Dark, damp and chilly mornings remind me of nudging my daughter awake, telling her not to dawdle but to get ready for school. On those mornings, she’d stumble, bleary-eyed out of bed, hair a knotted mess, shoulders slumped, breathing still slow as if she could fall back to sleep right there on the way to breakfast.

Somehow, we always managed to get her to school on time – JUST in time, perhaps, but in time.

This morning, as I slowly rose and stretched, I had to smile. The sun had not yet risen. The sound of tires on wet road and the feel of a slow but constant cool breeze through the open window made me grateful that time of waking my daughter, pushing her to get up from a warm bed, was long gone.

As homeschoolers, we’re fortunate to be able to set our own schedule. I worried when we first started the process that we’d fall behind. Become lazy. I overcompensated for that possibility by continuing the regular school routine. I actually used a chalkboard and timer so we’d cover lessons in the ‘proper’ amount of time. I was a stickler for the rigid learning schedule on which we’d turned our backs.

I did that because I was unsure of myself. Other homeschooling moms told me to relax. To allow my daughter the opportunity to set her own pace. I thought, judging from the way she stumbled from bed each morning, letting her set the pace was not the best idea.

I was wrong.

Children are amazing creatures. Eager to learn – living to learn – and with a drive we, as adults, cannot fully understand.

It took several months, but I finally backed off, giving my daughter room to explore. To my amazement, she did exactly what I was told other homeschooled children do. She began studying on her own. Setting her own pace, opening her textbooks and getting assignments done without my help interference.

Homeschoolers are often looked at with disdain. I understand to some degree since we are rule breakers. We’ve stepped out of the conventional routine and now march to our own beat. Since the beat is different for everyone, our routines appear to be without order. Perhaps they are. But then each child’s learning style is different and so, the unsteady, freestyle rhythm of our lives gives us the opportunity to learn and grow at an exciting and quite interesting pace.

My daughter chose to give up more than half her summer this past year in order to complete two high school grades in one year. I watched her rise later in the morning than she would for public school, but also witnessed her diligence, her accomplishments, her pride in herself and her work. I would have missed all of that if she’d been in school. And, perhaps, it never would have happened. She grew to understand what she needs and enjoys in a learning process but has also modified those wants and needs to fit what’s required.

I have no doubt these learning-through-living lessons will follow her into adulthood, and along with them, a pleasant and constant thirst for knowledge. Homeschooling is not something we do for our children’s “today”. It’s something we do for all of their tomorrows.

~As the homeschooling mother of a teen daughter, Debora Dale’s foray into the homeschooling world included a set schedule, chalkboard and composition notebooks. As time passed, the rigid schedule gave way to a more productive and enjoyable homeschool experience that included scientific dissections, archaeological digs, and onsite history lessons in places like Williamsburg, Virginia, Old Bethpage Village Restoration, the Gettysburg Battlefield and Mount Gillian. Within months of leaving public school, learning fatigue was replaced by eager anticipation for what each day of ‘school’ would bring. ©2012 Debora Dale