Several years ago, a friend of mine was considering home education for her eldest son who was 13 years old. Up to that point, her three boys had all been educated at school and she was a stay at home mum who enjoyed various hobbies, meeting with friends, and volunteering. She asked me some general questions about courses of study for her son, and how he would socialize, etc. but I got the sense that there was something else holding her back. She finally ventured, “I feel selfish even saying this, but I’m actually concerned about what will happen to my time once I start homeschooling.” What I heard in her voice was, “I’m afraid I will lose the ability to do the things that I want to do.”
On another occasion, I had a conversation with a long-time home-ed mum who was about to “graduate” the last of her 4 children from homeschooling. The mum confessed that she had no idea what she would do after her children finished their home education because she had been pouring all of herself into her children for the last 20 years and no longer had any interests or hobbies of her own. “I’ll be bored to death!” she told me.
This absolutely terrified me! I was very willing to sacrifice for my children to help them realize their interests and desires, but was it to be at the cost of my own in the long run? Must I be willing to give up my own identity and joy so that my children can find theirs? Will I still be able to have fun?”
For many parents on the fence about home education, questions like the above are the most difficult to wrestle with in a society that shouts, “Do you! Fulfill your purpose! Take that job! Pursue that career! Make that money! Climb that ladder!”
Where, if there is one, is the balance between providing a holistic education for our children and realizing our own desires as well?
With these thoughts mulling around in my mind, we visited an art exhibition at Modern Art Oxford featuring Japanese American artist, Ruth Asawa. The art itself was incredible, but I found myself most drawn to the photos around the gallery that captured Asawa in the act of making. In one, while she was assembling her intricate wire sculptures, her baby crawled along beside her, bottle in hand. In another, she and her children were working side by side in her home studio. The photos of her creating with, for, and alongside her 6 children, spoke deeply to how we as parents have the opportunity to engage with our children while home educating them. Asawa was both innovative and intentional about finding a way of doing life (as both a professional artist and as a mum) that honored each member of the family.
“Because I had the children, I chose to have my studio in my home. I wanted them to understand my work and learn how to work.”- Ruth Asawa
While sharing life with our children through home education might not necessarily look like them joining us in our work, or us working beside them, it does give us permission to ignite a contagious flame of curiosity for everyone in the home.
This might mean that our children become interested in the same things we are, as we intentionally share with them and allow them to ask questions about our work (paid or unpaid, home or at the office). Growing up, I never had more than a very vague idea of what my father did for his job (he worked in “finance” was all I knew) and it was only upon his recent passing that I heard countless stories from work colleagues about how he led, what he did, and how their lives were impacted by his. I wish that I had had a peek into that world when I was younger and feel like it may have brought us closer together.
My husband and I have tried to make a great effort to include our children in our work even if it’s simply by giving them permission to ask questions about what we do. I recently attended a 3-day conference and came home full of stories which prompted loads of questions from my children and more stories from me. It was clear on their faces that, even though they had missed me, they were happy to hear that I had gotten so much out of my experience.
Over the years, I’ve observed how nurturing a spirit of curiosity and creating space for pursuing individual interests has allowed my children to thrive. What has come as a great and pleasant surprise, though, is how learning alongside my children has directly fed into and developed my own interests and pursuits. Asawa speaks to this dynamic in her own life:
“If I hadn’t spent all those years staying home with my kids and experimenting with materials that children could use, I would never have done the Ghirardelli and Hyatt fountains.” – Ruth Asawa
When we take the plunge to home educate our children, we should do so, not in expectation that we will be stripped of our identity and joy, but in anticipation that our purpose will become more refined and our joy will increase as a result of our unique home education journey. For me, fostering a sense of curiosity in my children over the years and giving myself permission to do the same, has led me to discovering new things about myself, which has led to opportunities I would have never dreamed of.
I hope that the same will be said about your journey!
Some things to consider:
You can discover more about Ruth Asawa’s work on her website: https://ruthasawa.com