When people ask me if I felt prepared for adult life after being homeschooled, I’m never quite sure how to respond. Does my current role as a wife and mother come easy to me? No. Neither do many aspects of maintaining a home (I have a mountain of unfolded laundry on the couch to prove it).
I think the challenge is found in the fact that despite having a wonderful example to follow and being taught the tools of the trade, I am not mothering, wife-ing, or homeschooling from previous experience. I’m navigating uncharted waters in my life for the first time, but as far as feeling prepared for something I have never done before goes, I would say emphatically that homeschooling helped get me ready for what I still do so imperfectly.
See, the only thing in the real world that resembles school is school. Marriage isn’t like school. Motherhood isn’t like school. Homemaking isn’t like school. Employment isn’t like school. If you don’t plan on in being in school for the rest of your life, there are advantages to living and learning in an environment that normalizes the responsibilities of adulthood. Homeschooling did that for me.
We grew up thinking it was perfectly normal to work and study with crying or nursing babies around. It was normal to read our Science textbook while snuggling with the latest bundle of itty bitty sweetness. It was normal to have to stop and change a diaper in the middle of something we enjoyed, such as watching Anne of Green Gables while Mom was on an errand. Babies, though they were certainly a distraction at times, were a natural phenomenon. They didn’t hinder our education; they were part of it. They weren’t something to be endured. They weren’t an interference. They were normal (and very cute) part of family life.
It was normal to have our train of thought interrupted by some hilarious toddler antic, spilled milk, a doorbell, the telephone ringing, or Dad coming in from the barn for his morning coffee. We had to learn how to focus on the task at hand when other things – good things – were begging for our attention.
Multi-tasking became habitual, too. We folded laundry while we listened to audiobooks, finished our math lessons on the bleachers at the pool while our siblings had swimming lessons, and took workbooks or readers along to the dentist, the doctor, the music teacher’s, or any other place we might be required to wait. “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today,” was one of my Mom’s favorite things to say. “Make hay while the sun shines,” was right up there, too. Teaching us how to redeem the time and make the most of every moment was a lesson she belabored. Laziness was not tolerated. It might have flustered us then, but boy, am I thankful for it now.
My parents operated under the idea that they weren’t raising children, they were raising adults, so we didn’t differentiate much between adult chores and child chores. We knew we had it way easier than our parents did, and that if we complained, our work would be doubled or we would have privileges taken away. Some people say that homeschooled kids are ripped off on their childhood because they’re required to pitch in and do the things a mother might normally do if they were at school. Laundry, making beds, ironing, meal preparation, baking, cleaning bathrooms, minding younger siblings, feeding animals, picking weeds, organizing closets, de-cluttering bedrooms, dusting bookshelves, washing the van, vacuuming the floor – these jobs were part of our regular routine from our earliest memories. They didn’t rip us off on a childhood; they prepared us for adulthood.
All-day long, we would observe life lessons that aren’t taught in a textbook, and perhaps weren’t even remembered or appreciated until years later. Things like taking meat for dinner out of the freezer in the morning to defrost, doubling a recipe while cooking to have a ready-made meal on hand, pulling a dress shirt out of the dryer just before the cycle is finished to save time ironing, guarding time for personal devotions, storing baking soda in the fridge to keep it deodorized, training children to observe Quiet Time after lunch for your own sanity’s sake or post-partum recovery, determining what portion of an income to tithe, save, and spend – these are a few of the many gifts for adult life that I was given by simply being at home.
I married at 18; our first child arrived 11 months later, shortly after my 19th birthday. Now I’m coming up on my 26th and am 7 months pregnant with our 6th child (miscarried our third baby). Motherhood is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My failures and shortcomings stare me in the face every day, and it’s entirely by God’s grace that I find the strength to press on. Marriage has been a joy, not because I’m a good wife – I’m not – but because Brad is such a good forgiver and loves me so. Managing a home with soon-to-be 5 small children requires a great deal of self-discipline, energy, and organization, which frankly, I often don’t have. I’m regularly overwhelmed with the seemingly endless list of things that need doing. We take a pretty relaxed approach to homeschooling, so it’s mostly stress-free, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t ever worry that I’m doing enough.
However, none of these challenges of adult life come as a surprise to me. I knew what it would entail and I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Growing up, I saw that it was hard, but I also saw that it was worth all the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows, the sleepless nights and the trying days. The kind of childhood I had, is the kind of childhood I want our children to have: the kind that prepares you for hard things because they’re good things that are worth doing well.
Irony of ironies, while I was finishing up this very post, one of our children came over to notify me that another child had scribbled all over her newly painted dresser and headboard with a pen. While I was attempting to scrub off the ink, another child wandered into the room with dripping wet hands from a toilet she had clogged with half a roll of toilet paper. Homeschooled or not, I guess there are some things you are just never prepared for.