Stepping out on the path of homeschooling can seem a daunting endeavor. Thank goodness for the many moms and dads who’ve gone before and who willingly share their wisdom.
Durenda Wilson is one such homeschooling mom. A mother of eight and grandmother of six, she homeschooled her children from the very beginning. Now she shares her insights through her book “The Four-Hour School Day: How You and Your Kids Can Thrive in the Homeschool Life,” her weekly podcast, and her encouraging social media posts.
I asked Wilson about her homeschooling journey and for her advice for parents just getting started along theirs. Here’s what she said.
The Epoch Times: What inspired you to homeschool your children?
Durenda Wilson: My husband and I often say it’s because we are selfish. We didn’t want to share our kids with someone else for that many hours per week.
We wanted to be able to create a life for our family that gave us the freedom to do the things that our kids were interested in and things we loved to do together. We wanted our kids to have a childhood. We wanted to provide opportunities for our kids to connect with a variety of people and develop healthy relationships with learning so they would become lifelong learners.
We also felt responsible to raise our kids with the value system that we believed was best for them and would truly prepare them to be healthy, productive, contributing adults. We knew these things simply couldn’t happen if we sent our kids to school seven to eight hours a day, five days a week.
Twenty-six years later, I can honestly say that homeschooling was one of the single best and most important decisions we ever made.
The Epoch Times: What have you found to be the greatest benefits of homeschooling?
Ms. Wilson: One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is having the freedom to give your kids the education that allows their gifts to be discovered and flourish. Instead of spending copious amounts of time on things they are not good at—a remedial approach—we can spend time homing in on what they are good at.
No two kids are exactly the same so the one-size-fits-all approach is essentially useless and ineffective. Each child is uniquely gifted and homeschooling gives us the opportunity to walk alongside them, help them see their value, and grow confidence in the fact that their lives have a meaningful purpose. They get to be challenged, but in a way that grows them rather than discourages them.
Another great benefit is being able to have a strong, cohesive family life. Families in our culture are falling apart at the seams, and family is where kids are shaped for life. When we homeschool, we have the opportunity to grow deep, healthy family relationships that in turn, grow strong healthy, productive adults who impact our world for the good. We give them deep roots so we can also give them robust wings.
The Epoch Times: What have been your biggest homeschooling challenges?
Ms. Wilson: Me. I’ve sometimes been my biggest obstacle, especially if I give in to comparisons or distractions.
Every homeschooling parent struggles with feeling inadequate at least some of the time. I don’t have a college degree. I’ve never gone to college a day in my life. I’m not sorry about that. I think college is often a waste of time and money, but that’s another conversation. However, sometimes I’ve wondered if I was giving them enough of what they really needed.
It turns out that the biggest thing my kids needed from me was to be present and available not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They needed me to set the healthy boundaries that every kid needs, in other words, to be the parent. They needed me to provide a safe, secure home life with healthy daily rhythms, regular meals, and a predictable routine.
They didn’t need me to be Wonder Woman. They didn’t need me to know everything. They needed me to be willing to learn alongside them, to have confidence in their ability to learn, and to do so in the way that worked best for them. They needed me to ask lots of questions to encourage them to think for themselves. They didn’t need me to be a helicopter homeschooling mom or to have their daily lives planned out to the minute by me. They needed me to be their biggest cheerleader and know when to offer guidance and when to let them learn things on their own.
We save ourselves a lot of unnecessary grief when we learn to be comfortable with the unique design of our own family.
The Epoch Times: You connect with so many homeschooling parents through your books, your podcast, and social media. What do you believe are the biggest mistakes new homeschooling parents tend to make?
Ms. Wilson: The first mistake parents make is thinking that “school” (the book part) has to take seven to eight hours a day. Homeschooling is efficient and effective so it takes way less time than most people think. I talk about this a lot in my book, “The Four-Hour School Day.”
Another big mistake new homeschooling parents make is trying to do traditional school at home. One of the reasons we usually decide to homeschool is because that system wasn’t working well for our kids. So why are we trying to copy it? I think, often, it’s because it’s all most of us know, and that’s OK. We can take anything good from the traditional system and use it if it’s actually working for our kids and us, but whatever isn’t a good fit should be reconsidered.
We need to think in terms of what’s useful for our particular kids. Curriculum and learning approaches exist to serve us and our kids, not the other way around. They are tools, and not all tools work well for all of us. I often say that homeschooling is an ongoing series of experiments. None of us ever feels like we’ve got it all figured out, but the key is to be teachable and really get to know our kids.
I would advise any new homeschooling parent to give yourself some time to connect with your kids, to watch them, and take notes on what you learn about them. Have lots of conversations. Learn as much as you can about them; use that information to help you decide what approach you are going to take.
Most of all, be willing to learn right alongside your kids, and trust me, you are going to be just fine!
The Epoch Times: What advice would you give the mom or dad reading this who is new to homeschooling, has just started this year, or is about to take the plunge?
Ms. Wilson: My advice would be not to overwhelm yourself with more information than you can thoughtfully and meaningfully apply. Don’t make decisions out of fear. Take some time to challenge your ideas about education so you can be more intentional in your approach. Of course, I would recommend reading my book, “The Four-Hour School Day: How You and Your Kids Can Thrive in the Homeschool Life.”
It has helped so many parents relax and find confidence in their homeschooling journey. These messages are reinforced on my podcast.
And for goodness’ sake, enjoy your kids! Kids are awesome, and we can learn as much or more from them as they do from us!
The Epoch Times: What advice would you offer family members of homeschoolers? How can they best support their homeschooling relatives?
Ms. Wilson: The family members of homeschoolers can provide much-needed support by remembering that the responsibility of educating the children falls on the parents. Don’t try to take over a role that doesn’t belong to you because, at the end of the day, they are not your kids.
Work hard not to question every decision the parents are making. Parents make mistakes, and they need space to learn and grow as well.
Let them know that you support their decision by telling them often, and if you can, offer to help in ways that aren’t meddlesome or pushy. An encouraged parent is always a better parent.