We are told children grow too fast. If we blink, we’ll miss it. As my eldest turned 11 this week, this realization hits me particularly hard. But I consider myself fortunate to be able to closely grow with my children, because eight years ago I decided to homeschool them.

Homeschooling has been such a blessing for my whole family. It wasn’t something that we planned to do, but something that came knocking on our door unexpectedly.

As a Christian, I believe that the Lord guides us. He has a purpose for each and every one of us. He sometimes leads us down a path we may not have ever intended to walk. My husband and I were fully prepared to send our daughter to public school, but, to our surprise, she didn’t meet the kindergarten cutoff date due to her birthday.

We were told she would have to wait another year to begin kindergarten due to a two-week difference. We were shocked that she would miss a whole year of learning at the age of 5. At that time, we discussed it, and agreed that she was ready and did not want her to wait another year. Homeschooling it was, and our daughter didn’t just learn that year, she flourished.

We have continued with our choice to homeschool her, and later her siblings, due to moving for my husband’s career. As the years passed, I have come to see how the Lord truly called us to homeschool. We’ve gained so much—especially time together.

One day sooner than we realize, our children will be adults. They will have many grownup stresses to deal with, such as work that will require their attention, bills that will need to be paid, and families of their own they will need to provide for.

That time will come soon enough, so why rush it? One reason why homeschooling has been such a gift to my family is it allows children to enjoy their childhood at an appropriate time frame.

Each homeschooled child is given flexibility in when, where, and how they learn according to their individualized needs, with parental guidance. School work is molded into their life, instead of the other way around. They can wake up when they are fully rested, explore through play throughout their school day, and take breaks when they need them.

Because of this, homeschooling has become a way of life that we cherish greatly. My kids get to learn at their own pace, which is a wonderful asset.

As I’ve learned, each child is different, and should not be judged against other children. Some children are slower learners when it comes to certain subjects—but that’s not to say they won’t learn what they need to. They just need a bit more time to get there.

For example, instead of mastering reading and writing at 7, one may master it at 9. It’s OK to take it slow. It helps them retain what they are learning and truly absorb it before passing on to the next level. It leads to a mastery of the subject, not just “getting through it.” The goal is to develop lifelong learners that will continue learning out of pure desire, past the schooling years.

Some children, on the other hand, may excel, and because of the flexibility that homeschooling provides, are allowed to do so. I’ve heard stories from friends and family members, including teachers, about students who are held back because they were forced to stay at the same pace as the slowest student in a class. Those children don’t get the attention that they need, and can’t realize the full potential of their gifts.  

In my eyes, in the traditional schooling structure, children are sent away at an early age to spend hours in an overly structured school setting to learn a one-size-fits-all curriculum with their peers for most of their days. At this point, they are introduced to the larger world, and it leaves little room for them to enjoy their childhood.

Once they are out of school, they will be further thrown into the world and have the toil of work that we know all too well.

I am often asked about how my children are able to socialize with other children since they are homeschooled. I find this question amusing, since, as someone who went to public school myself, I remember my teacher would always remind us that “we didn’t go to school to socialize.” (I often got in trouble for talking.)

There are many ways that homeschooling provides socialization for children. My children participate in community sports, art school, dance school, swimming class, and library events. They make friends at the local parks, churches, and co-ops.

Socializing has honestly more to do with a person’s personality than their learning environment. Introverts will want to stay away and not socialize as much, whether they are in public school or homeschooled. Extroverts will socialize wherever and whenever.

While I have fond memories of my time in school, my husband often describes school as being the closest thing to institutionalization—with the structured learning, recesses, and breaks. For him, and for probably most children, being in such a rigid setting was difficult, and limited the amount of time to engage in play.

It is important to remember that children learn through playing. If you look at how animals learn, you’ll see they also learn through play. For example, baby lions learn to hunt by playing with their siblings during adolescence. This is important for their survival and development.

Homeschooling gives children the freedom to add play to their learning. If they are struggling with a subject, you can make a game out of it to help them better understand it. Homeschooling also allows parents and children to take breaks when they need it, and to come back to the learning material with fresh eyes. They can move around, dance, and add music and art to get creative with their lessons.

I’ve loved getting to pick their curriculum based on their needs. It has been a joy to teach the material without bias and let them think for themselves. And I love discussion-based learning. I thoroughly enjoy seeing my children make connections and asking questions freely. Raising our children with the ability to be free thinkers is what living in America is all about.

A typical school day for my homeschooler is anywhere from three to four hours of structured learning, in which play can also be incorporated through their curriculums. Some people think these three to four hours can’t be enough, but a normal homeschooler can get the same amount of knowledge faster than their public school counterparts—especially when you consider that they aren’t wasting time waiting for their peers or shuffling throughout the day.

Once their studies are complete, think of all the extra free time they get. Since time is the only currency that each of us has, this is priceless. They have time to explore outside, play in the mud, examine the frost on the grass, and find a praying mantis while enjoying the world around them.

My children are enjoying the time they have to be kids and to learn anything that catches their interest. Homeschooling gives them the chance to slow down and take in the life that is rightfully theirs. It has allowed them to regain the childhood that was meant for them, which will be over before we all know it.

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