed, because you were making a meal for your family through that foggy fatigue. You cry. Because it is all too much and you don’t believe you can do it all.
And then you laugh, because you remember, you don’t have to do it all. You realize they might not need that onion; you throw out the bloody remains of the onion and you dump onion powder into the chicken noodle soup. You hear the kids laughing, chasing, and screaming outside, and through your blood and tears, you smile.
Because whether or not you can do it all, it is all worth it.
10. I don’t regret pushing them out into the world and helping them find not-mom mentors as they get older.
One thing I know for sure is that as my kids get into their teen years, I want them to go away. Don’t get me wrong, I still love them and enjoy spending time with them, but I also just want them to go away and come back with a story to tell me. I want them to get out into the world and experience people other than me. I want them to come home and tell me all about it. I still love homeschooling them, and find it the best way to let them explore their interests, but I also want their world to expand beyond home.
I want them to get to know awesome adults that are not mom or dad. Adults with different personalities than ours, different careers than ours, even different mindsets than ours. I want them to see all the different ways that a person can be an awesome human being. I want them to start to understand how they fit into the bigger world.
They already know how they fit into this culture of our family. But I want them to start finding their place and asking tough questions about their place in the world, now, while they are still home safe, so that hopefully, when they leave, their footsteps will be a little less shaky, and minds and hearts a little less shell shocked as they begin to see all the things that are in this bigger world.
These things I don’t regret matter so much more than any of the things I do regret.
And that can be true of your future self, too. It is a matter of where we put our own focus and attention. No amount of reading lists of homeschooling regrets by experienced mom’s can keep you from making mistakes.
But you can remember to sweep the crumbs off your floor when you make a mess. Dump them in the trash and move on with your new shiny floor. Because inspecting those crumbs, picking them up and turning them over, and rubbing them between your fingers, doesn’t mean you will never spill on the floor again.
But it does mean you are going to waste time on your precious crumbs when you could be spending it laughing with your kids.