Friday, August 28, 2015

Homeschooling. It Is Worth It!

As a homeschooling mom, I can see my "teacher" days dwindling toward the end.  My children have entered into the bigger world, each at their own pace and based on their own interests. They are finding their way, having experiences and successes of their own.  They continue to have our support, they know we are there for them and though they continue to operate mostly in the context of their first social group, our family, it is their own paths, they are beginning to blaze.
With one son in college, one son, attending public high school (his choice) and my daughter, my youngest, still homeschooling, even though I’m not completely "done" homeschooling, I find myself reminiscing and reviewing.  As I recount our experiences every look back ends with great gratitude for having had the opportunity to homeschool.  I can say with certainty that it is worth it.

No regrets.

I have to admit as I look back it doesn't seem like we really made many sacrifices to homeschool. The biggest sacrifice was probably made well before we decided to homeschool when we choose for me to be an at-home-mom and we gave up a second income.  Viewed as coming with major sacrifices or not, the choice to homeschool does involve some level of compromise.  We have remained a one income family much longer than we originally planned due to the educational choices we have made for our children.  We are still living that compromise and yet, even with the constant financial catching up, I have no regrets.

When I was a college student myself, a professor once shared his thoughts about regret; he related his wisdom, and it stuck with me. He said, "It's not the things we try that we regret but the things we don't attempt".  That is certainly true for me as a parent with homeschooling.  If we hadn't decided to be our children's primary educators, I know it is one of the things I would have always looked back on to wonder, what if?

Reading everyday.

There were many days, when my oldest was high school age, I questioned our decision.  I often verbalized my doubts to my husband.  He however, always remained solid about our decision, the benefits and what we weren't missing out on.  He was certain that what our children were experiencing was far more valuable then what they might be missing at the local public school.  I wasn't always so sure, until, our second son made the choice to attend our local public high school.  Now I have NO doubts. (That's another post for another day.)

During my middle son's freshman year attending school, my daughter missed him terribly. They had, until then, always spent a significant amount of time together.  His school attendance cut into that time and it was a hard adjustment for them both.  I remain grateful for the time they shared prior and the relationship they developed.  Sibling closeness has been one of the beautiful benefits that our family has derived from homeschooling.

When asked, is it worth it? My answer is a resounding; Yes! 

Every moment shared has been a gift of love, bonding and memory making that would have been made more difficult to obtain had they all been attending school every day.  Our days have been full and rewarding and productive and sometimes not so productive.  We have played and worked and learned. We have lounged and found excitement in new topics.  We've been bored and discouraged and enthusiastic again. We've cooked and cleaned and laughed and cried. We have ice skated at rinks during noon open skates and in our own backyard.  We have had daytime dog walking jobs and paper routes. We had snow days and cozy read aloud days.  My children created games and "art" and relationships with one another through hours spent together daily.  It wasn't always fun and games or stress free but there was always joy.

Pets enjoy homeschooling, too.

I can't say that there was just one moment of realization that homeschooling was the most wonderful blessing and was worth it, but I can say, seeing two young men growing into responsibility with the ability to think for themselves, is overwhelmingly satisfying.  Watching my daughter daily as she blossoms and takes on amazing challenges as an accomplished athlete is awe inspiring. They are each unique and wonderful people.  It has been a wondrous blessing to have so many moments both momentous and mundane together with each of them. They are each a joy and have been since day one.

Homeschooling is worth it, just for the joy of it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Asher at Bat - We Encourage Our Kids to Participate in Organized Youth Sports

There is a wide range of available opportunities in our current culture for organized youth sports. There are as many sports as there are kids to play; as many games as there are days in summer, fall, spring and winter. There is baseball, lacrosse, badminton, gymnastics (several kinds), track and field, soccer, hockey, volleyball and I'm sure plenty more I'm not even aware of. In each, there are varying levels at which to participate.

There are community leagues; parents volunteer to manage, coach and assist with administration. Often associated with national organizations, many communities give these groups priority for field time and park access. Little League Baseball and American Youth Soccer Organization are just two examples.

In some communities there are park district leagues; anyone can sign up and everyone plays. Organized and administrated by local city parks and recreation departments these leagues often hire young adults to assist with teaching and coaching.

There are travel leagues and travel teams; in some cases, there is still parent coaching and managing. Though in these leagues, it is more likely there will be a privately hired coach. Training for the players on these teams is usually more intensive. Some of these teams will require try outs, others won't. These are basically club sports that are private. Participation in competitions is administrated through a larger organization. USA Gymnastics for gymnasts is an example.

And in the good ol' USA.
There are school teams, some where everyone plays and some exclusive. On the exclusive school teams, coaches choose players based on skill and ability already achieved and demonstrated at try-outs. Some school teams will include training and skill development, but don't count on it. Some school sports are not available to everyone.

Whatever level of participation you choose for your young athlete, there are fruitful experiences to share.

Benefits for the athletes:
  • Productive, keep busy activity
  • Social time with a purpose
    • Family involvement and activity
      • Parent and son/daughter time
        Many life lessons including:
        • Being a part of a team
        • Learning about, how to handle competition
        • Learning what it takes to achieve excellence
        • Learning to work with others
        • Learning to encourage others
        • Learning to find appropriate mentors


        Bring up the topic at any adult event where parents are present and you will hear plenty of arguments for and against the competition inherent in sports participation. The fear and trepidation regarding the competitive nature of sports has actually become one of my reasons to encourage participation. Our world is saturated with competition and  based on what I know about human nature, it's not going away anytime soon. So let's dive in and wrestle with it. Let's be in the process of understanding it with our kids. Let's not just throw them in on their own and pretend that if we only choose the right activities (art & theater) for them, they won't encounter it.

        Parents and coaches can (and should) have ongoing conversations about the games they are a part of and the competition involved. Listen to your young athlete's impressions and understanding. Don't make assumptions about what it means to them. Usually they have deeper understanding then we know.

        Keep Talking

        Consider exploring for yourself and with your athlete some of the following questions:
        What is your goal for today's game or practice?
        What skill do you want to practice to improve?
        How can I help my teammates?
        How can I contribute to my team?

        One Example From Our Experience
        Little League also offers suggestions

        Our son, Asher, by his own choice, began playing   T-Ball at the age of five. Having watched his older brother play countless games already, Asher was an astute player when he first took the field. The rules of T-Ball were to him, unfortunately dumbed down. On one occasion, riding home from a game he talked T-ball rules. Angry and indignant to the point of tears he recounted a play that involved his impressive throw to first base. The throw beat out the runner but to Asher's dismay, the runner was allowed to stay on base. The meaning to him was that his effort wasn't acknowledged. To him the rule change negated the effort of his throw. Explaining that each player comes with different levels of skill and knowledge, especially at that age, was important. However, the experience reinforced for him the desire to gain skills to move on to experiences with more competition, not less.

        Whatever level of participation you choose for your young athlete, there are fruitful experiences to share. Staying involved and active in sports can be worthwhile. There is learning and growth to be enjoyed at the gym or on the field for every family member, just keep connecting to one another and Play Ball!