Sharing the Load

By Laura Simon

When I decided to homeschool, I envisioned myself doing, well, everything. I’d discovered that most curriculum will pretty much walk the most clueless parent through the teaching process, so I turned my attention to extracurriculars. Art? Yeah…I can handle art. Music? Well, with our piano teacher, aka Grandma, seven hours away in Ohio, I figured I had enough skill to teach basic piano. Gym? I mean, how hard can that be? We have a backyard, after all.

But the other day, I found myself sitting on the sidelines of a church gym, watching my boys take a homeschool PE class. The teacher, who has the patience of Job, explained the details of a game so complicated I was sure my boys would never get it. They struggle to complete two-part chores at home, after all. But there they were, completing a routine of bicycle crunches, planks, and push-ups that somehow earned them the privilege of throwing a wadded-up sock (snowball) at something. There were probably 25 kids in all, and they were learning together, motivating each other, and having a blast with each other.

I can’t duplicate that at home. And that’s OK. It’s really easy for homeschooling moms in particular to feel like we have to do it all, but in reality, we weren’t meant to do this homeschooling thing alone.

That might seem a little strange coming from the person who took her children out of public school and took over their education, but I promise, it’s not.

You see, while I want the lion’s share of a say in what my kids are doing and learning, I realize that growing these kids into well-rounded individuals is way bigger than anything I’m capable of. There’s tremendous value in mentoring relationships, and these mentors will grow my kids by offering new perspectives and opportunities.

And so, after years of unsuccessfully trying to teach my kids how to swim, I signed them up for the swim team. I was an accomplished swimmer many years and pounds ago, but a group of teenagers managed to do what I could not in just a matter of weeks. And my kids adored them for it.

My neighbor taught my son to ride a bike. Two years of work on my part…and thirty seconds on hers.

My kids have other moms who tutor them in our weekly co-op meetings. They’ll try things for their tutors that they won’t attempt for me. They look forward to seeing their tutors – and their peers – each week.

Every Sunday, volunteers at our church build into my kids while I sit in the Sunday service, and they do it again in the evening at Awana clubs. My kids learn how to learn in small and large groups. They learn how to listen. They learn how to sit (sort-of) still during instruction. They learn that faith isn’t limited to our family.

And in a huge departure from my general feelings about technology, I’ve allowed a computer program to take the place of math flash cards. It’s only fifteen minutes a day, and it works wonders. I can save my battles for other things. Because there are always more battles.

And there’s an added benefit to outsourcing: it gives me a break. Because let’s be honest, homeschooling is hard work. It’s nice to sit back and be part of the cheering section – even if only for a few minutes. When I signed the kids up for Awana, I was thinking of all the things I could get done during that hour and a half. Instead, most weeks find me taking the time to actually sit down and eat a complete dinner. Or going for a run alone. It’s a break I desperately need.

I think sometimes homeschooling parents can feel a little like vigilantes. We took on this responsibility for very real reasons, and we don’t want to give even a fraction of it away. And of course, anything you don’t do on your own can be a budgetary challenge for sure. We have to choose wisely. But enlisting reinforcements doesn’t mean you aren’t teaching your children. It just means you’re letting them learn from the unique experiences of other adults as well. In my book, that’s a valuable investment.


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