Homeschooling: Freeing My Girls to BE, not Become

This is a guest post by the amazing (and pretty famous) Heather Sanders. We’re doing a cross-posty thing today. The theme is “homeschooling and confidence. Especially relating to girls. From the perspective of a homeschooling mom and a girl who was homeschooled.” I’m sure there’s a way to make that sound catchier. Every family’s experience with homeschooling or unschooling is fascinatingly different (for example, no one in my family ever got up that early), and I love to read about how Heather’s family works. You can read my post about being a gorgeous little dorky homeschool girl over at Heather Sanders.com , but not until you read this incredible piece by Heather:

Not too many days ago I woke to the smell of pancakes and the sound of three children quietly laughing and “shuushing” each other in the kitchen just beyond my bedroom door.

“I’m awake–no need to be quiet!” I hollered from under my electric blanket–still trying to remember if it was a school day or not. The door opened and Meredith (10) and Kenny (8) ran in, piling into bed with me. They smelled of maple syrup and peanut butter.

Emelie, my oldest at 14, walked through the door with a cup of coffee. “Do you want me to make you some wheat pancakes with blueberries?” she asked as she passed the warm cup into my outstretched hands. “Do you have to ask?” I responded. She leaned over and kissed me like the “Other Mother” that she is and headed back to the kitchen.

“It must be a school day” I said out loud to no one in particular, noting that the two kids now in my bed were lying right where their Daddy would be if it was a Saturday.

Picking up my cell phone I saw it was 9:00 a.m.
Up late the night before completing a design job I completely overslept.
Still, thanks to my two independent and responsible daughters, the household was running along smoothly.

The kids already had breakfast in their bellies, and my breakfast was in route, thanks to Emelie. Meredith’s dishes were cleared from the dishwasher, the pups were fed and her schoolwork was well underway. After a quick reminder from his oldest sister, Kenny had taken out the kitchen trash and sorted the recyclables before sitting down to eat the breakfast Emelie placed in front of him. All was well.

I don’t make a habit of sleeping in past 6:00 a.m. on most week days. Still, knowing my girls have an internal sense of responsibility and willingness to do what needs to be done, even in my absence (as well as encouraging their brother to do the same), is a great comfort. Not just because it afforded me wheat and blueberry pancakes on that particular morning, though that is naturally a huge plus, but because it further affirms my belief that our family’s Homeschooling “culture” has freed the girls from any of society’s standards–real or imagined.

EMELIE – OLDEST SISTER

Creative Souls

At age fourteen Emelie is well into her teenage years, but without the restraints and emotional angst that tend to be the bane of the teenage existence. The oldest daughter, she has a number of responsibilities “imposed” on her by her Daddy and I, but she has also developed her own sense of internalized discipline and drive to traverse her personal areas of interest–like ASL (American Sign Language), reading, writing, and videography, to name a few. She simply would not have time for all these things if she was conventionally schooled.

Homeschooling, she will tell you, is freedom. Not only can she dance around the house in her pajamas listening to Vampire Weekend between assignments, but she has the space, time, and encouragement from her Daddy and I to pursue learning, fully develop her God-given sense of “self”, and avoid society’s cookie-cutter mold.

Unlike most teenage girls, Emelie truly lives the mindset that anything is possible if she puts her best foot forward. And? That foot may very well be covered in knee-high, lime green socks and high-top Converse. Situations that would leave other girls hiding in their rooms give Emelie license for greater creativity. For instance, Em could care less if she has a big zit on the end of her nose – in fact, she’s likely to name it “Charlie” and introduce it to all her friends. She understands what defines her–and temporary acne isn’t enough to keep her from experiencing the fullness of life.

Absolute Lunatic

Hormonally Emelie is like any other 14-year old girl; she can’t avoid biology after all. Sure she gets her period, gets her feelings hurt, gets her heart broken, and has good and bad days, but the way she handles it all is where the difference is evident. Because of the daily trust we’ve established over the years, she isn’t afraid to be transparent–in fact, she lays herself wide open, trusting us to protect and nurture her. She listens, learns, communicates and therefore, grows, through every difficult and uncomfortable experience.

Emelie's 2010 School Picture

She is a confident and content young woman and a great joy to her family and others.

MEREDITH – MIDDLE SISTER

Meredith is a preteen at age ten. If enrolled in public school she would be halfway through her fifth grade year. Do you remember fifth grade? It was torture. So many expectations begin to emerge in fifth grade. Though still such children at heart, society tells preteens, “Put away your Barbie dolls, baby dolls and silly toys and grow up! Come, we’ll show you how!” And yet, Meredith doesn’t feel that pull–she’s not ready to put away her childhood toys.

Babies tucked in safe.

I am convinced part of Meredith’s calling is to be a Momma. She is deeply maternal and it shows in how fully she cares for her baby dolls. She still enjoys playing house–slinging her babies, changing their diapers, bathing them, and gently talking with them in her room. Am I concerned she is being childish? Of course not. She is honing in on a natural gift to nurture–she is practicing for the future when her Daddy and I fully believe she will be a wonderful Momma.

Sweetness

Meredith is not terribly interested in her schoolwork. She enjoys reading and writing, but the rest of it she does to “get it done”. She doesn’t dilly-dally when it comes to completing school assignments. Instead, she sits down and pushes through until she can mark off  her day, typically finishing way ahead of her siblings. Meredith is far more interested in practicing guitar, penning a new song, writing poetry and stories, or building enormous forts in the living room, to give much more thought to Math, Science or History than necessary. This may change with time or it may not. Either way is fine.

Typically very detailed in her work, Meredith carefully completes each of her assignments, but once she’s done…she’s off to do other things. Life, to her, is meant to be lived in action, not in word.

Meredith's 2010 School Picture

Not yet fully confident in who she is, or what her place is in the world, her Daddy and I can just now see the “new growth” of self-assurance coming forth. We look forward to watching her bloom in the upcoming years.

Captain my Captain

Lest you think I forgot him, my son Kenny is 8. He is quite young still, and society’s framework for him is, and will always be, so much different than it is/will be for my girls. Though I still equate Homeschooling with freedom for boys, I believe he has more freedom overall simply because he was born male. Of course, that’s another topic for another day, right?

To wrap it up, homeschooling offers a fertile ground for my girls to “be” who they are (regardless of gender), but it doesn’t cancel out the doubts that surface, the disappointments with self, or the confusion about physical and emotional changes. What it does, in my opinion, is remove the clutter of convention. Homeschooling takes away the stress of “You must act like this, look like this, or be like this.” and replaces it with discussion–”Why would you want to act like this or that?”, “What do you like about the way you look?”, “Who do you think you are or want to be?”

In my opinion, encouraging my girls to “BE” who they are, and not just “BECOME” whatever is expected of them, is one of the greatest gifts of Homeschooling.

Heather L. Sanders is “Momma” to three kids, Emelie, Meredith and Kenny. When not homeschooling, Heather designs websites and writes about life in the piney woods of Texas at HeatherSanders.com.

23 comments to Homeschooling: Freeing My Girls to BE, not Become

  • I LOVE this post! Your family is amazing! Great job. :)

    Re: dolls. I was homeschooled and played with my American Girl Doll and Barbies until I was 12 or 13. It was awesome.

  • Thanks Jess! We love American Girl Dolls here as well. Emelie has actually passed hers down to another girl in our Homeschool group, but Meredith still has hers. We even drove the 3 hours to Dallas to visit the American Girl store a couple of years ago and oh my, paid to have THEIR EARS PIERCED and their hair fixed.

  • erin jones

    Isn’t it amazing when you watch them become who they are with no “strings attached”? “I like this or that, but so and so says its stupid…” So thankful to not have those limitations! You guys are inspiring!

  • Well how cool is this!!! Totally gotta un-lurk and say I love reading “un-schooled” I always think “oooh something good to read when I see a post in my news reader”… Well simply a gasp of joy today when I discover my fave homeschool family hanging out over here today!!! Cool bananas!!! My eldest daughter is almost ten and since I have only homeschooled my kids I had no idea she wouldn’t still play with baby dolls… in fact my thirteen year old son thinks there is nothing better in the world than Lego. NOTHING!!! Long may it last – they have their whole crazy lives ahead of them anyway!!!

    • kate

      Thanks for coming out of the internet shadows and saying hi!
      My brothers loved legos. For YEARS. I never understood. I was like, “They’re just tiny blocks.” But they couldn’t get enough. Until, one day, they got enough. Kids are funny like that.

  • I love this post! One of my favorite things is watching my children become exactly who they are meant to be, not what society says they should be.

  • I love the message of this post.

    Personally though, I went to public school for all of my education. And my best friend and I played with our American Dolls until we were 13.

    As a public school teacher though, I see way too much of the opposite in my classroom and it’s scary. I wish I could homeschool my daughter. And at the same time I’m afraid that I’d be too controlling to have a “no strings attached” attitude. Some of that stuff comes from our mothers too ya know. Heather is quite a rock star when it comes to mothering but I don’t know if I could be.

  • I love this post! I’m a homeschool mom to three daughters, and yes, I want them to BE who they are. To me, homeschooling is just part of being a parent. I’ve been teaching and encouraging my children from day one, why would I want to stop?

  • I think it is marvelous that your children are growing up as their “own people,” as we used to say back in hippie days. (Yes, I am that old.)

    I also think that children can be raised to be independent thinkers and individuals no matter where they are schooled. Our daughters attended both public and private schools, and they did not suffer because of it — even though, yes, they might have zipped through curriculae faster on their own. They were not scheduled kids, they were distinctly different from the usual kids — both in their accomplishments and in their demeanor — and I am proud of the young people they’ve become. Both have traveled on their own across the globe many times, both attended good colleges on full ride scholarships, they are accomplished in the arts and letters, and they are now in grad schools across the country from one another, pursuing their very own dreams … in careers that will not make them a lot of (or any!) money, but will satisfy their souls.

    I think that it’s not the homeschooling OR the traditional schooling that “makes” the child — I think it is the child herself, the parents’ willingness to have a “different” kid, to give the child the tools to be creative and free, to not over-schedule or regiment, to foster independence and joy. I’m afraid I’ve known some absolutely dreadful homeschooling parents, just as I’ve known all too many absolutely dreadful teachers.

    It’s not the circumstances, it’s what we put into it.
    So keep up the good work, but pat yourself on the back … it’s what you are doing with homeschooling, not homeschooling itself that makes the difference.

    Best wishes,
    Cass

  • Love this! Love Heather! And nice to ‘meet’ you Kate ;o)

  • I ran across your blog for the first time today through a friend on Facebook. As an unschooling mom of two, I’m in love with your blog and now have it at the top of my yahoo home page. I absolutely love unschooling my kids and giving them the chance to grow up be become who they were created to be and not who others think they should be. I feel so blessed when I look at my kids and see how strong, confident, intelligent and mature they are and am so glad I get to spend every day with them watching them grow. Your blog is so encouraging and I can’t wait to read more of it.

  • Heather, this was so inspiring! I am interested in homeschooling my children (umm…in like, 4 years when I start having them!), but I sometimes get discouraged by some of the daunting challenges that come along with this type of education/ lifestyle. This post, however, reminds me of all the intriguing benefits of homeschooling that drew me in in the first place.

    PS. Hi, Kate! I’m a big fan of Eat The Damn Cake and I was so excited to stumble upon this blog today. Totally adding this to my list of daily reads. (I’m the girl who submitted a photo to you of me at my wedding with a pig cupcake. Remember me?? Hehe.)

  • FANTASTIC!! I so loved this post and I my heart is smiling knowing my own three unschooled(ish) kiddos are also *free*.

  • Kristin

    Thank you, I enjoyed that. :-)

  • Beautiful post! It is kind of like planting mystery seeds…nurturing and tending the garden and waiting to see the beautiful work of art. You will enjoy the fruit of this for a lifetime. Two of my 4 homeschoolers have been on their own for 7 years now and they still go through life without self-imposed limitations…doing all those things people told them they *couldn’t* do. I fear public school teaches more of what you *can’t* do.

  • mom23boos

    I regularly read OMSH. I have truly enjoyed all the great posts from Heather AND her kids (loved the recent posts from Emelie)so far and looking forward to more.

    We live in Houston and are part of a very eclectic group of people, who are all great. The reason I am posting is that recently my daughter had a very sad interaction with another girl in our group. My daughter was trying out the new tap class that is part of our homeshool gym classes. Another girl in our group commented that “NOBODY likes tap or ballet!” I was very saddened by this comment because I really thought she wouldn’t have to hear such negative things as this from other kids in our group. Unfortunatley, being homeschooled doesn’t always mean you are shielded from negative peer pressure. My daughter just shrugged off the other child’s comment, but she chose not to join the tap class. I have to wonder if that had anything to do with it.

  • Kika

    Great post. I homeschool and one of my main goals for doing so is to allow my children to be who they are meant to/choose to be without pressure to conform. My newly turned 11 yr old daughter loves her Maplelea doll (Cnd version of American Girl) while her public schooled friends have long stopped enjoying this type of play… at least from what we know. It is also fun to watch the interactions between my almost 15 yr old son as he gets on the floor and plays with his 5yr old sister… they love little sonic the hedgehog figurines… sound effects, etc. I agree that mostly it is our relationship and interaction with our children which sets the tone rather than homeschooling in and of itself… but I am so thankful to watch my children ‘emerge’ and wonder at all they’ll be and do each step of the way.

  • I went to a great public school, and my much younger sister was home schooled. Although personality is a huge factor in our differences, I can see how homeschooling prevented, for her, some of the insecurities that I have.
    I’ve been wavering about home schooling my young kids, but I think I just made the decision to go for it. *gulp*

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