As some parents decide whether to homeschool their children, a specific facet of the homeschooling population may offer some unique insight. Among homeschoolers you might be surprised to find a great many former public school teachers who said “no thank you” to the prescribed route and chose the path of homeschool for their own children.
One such parent is Sarah Miller from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sarah taught professionally for 10 years before choosing to homeschool her own children. She now blogs about her experience and helps other parents who are just getting started.
I recently asked Sarah about her homeschooling journey. Here’s what she said.
The Epoch Times: How old are your children, and how long have you been homeschooling?
Sarah Miller: My son is 6 and in first grade. My daughter is 3 and starting preschool this year. We are starting our fourth year homeschooling, since we started when my son was in preschool.
The Epoch Times: As a former teacher, what factors led to your decision to homeschool your children?
Ms. Miller: Our decision to homeschool started when trying to choose a preschool for my son. He has a late birthday and would have started preschool just weeks after turning 3. We didn’t qualify to delay a year in our local public school, but my son was very young and very active. I wanted him to have another year at home to play, explore, and grow up before spending time in a classroom environment. We decided to homeschool for one year.
By the end of the year, we knew that homeschooling was an incredible blessing for our family. I had watched my son thrive with the focused attention and customized lessons I could give him, and we both loved the quality time we got to spend together. I am so grateful that we found homeschooling. It’s a great solution for our family.
The Epoch Times: Would you say your teacher training and experience helped you as a homeschooling parent?
Ms. Miller: In some ways, my teacher training does help in our homeschool. I know how to plan a lesson and how to evaluate and choose a curriculum that will work well for us. I am familiar with a lot of research about how kids learn best that I am able to apply to our homeschool.
But in some ways, being a trained teacher is a disadvantage too. I often have to challenge myself to think outside the box about what our school looks like. For many families who are successful at homeschooling, school looks very different than what the public schools offer. I am learning to challenge what I learned in school about how to teach and to adapt it to fit how my kids learn in a more natural way.
The Epoch Times: Do you feel that homeschooling parents without teacher training are at a disadvantage?
Ms. Miller: I don’t think that parents without teacher training are at a disadvantage. There is so much information available about how to homeschool, especially now that it is becoming more popular. All homeschool parents, whether or not they are trained teachers, will learn how to teach each of their individual children as they spend time teaching them.
Parents have a unique advantage that more than makes up for any lack of teacher training they have. As parents, they are an expert on their own children. They know how their children think, what they are interested in, and what motivates them better than anyone else. They care about their children’s success more than any other person on Earth.
The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the greatest challenges of homeschooling?
Ms. Miller: Homeschooling is a big time commitment, so balancing the time it takes to homeschool well with my other life responsibilities is a challenge. It can also be hard not to take things personally when we have a hard day in our homeschool. I care so much about my kids’ learning and I want nothing more than for them to be successful. It’s hard when they are struggling with what they are learning or not feeling motivated to learn. I am learning to be patient and to prioritize my relationship with my kids first, my kids’ love of learning second, and then whatever I am trying to teach them that day third.
The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the greatest benefits of homeschooling?
Ms. Miller: Homeschooling allows us to spend a lot of quality time together as a family. Every day I have the opportunity to invest time intentionally into my relationships with my children. It is such a blessing to be the one who gets to see the light in their eyes when they understand something for the first time, or their excitement about new skills they are learning.
My kids also have a close relationship with each other because they are homeschooled together. They are forming a strong sibling relationship now which I hope will be a lifelong blessing for them.
The Epoch Times: What’s one thing you wish you knew about homeschooling when you were just getting started?
Ms. Miller: Everyone’s homeschool is unique, because everyone’s kids are unique. As a homeschool parent, it is important not to compare what you are doing with what you see others doing. Instead, spend time observing your kids and how they learn. Try to create an experience for them that will help them love learning, and give them lots of opportunities to learn in the way that they learn best. Because every child is different, this will look different for every family. But that is a good thing!
The Epoch Times: What advice would you give a parent today who is considering homeschooling their children?
Ms. Miller: I would recommend taking some time to adjust. This is a big change in your family’s priorities. Start slow and take some time to get used to your new normal. It’s OK to lower your expectations and relax, and it’s OK not to get everything done at first. Learning how to homeschool takes time, both for you and for your child.