Homeschooling is an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at an upscale hotel: As you rise from the table and pick up a plate, still warm from the dishwasher, you promise yourself you’re going to be good, to eat sensibly, to eat just enough. You order a three-egg omelet made up with green peppers and mushrooms and…
“Bacon, Ma’am?” The chef in the pressed apron and the tall white hat raises his eyebrows in a question.
“Sure, why not?” It is paid for after all. And you won’t eat lunch, to make up for it. The omelet is slid onto your plate and…what’s that over there? Pancakes? Oh, yes, must try one of those as well. And are those hash browns? Biscuits with sausage gravy?
Pretty little dishes beckon from the buffet tables lined up like sirens along the coast: Eggs Benedict. Mini Danishes. Crepes and soufflés and waffles with strawberries and powdered sugar and whipped cream. Orange juice. Cranberry juice. Apple juice. You don’t notice, among all this bounty, the stain on the tablecloth, the occasional chip in the juice glass, the eggs that have gone a little dry in the corners of the chafing dish. And invariably, you overindulge: Your plate is cleared and you return to the buffet for fruit and yogurt and maybe one more Danish. Or two.
You leave the restaurant stuffed, grumpy, vaguely dissatisfied. And, yes, you probably eat lunch.
* * *
The beauty of homeschooling is choice: You choose how to educate your child and when. You determine when the day begins and ends. You select the curriculum to follow, which textbooks to use, the field trips to attend, the groups to join. You determine how deeply you’ll cover a subject. You decide which material is less important. And if you want to spend three days making a sundial, you can choose to do that as well.
But too many choices can be a distraction, causing you and your student to feel frustration and anger. Just when you’ve settled on the Classical approach, you read an article on The Charlotte Mason Method and begin to wonder whether that might be better. After you’ve selected a science book, a new series is published. You feel you need to attend every field trip that your group offers, even when you—and your student—would rather curl up with a good book. The Internet and the library offer a myriad of resources that you find yourself wading through late at night. There’s a wealth of material out there. You want to cover it all.
But you must choose from the homeschooling buffet with discretion. Sample a little of this, and a bit of that, chewing slowly, thoughtfully. Determine what works for you and your child and trust your judgment. Focus on what’s before you, not the other dishes tantalizing from the table. If you discover that your tastes—or the tastes of your child—have changed, go ahead and try another dish.
A good home school education program must be self-limited. Time, finances and other constraints dictate that it must be so. And a good home school day is not one where you and your child push away from the table angry and irritable, but rather leave reluctantly, not wholly satisfied, ready to return to the banquet tomorrow or perhaps in just a few hours, hungering for more.