A unique look at four adults that were homeschooled. What worked and what didn’t.
Welcome to our first edition of Mailbox Monday.
I started this series in an effort to answer more of your questions that come through email, Facebook, and Instagram every week. As a homeschooling mom myself, it is difficult to find the time to answer all of these questions individually each week. Mailbox Mondays were birthed out of a desire to connect with more of you and to answer your day-to-day questions.
How has Homeschooling Helped Your Adult Kids?
This week’s question:
“Share more about your graduated kids’ successes. How can you see how homeschool (specific things) has helped them succeed in the real world. What do you see now that was maybe hurtful or that you’ve changed for your younger kids?”
In total honesty, I had no idea what I was doing when I first started homeschooling with my older kids. Backing up a little bit, I am a long-time (22 years) homeschooler of eight kids (4 graduated and 4 still homeschooling). I had no idea what dyslexia was as I myself am a traditional learner and never even knew that there were smart kids who struggled to learn. You can read more of our dyslexia journey here. The core reason that we began to homeschool had nothing to do with dyslexia. We just wanted to spend more time with our kids, travel with them, and provide them with a real-life education. We have done all of these things.
What our adult kids are doing today:
- Our oldest is an entrepreneurial, self-employed yacht captain. After sailing around the world alone in his junior year of high school (it’s a long story) he was off on a quest for adventure. You can read more about his story here. He buys and sells boats and does long-range yacht deliveries. He spent the season fishing in Alaska last year, checking off another adventure from his bucket list.
- Our oldest daughter also sailed around the world. Hers is an even longer story. You can read her book or watch her documentary to learn more about her trip. She was always our outdoorsy, animal lover. She is now married and a stay at home mom.
- Next is our most profoundly dyslexic child. I worried a LOT about him but he is probably the most successful of all of our kids. He has always been such a people person and it really shows now as an adult. He is an entrepreneur, a yacht salesman, and a licensed yacht captain. He prefers to do more local yacht captaining with big, fancy boats but has done several long passages with his big brother including sailing from Los Angeles to Hawaii, from Hawaii to Seattle, and from Seattle to Los Angeles.
- And finally, another daughter is a Junior in college studying Kinesiology. She struggled a lot with higher math in high school but is doing really well now in college – making the dean’s list every semester.
Trust Your Gut
I always loved being a mother. As my oldest grew I could not determine which was my favorite stage. I loved every stage! He was bright, curious, and clearly very bright. Yet, when we began homeschooling when he was 5 1/2 years old we quickly hit a brick wall. After a few years of trying to pound this beautiful square peg into a round hole, I realized that this approach was never going to work.
It was my unique understanding of my son’s strengths coupled with my devotion to his well-being that led me to continue to search for the best ways to educate him.
Trusting your gut is not the complete answer to homeschooling your kids with learning differences, but it is something that you should all pay attention to. Just because everybody is doing it, or the schools are doing it, does not mean that you need to be doing it. You need to do what is best for your unique child or children. You really are the best expert because no one knows your kids as well as you.
How Homeschooling Has Helped my Kids Succeed in the Real World
Freedom to learn at their own pace. Kids with language-based learning difficulties like dyslexia and dysgraphia master language-based learning like reading, writing, handwriting, and spelling later than traditional learners. Homeschooling gave my kids the freedom to master these skills at their own pace. I talk to so many parents with dyslexic kids who are drowning in school. They are battling to keep up and finish assignments but are actually learning very little. The anxiety caused by always being behind and struggling to earn good grades is demoralizing over time. Homeschooling allowed my non-traditional learners to have an education tailored to their individual needs and saved them from a lot of stress and anxiety.
Freedom to learn the way they learn. Along with learning at their unique pace, kids who are homeschooled can also be taught the way they learn. We were able to use accommodations and modifications when and how we saw a need. There were no IEP meetings and battles for testing or getting teachers to follow the IEP. My homeschooled kids were not singled out or part of a battle to get them the help they needed to learn. They learned how they learned and how to ask for help along the way. These are two of the six attributes that researchers have found in successful dyslexics.
If you want to know more about the success attributes of adult dyslexics, read this post. Spoiler alert: their success had little to do with their academic success or IQ!
Freedom to pursue interests. This one is huge! As our kids got older, they were able to complete their schoolwork quickly and have time left in the day to pursue things of interest. Somethings our kids got involved with were raising, breeding, and showing animals. All of our kids are into travel and sailing which is part of our family business. Some kids were involved in Scouts, Mock Trial, robotics, music, art etc. This is such an important part of helping kids to hone in on their purpose and what they want to do with their lives. All of our adult kids had a strong sense of where they wanted to be by the time they were Juniors in high school. In fact, two of them opted to graduate early so they could get started on their path.
Exposure to real work and travel experiences. We did a lot of traveling when our oldest four kids were young. We even took a 3-year sailing trip to Mexico. All of those ‘cruising kids’ were wise beyond their years. No TV, video games, and lots of time outside exploring was an amazing experience that led two of our kids to attempt big sailing trips of their own.
As our kids got older, they would go to work with their dad who is self-employed and learned about boats and business. This wasn’t always voluntary! If our teen sons were getting mouthy or lazy, they often had a ‘field trip’ to go to work with Dad. 🙂 When I travel to speak at homeschool conferences, I try to always bring one or two of the kids with me to share in that experience. Our kids had time to learn how to run a house, run a business, and help with younger kids. At first, this may not seem like much. I see over and over again how mature and grounded homeschooled teens and young adults are.
Strong relationships. My college daughter was just commenting when she was home over the Christmas break how little drama there was with her homeschooled friends. She said that they rarely had conflicts and that when they did, they were able to talk about them kindly and humbly and work through them. That has not been the case with her other friends. My son who was in Boy Scouts with other boys who were homeschooled is very close to all of those boys to this day. It is a great steadying force to have friends who have known you well since you were young.
The Biggest Impact
Ultimately, I would say that the biggest impact that homeschooling has had on my now-adult kids is that they were able to be loved and accepted for who they were and able to become who they were created to be. They were not constantly struggling to keep up or to hide their learning differences. They had time to explore their interests rather than be told what to explore. They were able to have strong relationships with family and friends that have carried them into their adult years. The result of these things is confidence and direction as adults.
What I Would do Differently
There are things that I would do differently but all in all, the things that I ‘messed up’ were able to be overcome. For example, everybody fears their kids will have gaps in their education. They will. It’s inevitable. But totally figureoutable.
I didn’t push our kids super hard academically. So my non-math-loving kids took Algebra and no other higher-level math. However, In college, they were able to take the classes they needed to reach their goals. One of my kids who struggled to understand Algebra in high school has now gone through Calculus in college!
How is that possible you may be wondering?
Motivation to learn. That child needed higher math to get the degree she wanted so she worked hard and got the help she needed to be successful. This is why allowing our kids to follow interests and maintain their confidence is SO important.
Observe and Value Their Unique Strengths
If I could change anything with how I homeschooled my now-adult kids (and I have done with my younger kids), I would be way more appreciative of their unique strengths. I had no understanding of how each of my kids’ unique intelligence’s affected their ability to learn. When I learned about the theory of multiple intelligences, my mind was blown and also a little bit crushed. Howard Gardner proposed that there were many ways to be intelligent, not just academically. Had I known this, I would have approached the education of my older kids much differently.
For example, I have one son who is extremely people smart. He learns better from bouncing his ideas off of other people. He’s a very successful entrepreneur at age 22 now. But having done many years of expensive tutoring, I expected him to work on his online homeschool program independently. Quite honestly, he could do it independently. The problem was that as a people person, he wanted someone to interact with him at least on some level. But because I had this mindset that he was now able to read, I did not feel that I should help him.
I could have found a co-op class or arranged a small group for learning at home.
Hire tutors sooner.
I waited a long time to hire somebody to help me teach my kids. This was partially due to finances but the positive impact that having an experienced tutor involved in their education has been huge.
Talk about their learning struggles.
I used to keep our homeschooling struggles to myself. I think I blamed myself for my kids not learning like I expected them to or how other kids were learning. When I started talking about their struggles, I found out that I wasn’t alone and had other parents to talk to and share ideas with.
Things I Worried About That I Shouldn’t Have
Gaps. I worried that there would be gaps in their education. There were, but they weren’t a problem.
Friends. I worried that my kids wouldn’t have good friends or would be weird. They all have lots of friends and more importantly, good, solid friends.
Independence. I worried that they would never become independent. They all have become wonderful adults. That is not to say that they don’t make choices that I don’t agree with. It also took a few years for them to hone in on their real purpose and career goals which I believe is very normal.
Careers. I was worried that maybe they wouldn’t go to college (3 didn’t) and that they wouldn’t find good jobs. Didn’t happen.
Not doing enough. I constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough school. Maybe doing more would have been better. I’ll never know! But they are smart, curious, and able to learn whatever is of interest to them. In fact, most of them listen to podcasts on subjects of interest regularly.
As you can see, I have a lot to say on the benefits of homeschooling. Here’s what my adult kids have to say about it:
“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that I am secure in who I am and seek out people who are genuine. Also, I look for opportunities that I know will be helpful experiences for me for the future.”
“Homeschooling gave me the confidence to know that I could do whatever I set out to do. I was surrounded by people who wanted the best for me and I knew it.”
“Homeschooling gave me an opportunity to become really good at non-academic things that have ended up being my career.”
Do you worry about how your homeschooled kids will be like as adults? What other questions do you have? Leave a comment below.