New homeschooling parents crave the wisdom, understanding, and encouragement of those who’ve come before them. It’s vital to connect with fellow homeschoolers as you step out on this brave journey. There are quite a few moms generously sharing their experience online, offering wisdom and encouragement to their followers, and making this road less traveled a little less scary.
Ashlee Williams is one of those moms, sharing her insights on Instagram and YouTube under the moniker Grace and Grit. I recently asked Ashlee, a mom of four, about her homeschooling journey and for her advice to new homeschoolers. Here’s what she said.
The Epoch Times: What led you to decide to homeschool your children?
Ashlee Williams: There wasn’t one isolated event that led to our decision to remove our two oldest children from public school. It was more of a compiling list of dissatisfactions and frustrations within the system as a whole versus a specific teacher or event.
That list of issues compiled with the reality that, after them being gone all day, I was spending about two hours total per day with my children. And of those two hours, at least one of them was spent doing homework with my 7-year-old. This was after they’d just spent six hours sitting still and working on worksheets.
I knew I wanted more for their childhoods, and I knew that learning and education were so much greater than worksheets and fact memorization for standardized tests. I wanted them to love learning and be able to learn in the ways that suited them. I wanted to see them and be with them. I wanted their education to be an extension of our faith. I wanted them to get to be kids.
I could see how the public education model was failing my gifted child while simultaneously destroying my struggling child’s confidence. I could see how negative peer influence and teachers spending the majority of their days on behavior and class management versus actual teaching was happening. I knew I could do better, in less time.
The last component that led me to homeschool came from my faith. I knew that there was not enough time left over in our public school days to effectively teach my children the word of God. The Bible instructs us as parents to teach our children diligently, all day. I wanted and needed to teach them who God is and I could not do that with scrap time we had left over. I wanted more for my family.
The Epoch Times: What are some things you wish you had known before you began homeschooling?
Ms. Williams: There are so many things I wish I had known—it’s so hard to choose just a few. The first thing that comes to mind is that I wish I knew that hard days and weeks don’t last forever. A rough week or month doesn’t mean you need to reevaluate everything you’re doing. It doesn’t mean the curriculum needs changing or the book needs to be thrown out.
I also wish I knew that my kids’ bad days also aren’t a reflection of how they feel about our schooling. Sometimes it’s just a bad day and it’s best to not take it personally.
Another thing I wish I knew before I started was just how much our decision was going to impact our lives and the lives of others. I would not have been as nervous about doing something different if I had known just how wonderful it was going to be, even on those bad days and months.
The Epoch Times: Since you started, have you ever doubted your decision to homeschool? If so, what got you through that doubt?
Ms. Williams: I have never doubted my choice to homeschool, but in the beginning of this journey, I did have the attitude of taking it year by year. I left myself the option to have a way out in case things did not go as I planned or wanted them to. I wasn’t committed to homeschooling for their entire school careers when I made my initial choice. I anticipated approaching each year evaluating what was best.
As the years have carried on and I near almost a decade of homeschooling and dismantling the influence of the public education system, I could never doubt the choice I made. I see the hand of God over every day we spend learning together as a family and the impact that has made on all of our lives. Anything I may have counted as a loss or con to homeschooling in the beginning of our family’s journey has been replaced 3 million fold by blessings, memories, and moments I will cherish for the rest of my life.
The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of homeschooling?
Ms. Williams: If you would have asked me this question at the beginning of our journey, my answer would be very different than it is today. Currently, the aspects of homeschooling I continue to find to be most challenging actually have very little to do with the actual instructing and teaching portion of homeschool life. My greatest challenges come with managing my home, my work, my health and wellness, my friendships, everything that I must do and maintain outside of homeschooling.
Homeschooling does take time each day, and even when we are running like a well-oiled machine, it’s a constant game of what’s most important that I can get done today. It’s not very often that the entire list is tackled, and that is because my children’s education is my priority—a much greater priority than mopping floors. But eventually, those floors do need mopping and groceries need to be bought, and so managing all of life while simultaneously managing the schooling aspect is what presents my challenges these days.
The Epoch Times: What have been the greatest benefits of homeschooling your children?
Ms. Williams: The benefits of homeschooling my children are endless. I will, for the sake of time, narrow it down to three.
An extremely strong family bond and family culture. There is no replacement for time spent together as a family. The memories we have made together reading, exploring nature, conducting experiments, reading poetry together, being together. I will never look back on my kids’ lives when they are adults and say I wish we didn’t spend as much time together as we did. The other side of that is my children having strong bonds with each other, and that comes from the time we spend together. My youngest daughter and my oldest daughter are almost five years apart. If they were in public school, they would be at different schools every single day for seven hours, then each has their extracurriculars in the evenings. They simply would not have the time in their days to bond as they have.
A strong faith. My children’s faith has grown and strengthened with each passing day as we homeschool. It happens as we spend time reading the Bible together, learning about incredible missionaries, praying, talking about struggles and challenges, all through the lens of our faith. Learning is a gift from God and all of our schooling incorporates that. It’s not separate from learning math or writing; it’s all woven together and that is an incredible blessing I have only just begun to see the benefit of.
The last thing that comes to mind when I consider the best benefits of homeschooling have nothing to do with math problems or spelling words. It has to do with the blessing that comes when the parent is the gatekeeper of what passes through to their children. I have seen tremendous benefit in homeschooling simply because I am aware and involved in every moment. There is no book they may come across that has questionable content. There is no potential for a teacher to cause harm to my child. There is no mask or district rule that doesn’t make sense. There is no option for negative peer influences or bullying.
There is such a misconception when it comes to homeschooling. As homeschoolers, we see the word “sheltered” being thrown around in a negative connotation. I disagree with that sentiment entirely. As a parent, it is our duty to shield our children from the world until they reach an age and maturity level to tackle things themselves. It is our responsibility to filter what passes through to such impressionable minds and hearts. It is our job as parents to be aware of who our kids spend time with and what they do when they are spending that time with those people.
Protecting our children has always been our job as parents, but kids being thrust into school at 5, where little Tommy might hear something from Jimmy on the playground too soon, causes kids to lose their childhood and innocence much too soon and all in the name of keeping up with other kids. In homeschooling, there is no other child to keep up with. It’s just your family. You get to ensure their safety and choose the stories they will remember forever. There is such a benefit and blessing in being the primary role model in your child’s life and having the ability to make the best choices for your kids individually.
The Epoch Times: What do your children love most about being homeschooled?
Ms. Williams: My children love the flexibility we have in our lives because they are homeschooled. We have the ability to travel and not be bound to school breaks and school hours. They have the ability to not be confined to a desk for six hours a day plus commuting time. They love that the extra time their days contain allows them to pursue passions and individual interests. That time would not be available in their days if they were not homeschooled. They love that faith is a part of everything we do and learn and not just a box they check on Sundays. They also love that we are able to customize their education to them—if they are ready to advance in a subject, we do that. They do not have to be held back to fit in any education or school districts’ predetermined boxes.
The Epoch Times: What would you say to a brand new homeschooling mom who could use some encouragement as she takes what might feel like a giant leap of faith?
Ms. Williams: I would remind her that the doubt and fear of the unknown are what keep most people in stagnant situations or even undesirable ones, and that listening to your motherly instincts will never fail you.
I would remind her of the fact that up until school age, she taught her children everything they know. She taught them how to talk, how to eat food, how to sleep in their own bedroom, how to tie their shoes, how to share—the list is endless. That ability to teach them does not just disappear when it becomes time for the child to learn to read, write, and do math.
I would look her right into her eyes and speak truth to her, reminding her that there is no person on this earth that wants your own child to succeed in their life as much as you do, or knows them as well as you—knows every detail about them. That alone sets you up to be the best teacher out there for your child.
Your child is uniquely yours, and you are the perfect person to continue teaching them just as you have since the day they were born. You don’t have to know everything—you just have to know the next right step. You’re in for the best adventure of your life!