Do you have an image of the perfect homeschool? Do you find this picture eats away at you on those days when your own homeschool falls far short of the mark? Do you picture darling, inquisitive, obedient, tidy and grateful children? You may imagine the perfect mother who has daily meals planned and prepared in advance, and whose chores routine is so consistent that the floors seem to scrub themselves. And the lesson plans, while written out in triplicate for a full year in advance, are actually hardly needed at all because Mom has the ability to turn any of life's events into teaching moments.

I will admit to biting into this apple every fall. I am always tempted to believe that this year I've got it more together than in previous years. But things seem to have a way of – I don't know – getting away from me.

Case in point: several years ago, I was taking my daughters with me to the poll to cast my vote in the presidential election. Here was a great teaching opportunity. I wanted to drive home the point of the privilege, not only of voting, but of doing so without threat. As I pulled into the parking area, I pointed at some trees that lined the far side of the lot. I explained that if we were in another country with less freedoms, there might be people hiding in those trees with guns, ready to shoot us if we got into a line to vote. I wanted them to understand what an amazing accomplishment it is that every four years there is this massive transfer of power and that it is a peaceful process.

Power transfers regularly all over the globe. I wanted to illustrate to my children the unique process of checks and balances our forefathers put into place that has resulted in the civil transfer of power through election today.

I think my 11 year old "got it," but it's possible that my 4 year old has come away from the experience shaken. She believed I was telling her there were literally, in those trees, armed men prepared to stop us from voting. I quickly explained that I was speaking of countries far away... not here, where we have no such fears. But by that point, she was already scanning the area looking for the glint of someone hidden in the trees. She continued to voice concerns about whether or not we should dare to go in. Even as we walked by the laughing and unconcerned fellow voters scarfing up goodies from the bake sale table we passed, she didn't let go of the concept. It is clear my impromptu attempt at a civics lesson did not hit home with her.

Such unplanned turns in our well-planned paths are in fact the actual stuff that make up a homeschool day. There was a time that I agonized over this fact. I feared that the lack of a traditional flow to my children's schooling routine would somehow damage them. But there is an amazing revelation that has begun to permeate the deep recesses of my mind.

Homeschooling works! The socialization fears turned out to be laughable. Homeschooled children perform exceptionally well by every measure of success. Each new piece of research confirms it over and over again.

So I've learned to release a giant sigh because for now I know that...

  • In spite of yogurt-filled (or yogurt spilled?) days and broken appliance interruptions, my children still learned.
  • In spite of my personal aversion to algebra and inability to find magnetic north, my children still learned.
  • In spite of a month of chaotic schooling because I had a virus that had me bedridden, my children still learned.

Finally I have learned that there is a valuable and soul-satisfying "quality time" that can only come from "quantity time." No, I don't have the perfect homeschool. But I do have the peace of mind in knowing that homeschooling, with all its learning diversions, is perfect for us.

Carol Barnier is a coast-to-coast conference speaker, author, regular radio guest and fellow homeschooler. Carol can be reached at

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