This year marks our family’s 8th year of homeschooling/unschooling. It’s sort of strange to think about, calculate, or even put down that time period in words since we ‘school’ year-round. Learning in our family doesn’t revolve around a calendar. It doesn’t take holidays or have snow days. Learning happens everyday. It’s also strange to see the look on people’s faces when they ask what grades the kids are entering and the grades don’t easily roll off their tongues. The kids usually look at me, then at each other, before replying with something like, “we don’t keep track of our year in school because we are homeschooled and the grade doesn’t really matter or have meaning for us.”
There is No Magic Homeschool Formula
If there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it is that there is no magic formula or ideal curriculum (or absence of curriculum) that will guarantee homeschooling success. What is homeschooling success anyway? Ivy League bound kids? Academic scholarships? Decent SAT scores?
I no longer spend much time worrying about homeschooling success–or what it is for that matter. And, yes…in the beginning, especially in that first year, I worried about this a lot. The more I’ve embraced unschooling over the years and let go of ideas and expectations of conventional schooling (and of myself and my kids), I’ve come to witness a love of learning within my children that I never experienced in school (even though I earned top grades and loved the experience of school itself). I spend far less time now worrying whether my kids will turn out okay.
Instead, I spend my time focused on trying to raise children who are Wild and Free–children who are happy, well adjusted, balanced, self-reliant, and secure, who are passionate about learning, curious about the world around them, and appreciative of their roots, others, and experiences. I spend my time helping my children fill their buckets with enriching and diverse experiences that will shape the way they see and interact with the world. I encourage my children to explore independently, guided by what satisfies their hearts, minds, curiosity, and interests, rather than stressing about what they are missing…what I’m not doing. I focus on the positive and take the view that every opportunity, every moment, everyday is filled with learning possibilities.
My goal is not to see that my kids get top college admission test scores–though, if you ask them, they’ve carved out some pretty lofty goals of their own sans mama’s input. Sure, I want them to have amazing academic successes, but what is more important to me is that they discover their True Colors…that they discover their own interests, goals, drive, and motivation to define their own successes on their own terms.
Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Guides My Approach to Homeschooling, Unschooling & Motherhood
If there is any secret to success out there, I believe it is encapsulated in Cyndi Lauper’s 80s Hit, Time After Time. Apparently, if you grew up in the 80s listening to music tapes played in a tape player (my kids can’t believe I listened to music this way as a kid) or on the radio (that also shocks them, “Sirius XM didn’t exist when you were a kid, are you joking, Mom?”), 80s music can have such a long-lasting effect.
My homeschooling, unschooling & motherhood approach is summed up in this song lyric mantra:
If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time
I believe the odds are significantly stacked in my favor–in any parent’s favor, really–for finding homeschool success, educational success, motherhood success, childhood success, you name it, whatever, by giving my kids space and freedom to be, to learn, explore, and live freely with loving support and encouragement. If they get lost along the way, they can find me. I’ll be there to help them find their direction, realign their bearings, to steer them back to where they think they want to go, or direct them back to where I believe they need to be if they can’t see it in the moment. Time after time.
If they fall, I will catch them. I will also do my best to role model how they can catch and trust themselves, as well as look to each other and to others to help them, should there be a reason that it’s impossible for me to be there for them.
I will be waiting. Not expecting them to fall or fail in anyway, but should they need me, I will be waiting in the wings.
Time after time.
I want my children to discover their own true colors, so that they can best navigate the various shades that await them in life.
To me, that seems like homeschooling success.