I Haven’t Been a Perfect Homeschool Mom, and It Stinkin’ Doesn’t Matter

Feelings of failure can so easily come creeping in…

On the day we once again push science lessons to the back burner.  As I read a paragraph that my 6th grader has written and see that run on sentences are what make his world go round (and round and round and round).  When I think about the upcoming ACT for my high schooler and break out in a sweat because there are bound to be questions on the test we haven’t covered, plus I have never even taught him to fill in circles with a number two pencil.  When I hear public school friends talk about all they are doing and realize with regret that some of those great ideas never even crossed my mind.  When I see that my son who is old enough to know better has written “take food to our nabers” on our Christmas to-do list.  (That would be n-e-i-g-h-b-o-r-s.  How has he not learned that yet?)

eliashandwritingsm

There are doubts that swirl around in the back of the minds of every homeschool mom at one time or another.  These are the doubts that keep some moms from choosing to homeschool in the first place. 

  • I can’t possibly teach my kids everything they need to know.
  • Even though we’re doing a lot, there are so many things I haven’t gotten around to teaching my kids.
  • I don’t see how all the other moms get through all the material.  I’m not keeping up.
  • Other people are doing such neat projects!  I’m not doing nearly enough.
  • If only I was more organized…
  • Will my kids really be prepared for college?

There are so many cool things I haven’t done with my kids, so many lessons that haven’t been taught, so many experiences my kids haven’t experienced, so many field trips that haven’t been taken.  We have yet to have a school year in which we actually get through every recommended book on the list.  And I’m not proud to admit it, but I just now finally got around to teaching our 8th grader what a synonym is.  As you can imagine, his life has changed dramatically {greatly; fiercely}.

Early this fall, I hesitantly enrolled our 11th grader in a college course.  Doubts crept in:  Would he be ready?  Had I taught him enough to succeed in a college level class?  Did he have any idea how to take notes while his professor was speaking?  And most important of all, without me there to remind him, would he remember to put periods at the ends of his sentences???

My dear friends, this is what I’ve learned and what all of us – public, private, or home school parents and teachers – need to understand:  Our kids don’t need to know everything.  They just need to know how to learn.

Do you hear me?  Nobody knows everything.  It isn’t possible.  We all have different gifts and interests and abilities.  We all learn differently.  We all retain information differently.  As long as we have the tools and know-how we need so that we can figure things out, we are good to go.

Can’t spell?  Learn to use a dictionary and spell check.  Don’t know how many feet in a mile?  Look it up.  Don’t know who our 21st president was?  Well, you might lose at a game of Trivial Pursuit, but otherwise, if you find yourself in a desperate situation in which you must know this information, I’m pretty sure that a three second online search will tell you that it was none other than Chester A. Arthur, who succeeded James Garfield upon his assassination.  (Thank you, Wikipedia.  We will all sleep better tonight.)

But back to Asa’s first college class:  Beyond standing up in front of a class full of college students to give about a dozen speeches throughout the semester in his Basic Speech college course, our 11th grader also had to put together thorough outlines for each speech which followed Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.  He had to write two papers, following MLA standards.  He had to cite sources to show where he got all of his information for his speeches and papers.  I had taught him none of this at home prior to his taking the class.  So guess what?  He studied and researched and asked questions and he learned how to do all of these things.

He nailed this class and is ending the semester with a big fat A.  Not because he’s a genius.  Not because he’s an above average student.  And certainly not because he has had a perfect homeschool educational experience.  The kid simply knows how to work hard, how to follow directions, and how to learn.

Asa’s college class experience has been a wonderful enforcement to me that my teaching imperfections and all the holes in our schooling truly do not matter.  (And all the parents everywhere let out an enormous collective sigh of relief.)

We’ll keep working hard and continue to give our kids a well-rounded education to the best of our ability.  We’ll teach our kids to work hard, to be responsible, and to learn how to learn.  We’ll let go of the feelings of not measuring up.  We’ll let life be our greatest classroom.

When one of our kids spells barely like barley, we will not fall on the floor in a panic attack, writhing in self loathing wondering how our child will ever succeed in life since he has not mastered perfect spelling of every “ely” and “ley” word in the dictionary.

And we can all giggle together about the fact that as I was completing the writing of this post, one of my kids came up behind me, looked thoughtfully at what I was writing and said, “Hmm.  I think you need to put a comma after the word “Mom” in your title.  Would you look at that?  It looks as if I’ve taught him something after all.  (And all the readers everywhere glanced back up to the title of this post to see that indeed, there is now a comma after the word “Mom.”)

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Comments

  1. Karen Y says

    Thank you. I seem to find myself questioning things so much at this time of year. So much that the other day, my husband reminded me, “Remember, this time of year we always think other school options look more attractive. Remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. That hasn’t changed.” This post encouraged me. Thank you for that.

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  2. Jennifer F. says

    This is something that’s been on my mind lately, as I recently realized that my 2nd greater couldn’t list his vowels! Makes me wonder what else I’ve overlooked! Thanks for this post, though. I consider myself a life-long learner and hope to instill that in my kids. :)

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    Joanna Sigman Reply:

    You are not alone! My second grader couldn’t list his vowels last week either!

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  3. Rebecca Scott says

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been struggling with this because my firstborn starts kindegarten this fall and I want to homeschool her but am not sure I am good enough. I definitely needed to read this.

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    Birdie Reply:

    Dear Rebecca. You ARE good enough, you are everything your child needs because you love them like no other!!

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  4. Michele M says

    My children attend public school and I could have written most of this post. I think feelings of guilt and inadequacy happen to most parents. The public education system is far from perfect, so don’t feel bad. There have been many times that I felt like I had failed because I realized I didn’t know what my child was learning or not learning. You know your children better than anyone and the time you spend instilling your values in them is, in my opinion, much more important.

    I had some of the same concerns when my son went to college. I didn’t see how he could live there without our guidance. Yet, somehow, he has managed to earn straight A’s so far and take care of his own needs without any help from his mother!

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  5. Sheila h. says

    You are reading my mind and heart. I am struggling to get a good paragraph from my third grader because he loves run-on sentences. I am wondering if writing is more centric in other schools. I am frustrated because this time of year is sooooo hectic (colds, viruses, holiday projects, ..) and we are behind in our lessons. Asa’s college experience is a blessing and I am thrilled that he made an A!

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    Birdie Reply:

    Hi Sheila. Could you do reverse sentences? Write out a good sentence without the punctuation and get your dear child to try and fill in the missing punctuation.

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  6. Lana says

    You hit the nail right on the head! Our kids did not know everything either but 4 out of 5 got full tuition scholarships to college and all 5 graduated, two with honors. Homeschool kids do very well in college because they know who they are and they know how to learn or find things out if they don’t know the answer. All of you just keep on doing your best and your kids will be fine!

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  7. Rochelle says

    ***SIGH****. This is so AWESOME!! I go back and forth….from freaking out to realizing that I can’t and won’t teach them everything. The comparison game gets me every time. I see what kids are doing in “regular school” and think oh no I’ve missed an entire subject. But then I remind myself that my daughter is only 6 and the world will not end if she doesn’t know where Alaska is….Thanks for the reality check….

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    Andrea Smith Reply:

    Haha. It’s a great place. :) I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s not a race or competition. Reading “Better late than Early” and the studies in “Homeschool Burnout” can be very encouraging. I believe creative play and learning by following a child’s interests can make things click like nothing else.

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  8. says

    Great article! I think this speaks to parents of any kind of kid (I still do not agree with the school system not teaching kids how to write in cursive. Can’t they at least teach them how to sign their name???). On a side note, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not the title should stinkin’ doesn’t or doesn’t stinkin’…still on the fence about it. lol ;)

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    Laura Reply:

    Ha!! My son (who encouraged the comma after the word “Mom”) also wondered if I should switch the stinkin’ and the doesn’t around! :) I left it as it was because I like to write how I talk, and if I were to say this out loud, I would say “stinkin’ doesn’t.” Super funny that you questioned that too!

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    Birdie Reply:

    Jessica. I’ve read a couple of articles about not teaching cursive. My brain is in shock!!! What happens when the internet service goes down for a business? Who will be able to feel out forms and letters with no skill in writing? What then?

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  9. Birdie says

    Beautiful post Laura, just beautiful! You’ve encouraged me so much today. We are now looking at high school and future careers. I’m overwhelmed by how time is flying but I look back to what we’ve done and it’s been so much hard work.

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  10. Shelley says

    I had many of the same doubts when I was homeschooling my son. I was so worried that I didn’t teach him well enough, and that he wouldn’t even be able to pass the entrance exam at the local technical college. We tried so many different programs to teach him to spell correctly, but nothing worked. He just is not a speller and has to look words up and use spell check. Nevertheless, he not only passed the exam, but he tested out of two subjects because he did so well. His professors commented many times that he had a very good work ethic, made sure his work was done on time, and was so polite and friendly. He ended up being awarded two large scholarships and graduated with honors.

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  11. Andrea says

    Oh I SO.NEEDED.THIS!!!! Homeschooling our older 4 this year (grades 2, 5, 7, 9), trying to keep the active toddler out of the toilet, and expecting baby #6 in three weeks… We’ve all just been thru two weeks of strep, ear infections, flu, upper respiratory infections, sniffles, and keep-you-awake-at-night coughs – and honestly, I have no idea what the schooled ones have accomplished and what I need to assign before we “break” for Christmas/baby’s arrival! Just typing all of that out makes me want to go hide in my room w/a cup of hot chocolate and a good Hallmark Christmas movie! So – I am very thankful for your humble reminder this morning: my children don’t need to know everything, and there’s no way I could ever teach them everything. I want them to know how to learn and know Jesus in a personal way. Period. And that seems WAY more doable :)

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  12. Sandra says

    Our main goal is to raise and train children who love the Lord with all their hearts and desire to serve Him all their days. If we do this all the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

    Very well said. I needed to hear this. I have one that has graduated and now works for our families furniture business (glad she doesn’t need to know those science and history and language lessons we did not fully complete( smile). She did not attend college, but gets the “oh, but you need to go to college” from many people. Why would I want to strap her down for four years and possible debt when within a year she has been the top sales person ( even exceeding her dad) for two months and other months they were very close. She used to be shy and quite and if you told me two years go she would be doing what she is doing now I would have said you were crazy. We did not tell them they needed to work in the business, she chose to do so and with flying colors. She LOVES her work. That said our second daughter will also work t the store full time later next year. She prefers the decorating side of the business, but sells as well. She works with a decorator 1-2 times a week ( in fact, the decorator told her she “has the eye for things”). All this said to show we all have different circumstances and different likings and will learn as we want to or sometimes need to.
    Your blog is always a blessing.

    P.s. I still have four more children to graduate so we will see what The Lord has in store for them.

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  13. says

    Oh, how I needed to hear this today. As I write my four year old is galloping through the house in boots and a straw hat, screaming and holding legos in both hands. My 20 month old son runs after her, his diaper smelling a tad riper than it should, wearing no socks and screaming along with her. This has not been an easy homeschool season for us. I worry that my son doesn’t have many words and screams easily when frustrated. My daughter shows little interest in formal learning beyond read alouds and we’re approaching the time of year when I have to defend my choice my homeschool to relatives. I’m trying to figure out how working part-time and continually managing the household fits into homeschooling. Thanks for reminding me that I don’t have to be and can’t actually be perfect at this. {Deep breath} Yeah, it’s going to be OK.

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  14. Evie says

    Oh thank you! This is exactly what I needed to ‘hear’. I had a mini panic attack last night, read your blog and felt better, made a meal plan (thank you again) and am now about to dust off our science book :)

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  15. Debbie says

    I must admit that I was scared away from homeschooling but our kids have done quite well in our canadian public schools. The shame is with the school system, not our older daughter though. She excels well above grade level in reading and writing, but we discovered the other day that nobody has taught her what a noun or a verb is. HOW did that happen? To be fair, I don’t think she has suffered for not knowing, unless it comes up in her future studies/grades. Then we will find out if the schools and we- her parents – have given her the gift of knowing how to learn.

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  16. Renee says

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! I needed to hear this…..that everything will be OK & that we are doing ‘enough’! This is so inspirational. I spent 3 years (while my kids were in public school) struggling with the decision to HS because I didn’t think I could do it either. The comparison game is the thief of great joy but when I hear other kids (HS, private school & public) I think my children are not learning enough! My 3rd & 4th grader are just now learning cursive (on the days I remember it) but that will also be enough at some point. Thank you for your encouragement & congrats to Asa on that Super awesome A in the college class!! Well done.

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  17. Christine says

    I feel the same as all of you. My kids are in 2nd and 5th grade. Our 5th grader went to public school through the end of 2nd grade. He has NEVER embraced homeschooling and still asks all the time when he can return to public school. Because of his extreme desire to return to public school I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to keep up academically with his peers who are all in public school. Neither child has befriended a homeschooler and all their friends are in public school. Because their friends are in public school our school year and curriculum mirrors public school. So I manage to fit in 180 days of curriculum into about 140 days due to family vacations and public school vacations and public school holidays. This means NO wiggle room for fun extra things like field trips or random days off. A lot of times we need to double-up in particular subjects to make sure we finish when public school finishes. Lots of pressure to perform and to finish on time, sigh.

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    Mackenzie Reply:

    Christine,
    I was home-schooled growing up, please do not stress so much. We do end up forgiving you for all the silly things, that at the time, we thought were the END OF THE WORLD. What are your convictions on homeschooling? Is it religious reasons, easier to move (example, military families move a lot and being home-schooled makes it a bit easier.) or other reason. Maybe you can make a deal with them if you are up for it, they can actually do different classes in a public school, while still being home-schooled. My mother did this with Science, it made her stress load vanish. The deal could be they can take this class, if they do well and prove they are responsible enough to keep up your school work and be able to learn alongside friends then they can continue to take those classes.
    When I was in school you could also join sports teams and be home-schooled, this may have changed though.

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    Christine Reply:

    Thanks Mackenzie. Unfortunately our school district does not allow partial enrollment and homeschoolers are not permitted to join public school sports or activities. I would love to be able to enroll them for things I do not have time for like art, music, PE, etc. I try to work these in but just can’t seem to on a regular basis. Our school days are SO long I’m just too tired for the fun stuff.

    We homeschool for religious reasons but God sure is testing me this year. I read articles and posts from all these women who feel homeschool is such a wonderful blessing and how much fun their having in homeschool but my kids REALLY make me question the blessing part. I am trying to keep a good attitude but we are on year 3 of homeschooling and instead of year getting better each year seems to get harder.

    I’m still waiting to get “over the rainbow.” Sigh.

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  18. Kristy says

    Love, love, love this post. I was just pondering some of the same things…. are we doing enough Christmas crafts? Should we make some ornaments? Maybe a Christmas essay or story? And wait a minute… in all of the Christmas “stuff,” did we miss a couple of days of science? Aaahhh! It goes right along with one of your other posts that I still recall… on moderation! Thank you for speaking to our hearts! And yes, I checked on your grammar in the title too. I used to be an English teacher and am very picky on grammar. I pick up mistakes easily, I guess from grading student papers, and I was thinking, “I didn’t see an error. Did I miss it?” ;) Merry Christmas! God’s richest blessings on you! And congratulations on raising a wonderful “college guy!”

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  19. Ashley says

    Thank you so very much for this post! My husband and I have made the decision to homeschool our daughter (so far she’s our only child and is a year old). I have really been shocked at how much push back we’ve gotten from family and friends. We have gotten so many negative comments regarding our ability to homeschool past K-3rd grade level, that it has become very frustrating. Especially since I have a B.S. in Computer Science! Have you posted any tips on dealing with ‘Debbie Downers’?? Thank you!

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  20. Rhonda says

    I love this post Laura! Good study skills is the key! As I watched our youngest go to college this year I can definitely say that it’s not all about what they know. It’s about if they know how to study and work hard with a goal in mind. Unfortunately many scholarships are driven by the ACT test scores. The John Baylor Prep courses are wonderful and are offered at the Public School or can be purchased on line.

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  21. LoraC says

    Love this – “I have never even taught him to fill in circles with a number two pencil” – so funny. I think you have the right perspective. Congratulations to your Asa, that had to be a challenge both academically and socially for an 11th grader. He is well prepared, give yourself a pat on the back.

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  22. Rhoda says

    Thank you for this post. After a rough year last year and feeling really behind, this year has gone better, but it also has helped to have the perspective that God is in control and will fill the gaps in for our children. In fact, this doesn’t just apply to homeschooled kiddos, but anyone. Was talking to a prospective adoptive mama over the weekend. She is trying to learn everything she can, read every book, and so on, in order to have all her bases covered before she brings kid(s) home. As an adoptive mama of two, it was neat to be able to share our story and how my DH and I didn’t have to have all the bases covered–that’s God’s job! He who knows all things, is over all things, and loves my children more than I ever could, will do what is right for them and for me. Nice to know this applies to the gaps in their homeschooling too! Now to remember that when things derail in our school year.

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  23. Angel says

    My Pastor’s wife (and dear friend) emailed this article to me yesterday. Having just read it this morning, I feel especially encouraged for this day. Thank you so much for this blessing!

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  24. Juanita Cassel says

    Dear Laura,
    Thank you, Thank you. Here I am a seasoned homeschool mom, I have two that already graduated and are doing fine and yet I still have doubts as I work with my younger two boys. Funny how easy we can get discouraged, Satan may still be alive but our God is bigger and stronger! Your post reminded me of that fact.

    I have been reading your blog for a long time but I don’t think I have ever replied to one of your post. You have made me laugh, cry and smile. I also have tried almost all of your recipes over the years. It would be so fun to meet in person someday but I guess we will have to wait until heaven since we live in PA.

    God bless you as you continue to serve Him.
    Juanita

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  25. Angie says

    Laura,
    Thank you so much for this post! You are such a fun writer and I was so encouraged by this. We have four sons just a couple years younger than your boys and, let me just say, this time of year can make them a bit “wiggly”. We’re going to enjoy this day together. Thanks for the reminder!

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  26. Ruth marie says

    Thankyou soooo much for fearlessly writing your short-comings, doubts and fears. SO many of us can relate to many things you have mentioned. constantly questioning if the children are missing out on something special out in the world. Believe it or not you are an answer to my prayers. I have been asking the Lord if I should continue to homeschool through highschool(starting next year) and to stumble upon your blog at the right time, is not a coincidence . Thanks for being obedient unto the lord in writing this.Your sense of humor us much enjoyed. Many blessings upon your family.

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  27. Alison says

    But what if they don’t know how to learn? My eleven year old is threatened by things he doesn’t know, and things curricula were created to make him mad because they point out what he doesn’t know. I seriously don’t know how to deal with that.

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    Laura Reply:

    I have learned that when something in the curriculum stresses out my kids, I have to take a step (or three) back to reevaluate. Certainly different curriculum formats work for different kids. All of mine are different – and I will say that as boys, all of them hate the textbook/workbook format. That is not a fun/good way for them to learn. So we take a more holistic approach. We learn through computer software, by reading literature and novels, by creating, by trial and error. I read out loud to my kids a lot – and while I’m reading they build with Legos or do something else that keeps their hands busy and minds engaged. Typically, they don’t even know they are learning. :)

    Since your son is 11, I would say that it’s very much okay to let him relax and just really focus on making learning experiences revolve around what he is interested in. That’s what has worked for my boys, and now that our oldest is in high school, he’s mentally ready and mature enough to handle learning geometry and about writing papers and such. We’ve always made our boys work hard and try hard – no matter what age they are – but pushing them into subjects and lessons they are not ready for has backfired for us.

    Rest assured, you are doing great and you know your son best! God will help you as he learns how to learn. :)

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    Alison Reply:

    Thank you for your response!

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  28. Carol McCoy says

    After 25 years of homeschooling 5 children, I can assure you that this article was exactly right. I don’t think we ever finished a text book in one year. I was sure that the 2 kids that went to college weren’t prepared…they graduated from college with honors. One son is a successful entrepreneur. The 2 youngest daughters are well on their way to being professional musicians. All 5 love the Lord with all their hearts and are serving Him faithfully and sacrificially. In truth, I was incapable of home schooling my children with excellence but My Father-God was big enough to dish out wisdom when needed and His grace and mercy covered the countless short comings!

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  29. Alette says

    Thank you and bless you. I needed this today. I am so glad that I found this and took the time to read it. I was doubting and fretting and feeling like such a failure. This helped me see that there are successes that I haven’t been looking at/for. I need a break and so do they!

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  30. says

    Excellent post! If we are going to create learners then they must be responsible for their own learning. Our best bet is to train them (and I mean this more in the athletic training sense than say the animal training sense) to think — to know what it means to think and to excel in basic skills of reading, logic, and communication. Once that foundation is there, then they can do anything. I totally agree!

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  31. Nora Hand says

    I love this article! I homeschooled my youngest son in fifth grade. All the same thoughts and feelings came to me that were expressed in this article. I ended up teaching just for that year. I would not trade it for anything! He is 23 now. Our jobs as mothers and grandmothers never ends. I’ve learned the most important lesson I should teach is to point my children and grandchildren to our Heavenly Father! To try and help them know God! His love and His mercy! Several years ago I converted to Catholicism. At that time, I was ignorant of the Catholic teachings of Mary. I have learned that Mary’s one purpose, is to point the way to Jesus! I believe that should be my purpose as a mother too! Merry Christmas!

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  32. Jen says

    This post was such an encouragement! Thank you so much for writing it. May the Lord continue to bless your home and homeschool. I am wondering if you keep your own records so your sons have accredited transcripts? Or was Asa able to take the college course without these? This is something I am really struggling with, as my oldest entered high school this year. We are doing a strict accredited program and I feel the joy (and student-directed learning) has gone from our homeschooling because we are working so hard for the appropriate paperwork. Any thoughts? I would love to hear how you handle this. Thanks again for such an encouraging post. Merry Christmas!

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  33. says

    This post is soooooo right! I just put my oldest daughter (7th grade) back in public school this year. I was a nervous wreck! There were days upon days upon days during her previous homeschooling where we did nothing more than a multiplication page and read-alouds. I was certain that she didn’t know what she needed to. I am happy to say that now, halfway through her school year, she has a 95 overall average, is passing advanced english/language arts with a 97 and just got second place in the school spelling bee. Now I don’t say all this to brag. I say this to encourage other homeschool moms out there. You may feel like you are not doing enough but please know that just by having your babies home with you you are doing so much good! Just remember to keep God first in your schooling and everything else will fall into place.

    Also Laura, I was so happy to read that you don’t do it all either. It’s definitely an encouragement to me to read that someone I look up to doesn’t have it all together either and is not ashamed to admit it. I feel blessed by your post today. Thank you!

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  34. Danielle says

    I have a fourth grader, a second grader, a preschooler and a three-year-old (all boys, I might add!). My school-age boys attend the christian school I attended (and loved). While the idea of homeschool has gone back and forth in my mind, sometimes seeming horrific and sometimes, and more recently, seeming wonderful, I have been thinking about all the things I would lack to do. Would I find the curriculum to fit all four of my children’s different personalities? Would I forget something major (like art! Or music!)? I already love you and your blog, but I had no idea you would say just what I needed to hear. I’m still not 100% sure, but this post just boosted my confidence and will help our family to make the decision that is right without listening only to our fears. You didn’t even know it but this post was written for me! :)

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  35. Lisa says

    I loved reading this article!!! I chose to unschool my children, and I questioned my choice constantly, and then my oldest started college. He didn’t know how to outline a paper or write in MLA format either, but he, too, taught himself. I failed to teach him much about the periodic table, he did read The Mystery Of The Periodic Table during his high school years, because our science time was mainly spent tide pooling, attending monthly astronomy nights at our local community college, dissecting cow’s eyeballs, starfish, etc, watching nature documentaries, and belonging to a robotics club. Yet, he is taking a chemistry class this semester and is teaching himself the periodic table now. He is five classes from his associate’s degree and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an honor society for two year colleges. He has maintained a 3.79 GPA or higher so far, and when he graduates he plans to get his bachelor’s degree in physics. His final goal is a doctorate and a career as a theoretical physicist. Not too shabby for an unschooled kid!!!

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