The most heart-wrenching stories come to me in my email, from teachers.

This is one that really got to me:

Hi Penelope. I homeschooled my kids, and now I work a couple of days a week as a school aide.

We had a super stormy day last week. I was at school and I heard a huge downpour hit the school building. I couldn’t see the rain and all three 5th grade classrooms (with one small window each) had the blinds closed.   

It was almost painful to hear a huge downpour and then miss out on the wonder of watching it come down.  It made me sad that all those kids had to push down those happy feelings too because they had no control over whether they could go look out the window.

Next time, I will go up to the office to look out the window. I have the freedom to do that. Those kids don’t. 

The same is true of homeschooling, in the opposite direction. I like homeschooling because it creates so much unstructured downtime. The most meaningful moments for me are the mundane. They are the times when I am doing life but I am doing it with my kids.

The big, special events are not what make up the fabric of childhood. Those events are like the sequins sewn onto the fabric. But the experience of being somewhere and growing somewhere is what happens on a daily basis. All of that experience comes as part of our routine. And if you don’t have those daily routines there is no fabric to hold the sequins—a childhood with only special events (designated “quality time”) has no larger context.

A few weeks ago my son and I planted magnolia trees. In general my kids have no interest in my obsessive gardening, but they come out to the garden when I call from the yard for help. I took a video of planting together.

We were not fast or efficient, but my son was fun. And I don’t think I could have had that fun if I were pressed for time, trying to stick to a school’s schedule, or conform my life to what the school wants from my family.

Homeschooling is watching rain instead of reading. It’s gardening in the most inefficient way possible but learning still, from the work. Homeschooling is having the guts to leave time wide open because that’s the only way we can be surprised by how it gets filled.