Stay at Home/Homeschooling Mom

Guest Post by Maggie. I “met” Maggie through the Ladies Who Blog Book Club. When Maggie mentioned her experience being harshly judged for her desire to be a SAHM and homeschool her children I knew that I wanted to hear more of her story. I am thrilled that she graciously agreed to share it here!

To me, being a stay-at-home mom someday means largely just that: staying at home.  It means creating an environment in which my children thrive, love one another, learn respect for me and my husband, learn to love learning, learn to have quiet alone time, learn to love to explore.  In fact, being a stay-at-home mom means that I want to stay at home with my children and limit their outside activities to a certain extent.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t allow them to take music lessons, do a school play, or play on the baseball team–it just means that I want them to grow up with a healthy sense of what is truly important in the world, and that is family, plain and simple.

I grew up in a heavily Mormon-populated area, and my extended family lives on a large farm started by my grandparents.  What have these two seemingly unrelated experiences taught me?  Mormons–and I in no way pretend to be expressing this to the exact letter of the philosophy–believe that their earthly family, having been “sealed” together in the temple, will one day be together again in heaven as a group.  They will return to Him and be eternally bound together as a family.  Now, I am not Mormon, but this philosophy had an impact on me, and I retain the basic principle today.  Emphasis on the family in this earthly life serves to remind us of the heavenly family we will one day join.

The family as a central focus of social unity is also important to me.  My grandparents had the means to provide their children, their children’s friends, and the surrounding community (including the nuns!) with an outdoor swimming pool  (spring-fed and freezing cold), tennis court (if you hit the ball out, it went into the cow pasture and if you didn’t duck under the electric fence and go get it, you were in big trouble), ski tow on a nearby pasture hill, indoor squash/basketball court, wood shop, various outbuildings, vehicles, and much more.  Lunch was precisely at noon, dinner at six, and both were signaled by way of a locomotive bell outside the front porch heard throughout the valley (grandchildren used to clamor to be chosen to ring the bell, which required all your weight to make it ring).  A hallmark of summer vacations not being allowed to sleep past 6:30 a.m. because there was farm work to be done and the uncles needed your help.  It wasn’t about the material trappings or the farming itself–it was (and still is) a warm and loving space that encouraged play, worship, reliability, and hard work, all coupled with a group spirit.  They built their family around a centralized location and encouraged unity in the process.  The emphasis, again, was on the family and the ability to grow as an individual while prioritizing the family unit.

You would almost certainly laugh if you saw my collection of internet links relating to baby products, baby advice, children’s toys (wooden, of course!), parenting books, baby food recipes, and ever-growing stash of yarn that I just have to knit for my future children.  I have a lot of ideas and philosophies that will probably return to haunt me later, but putting thought into these has set me apart from most, if not all of my peers.  It is influenced by having been the big sister to four children, with responsibilities around the home and to those siblings; by being a young aunt; by having wonderful relationships with my older sister and cousins; and by babysitting well into my mid-twenties. All of my thoughts and research have led me to the belief that for my own and my family’s well-being, and for the life I so badly want to create, I need to stay at home.  I believe in creating a harmonious, organized, routine for my children.

What other cultures can a family environment cultivate?  A culture of nurturing.  A culture of security.  A culture of sharing.  A culture of listening, and putting others’ cares above your own. A culture of accepting differences and annoyances, and loving that person regardless.  A non-judgmental culture, where even if you make mistakes or embarrass yourself, your nearest and dearest will still be right behind you, seeing the good within you.

A home environment is also exactly the right one to encourage a culture of learning.  I spent six years as a home schooler (along with my siblings), and it was one of the most formative experiences of my life.  Learning at home in such a positive environment made me treasure the school experience and truly love learning.  Even when I returned to a public high school filled with grumpy hormonal teens who just didn’t want to be there, I was ready and excited to attend class every day.  I want to foster that same love of learning in my children to help them see that not just the classroom but the entire universe is a space in which to learn.  While I want to have a rigorous curriculum, I also want to be able to allow my children to drive their own learning.  If they are really into cooking, Little House on the Prairie, gardening, science experiments, or the Civil War one month, I want them to take as much time to delve into that as possible.  I know that it will encourage them to love learning and get the most out of it.

I do strongly want to note that I don’t judge any woman who would rather or needs to work.  Heaven knows I’m not married yet and could very well end up in that position myself.  I respect all mothers who choose to be responsible caretakers for themselves and their offspring, whatever that choice may be.  But just as some women know that their sanity or calling or what-have-you lies in working outside the home, I have known literally all my life that mine lies within it.  The care and nurturing of others has always thrilled every part of my being.  Moreover, I believe in not having children unless you can put them first and foremost.  To me, that means one parent being at home with them.  And while this certainly represents many things to many people, I simply mean that I want my kids to be at home, please.  Home with me and the rest of their family, for in the hustle-bustle of our chaotic world, too often we confuse what is important with what is immediate.

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5 thoughts on “Stay at Home/Homeschooling Mom

  1. Kathleen

    How interesting, Maggie–to note that staying home with your kids means limiting their time away from home (sports, etc.). So obvious, and yet something I hadn’t really thought about before. That is good and bad–we find that we have to get out of the house so we don’t go stir crazy. But it’s all in balance, and I, too, want to make sure my kids don’t get over-involved.

  2. That Married Couple

    Maggie, you already know this, but I really like this post! Your grandparents’ farm is my dream!

    After reading Kathleen’s comment, it made me think of the differences in what people mean when they say “getting out of the house.” I think when you live in the country or on a lot of land (or even near a good park), getting out of the house means simply getting outside into nature; whereas in other areas, getting out must involve going to do something, some specific planned activity. It seems everyone agrees that staying physically cooped up inside a house all day for days on end is no good; it’s just a matter of how you choose to get out. You can still be “at home” and “out of the house.”

  3. Julie Benner

    I agree with you completely, Maggie. I did not have the same experiences growing up, rather, the opposite: small family, crowded suburbs of Detroit, public schools all the way through, which I hated. My mother stayed home with my sister and me, and I absorbed that as the ideal way to raise children. I did not ever want to subject my kids to what I went through in school, and my husband feels the same way. We knew we would homeschool before we ever even had children.

    Next to God, family is central to my husband and me, and we foster that with our three homeschooled children. I stay at home with them, and despite the challenges, this time with them in our home is precious. I have to admit, though, that although we limited their outside-the-home structured activities to one, gymnastics, that has turned into quite a time commitment, as they are all joining competitive team. This has created a dilemma that we are not yet sure how to resolve.

  4. Michelle aka Catholi

    I get where you’re coming from. We don’t do a lot of activities…only one sport/activity per season really and then sometimes nothing. I enjoy our time just hanging out together much more than trying to stayo on the schedule of soccer games all weekend or something like that.

    Even though my children are in a Catholic school, my husband and I really take to heart the fact that our children learn WAY more by watching us than anything at school. They learn about their Faith by watching how my husband and I practice ours. They learn about learning by watching my husband and I learn and teach them to learn.

    ONe of my big things is that 95% of what your children learn…they learn it at home regardless of where they spend their days. Of course…the older they are, the less that percentage is because older chlidren typically spend more time away from home with activities, etc. But hopefully by that time, the formation has been strong to help them form their opinions on important matters.

  5. Kristy

    I’m finally getting to catch up on blogs, and I just wanted to say that I kind of loved this. Partly because Maggie’s grandparents’ farm sounds like my idea of fun and a wonderful childhood, and partly because she makes very good, very valid points.

    Thanks for the guest post, Maggie!

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