Everyone thinks I homeschool my fourteen year old daughter, Charlotte. I don’t. She homeschools herself.
I try to help her:
“Charlotte, I have a new book we’re just about to start reading. What you like to join us?”
“No thanks, Mum. I have something else planned.”
“Charlotte we’re going to watch this DVD. Do you want to watch too?”
“Not right now, thank you Mum. I’m in the middle of something else.”
So Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I settle on the sofa together and enjoy learning without her. Charlotte disappears into her bedroom, her mind busy with her own activities.
We meet up again at lunch time. “What did you do this morning?” I ask.
My middle daughter puts down her mug of tea. Her face lights up as she shares some of her morning’s discoveries.
“Don’t you ever get fed up working on your own?” I ask.
“No,” Charlotte replies. “I’ve got too many interesting things to do to get bored and fed up.”
After lunch I pull out the records book I am required to keep for our homeschooling registration. “You’d better tell me again exactly what you did this morning, Charlotte. I need to record everything in my book.”
“I watched a video on Germanium. Did you know…”
A few minutes later she moves onto the next item. “Then there’s maths. I beat Imogen’s score on that Pinata game.” Charlotte grins with delight. Obviously there’s some sisterly rivalry going on.
“I’m reading about Catholicism and the New World. Did you know… And I read some more of Through Shakespeare’s Eyes. I’m also reading Vilette. Then I did some Latin. I had a problem but I sorted it out. I’ve nearly finished the course! Oh yes, I’m planning another chemistry lesson for the girls…”
I am scribbling at a furious rate. Then I have a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? I grab a new exercise book from the shelf and thrust it at Charlotte. “It would be much easier if you kept your own records book. You know exactly what you’re doing. Just write it all down.”
“Ok!” Charlotte seems to like this idea. I like it too. It will be easier. But is it good I have less to do? Soon Charlotte won’t need me at all.
I think of the fun we used to have learning together. Times have changed. Charlotte and Imogen have charged off on their own learning adventures without me. Yes, they still like to join me and the younger girls when we are doing something that sounds particularly exciting like watching a Shakespeare play or driving to the lake or going for a run. But really, they are independent. They have their own ideas and don’t need me any more.
“You don’t need your mother to homeschool you any longer,” I tell Charlotte with a sigh.
She puts her arms around me and hugs me close. “I do need you, Mum. Actually, I need some new suggestions. I’ve read all those books you found for me. I want to know more about…”
Yes, Charlotte does need me. She needs me to search for all those wonderful books and other resources which keep her enquiring mind satisfied. I open the computer and start looking.
“Bring me your Kindle,” I shout some time later. “I’ve found some great books and a wonderful website about history and Shakespeare. I’ll email you the link.”
Charlotte appears with a grin. She can’t wait to look at what I’ve found.
Am I a good homeschool teacher? No. I don’t really teach. I just find interesting things to engage my girls’ interest and step out of the way. They do the rest. But is that enough?
I guess we all have doubts at some time. Are our children learning all they need to know? Will they really be prepared, when it’s time to move on from homeschooling, to study at a tertiary level? Just to be sure, shouldn’t I structure my children’s curriculum in the last year or so? Shouldn’t I insist Charlotte and Imogen need me to direct them?
No. Sadly I am aware they don’t need such help from me. Sadly? I’m not really sad. That’s just the mother in me talking. Instead, I am very excited. Children really do learn what they need to know. They can be trusted.
“So what are you going to do this afternoon?” I ask Charlotte.
“I will practice the piano. Then I’m going to bake some muffins. After that I’m going to work on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel…”
It looks like Charlotte has it all planned out. Imogen is busy too and Sophie and Gemma-Rose have just disappeared out the door into the garden. It seems no one needs me this afternoon. Sad? No. I am happy. I have a couple of hours all to myself.