By Renée Gotcher
Being a homeschool graduate could have turned out one of two ways for me: I could have loved the experience and known from the start that I would want to pass on that same gift to my children, or I could have gone the other way and felt that there was no way/reason/need to homeschool and never given it a second thought. I know homeschool graduates who’ve landed on both sides of that fence, and either way, they’re pretty convinced of the sides they’ve chosen.
But it wasn’t that simple for me. Although I had a positive perspective on homeschooling and was grateful to have experienced it myself, I didn’t dive in when the time came. My husband was also homeschooled, and we’d always talked about wanting to do it. However, after we got married, I dove into a time-consuming career in journalism and as I rose through the ranks, I put the idea of homeschooling on the way back burner. I figured that by the time we’d get around to having kids, I would probably be ready.
We started our family about seven years later, and the subject came up again, but I had plenty of time to think about it, I thought. Our second daughter was born just 20 months after our first, so I was preoccupied with life as a work-at-home mom of two children under age 3. But when the time came for our eldest daughter to start preschool, I didn’t take the homeschooling plunge. I wasn’t sure that I was ready.
I was sure about one thing: I was convinced that the highly regarded little Christian preschool in our neighborhood would be just as good, if not better, for my girls than spending all day with me. The teachers were precious, the class sizes were cozy, their classmates were sweet and well mannered, the curriculum was agreeable, and it was affordable.
And frankly, I needed the time away from them. I had a thriving direct sales business, and those few hours a day that both my girls were enjoying preschool, I was able to get a lot of work done. The better question was why I wouldn’t take advantage of such a great opportunity.
Plus, I told myself, it will give me more time to get ready to homeschool by the time they finished Kindergarten there. After all, I had experienced homeschooling myself for a couple of years and watched my mom continue to homeschool my siblings after I’d left the fold, so I was ahead of the homeschooling curve. It won’t be that hard for me to get started, I thought, when I’m ready.
However, that day finally arrived, and guess what, I wasn’t ready.
I gave birth to my third daughter just a few days after my eldest Audrey graduated from Kindergarten at our lovely neighborhood preschool. Pretty soon, we’d have to make a decision about whether Audrey would be starting first grade at the neighborhood public school or the closest (and not so affordable) Christian private school. I wasn’t feeling as comfortable about either option as I had been with their preschool, but my discomfort wasn’t strong enough to push me over to the homeschooling side of the fence.
Especially now that I had a new baby to take care of. How in the world could I be an effective homeschooling teacher if I had a needy newborn to tend to 24/7? Maybe when our youngest was a toddler, and would be able to do “preschool” activities while I did schoolwork with the older two, maybe by then I would be ready. But not now.
So even though we were moving from Portland to Durango, and it would have been a perfect time to make the break from traditional school to homeschooling, we enrolled the girls in our new town’s only private school option: The local Catholic school. And I bought myself a couple more years to get ready to homeschool.
You get the picture. But the truth is, I wasn’t really stuck in a rut of perpetual preparation. In fact, I wasn’t preparing at all. I hadn’t spent any of those years since enrolling Audrey in the 3-year-olds class at our little preschool “getting ready” for anything. I was simply afraid to do it.
My biggest homeschooling blunder: Thinking that because I’d been homeschooled myself, I’d be ready when the time came. Because of my personal experience with homeschooling, I thought I’d not only be better prepared to homeschool my own children, I would also feel more ready and confident about doing it than someone who’d never experienced it before.
But I was wrong: I had the same fears and concerns clouding my confidence that every parent faces. And until last year, I’d let those fears hold me back — even as I watched two of my younger sisters confidently take the homeschooling plunge themselves.
The good news is that I finally decided to replace that fear with faith. I decided to trust God with His calling to homeschool and put all my faith in Him to make it work. I realized that my fears were a result of my self-centered desire to do things my way and be successful at everything I do, and feeling ill-equipped to homeschool, I was simply afraid to fail.
During those years of “getting ready” to homeschool, the only thing that actually needed to be prepared was my heart. When we made our first step down the road of traditional schooling, my heart wasn’t yet in the right place. Unfortunately, it took quite a few more years of wrestling with my own will before I finally surrendered it to God.
Once I took that step of faith to homeschool and let God be in the driver’s seat, that fear of failure was replaced with a freedom and peace, knowing that God would finish His work in our family. And I resolved to stop getting in His way.
If only I could have gotten there sooner!
— Renée Gotcher is an entrepreneur, writer, wife & home-educating mother of three daughters: Audrey, Claire and Elise. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. She currently resides in Castle Rock, Colorado.
This post is part of a reader feedback link-up at Simple Homeschool’s “Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes” series. See “Q&A Friday: Your Biggest Homeschooling Mistake” for insight from other homeschooling moms across the country on this topic!