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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.