Homeschooling in China: Through the Eyes of a Guinea Pig

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My mom didn’t know a lot about the blip on the radar called “homeschooling” when she embarked on the endeavor. With the amount of moving we did, it just made sense to try it. Since I was the oldest by five years, it meant that I became the guinea pig.

Turns out, at seven years old, I really became the guinea pig—for not only homeschooling but homeschooling overseas—when my family packed up me (at age 7), and my brothers (at 2 and at 6 months) and headed to China.

Yes, China.

That most definitely was not the plan.

Never the plan if mom had stuck to her “I will nevers” list.

But life has a funny way of taking those lists of things we will “never do” and bringing them right to your doorstep. You step out one day on one of those paths, look back, and wonder how on earth you got there. That’s basically how it seemed to go for mom.

Here’s how it happened from my point of view.

I looked up one day from a quiet sitting room to see my adventure-loving dad burst into the room after a men’s retreat, all aglow, and talking excitedly about teaching English in China.

My small-town-farmgirl-never-moved-from-the-state-of-Montana-till-her-twenties mom stopped rocking my brother, aghast.

After mentally glancing, shocked, down the path dad was so excitedly illuminating, she adamantly, heatedly refused.

Her top, obsessive, years-invested fear? Yes, China.

“How can you even suggest that—knowing I’m terrified of China?!” she demanded.

Well, she eventually grudgingly decided to think about it. She made a long list of her fears, and watched with a sigh as each one was methodically, mercilessly, decidedly answered over the next few weeks from the most unexpected places.

“Well . . . ok.”

And so it began.

Months later in 2001, we found ourselves boarding the first of the five-plane, two-day trip to our new home. Little did we know that we were beginning the first year of a six-year adventure in the Far East.

In the hours between teaching English at a college in a “small” (by Chinese standards) town with a population of seven million, mom unloaded the stacks of books we had hauled with us, typed out schedules, and continued to homeschool through those years, providing some stability in the whirlwind of overseas living.

Grocery store shopping in China? Takes a whole new level of effort when it requires buses and taxis, navigating crowded aisles filled with strange new foods, filling up a huge backpack, and lugging it back across the city and then up four flights of stairs to our apartment.

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See our apartment with the blue awning up there?  Felt like the summit of Mount Everest to a little girl helping to carry groceries.

From the child’s point of view, let me tell you, there is a whole new fear-level in China. Holding onto the cart was a life or death issue from what I could tell, since if you let go, you ran the risk of being swept away in a bustling sea of Chinese faces and never seen again.

Then, there were the unexpected challenges, like trying to find pants for my baby brother without the Chinese-style split bottoms for their diaper-less kids. Or trying to figure out why my toddler brother suddenly burst into tears at the dinner table. (His chicken turned out to be the spicy type in a province that is famous—infamous?—for its flaming spices.)

For me, daily life in China brought an exciting but sometimes overwhelming uncertainty, like my unforeseen rise to popularity for simply being the little western girl. In the midst of that uncertainty, homeschooling meant stability and a tie to the United States when I was homesick. I have many fond and formative memories from our less-than-normal homeschooling life overseas!

One of my favorite memories is the books. Since books in English were hard to come by, they became all the more treasured. I am fairly certain I am a certified book addict now. Year after year, we created our own, well-loved library.

Thankfully, my homeschool curriculum (Sonlight) featured a fantastic supply of historical fiction books that we collected each summer break while visiting my grandparents in Montana. Receiving Nancy Drew books, craft books, or any-kind-of-books in the mail from stateside family made my day!

Homeschooling’s flexibility led to many cultural learning opportunities. It meant that I could easily incorporate Chinese into my curriculum or adjust my schedule to become a kitchen assistant to students who wanted to introduce us to authentic Chinese meals and practice their English. (If only I could have gotten school credit for dicing massive piles of garlic, ginger, and vegetables. At least I could eventually boast some skill with the mighty Chinese cleavers!)

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And what about sightseeing trips to places like Beijing to see the Great Wall or Forbidden City? No problem. We packed along our homework and books on the overnight train rides. Rare, if ever, was the time I wasn’t carrying around a book or craft with me on those trips.

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Mom also let me use some of my English Studies time to chronicle our adventures and send long letters home to family members who were eager for news. I developed a love for narration, reading, and history, which has continued to this day.

All that to say, life isn’t always how you pictured it, as my mom found out with suddenly raising three young kids in China.

Even if your life doesn’t have the obstacles my mom faced like playing Tetris with schoolbooks and duffel bags each summer, or finding the balance between teaching Chinese students and your kids, I know you have your own share of unexpected challenges, doubts, and sleepless nights.

Is it all worth it? From this guinea pig’s point of view, without a doubt.

Thank you, Mom.

Anna Signature

P.S. Another moral to the story: Never say never. Unless you actually want it to happen.

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P.P.S. For fellow book addicts out there, here is a Chinese quote for you:

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Photo Credit: First graphic design by Anna Soltis;  first, second and third images courtesy of Soltis family.

78 Comments on “It’s Homeschool Appreciation Day | Enter HSLDA’s Giveaway”

  1. Charissa Ballard
    April 27, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    I have only been homeschooling for almost three years and in the time I have experienced many highs and lows. One thing remains constant, I love to watch my children learn about how loving and compassionate God is toward us. Teaching them how to memorize scripture and read His word has been a true privilege! Teaching them to be unashamed of the gospel and be a disciple for him has been amazing! I really consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to homeschool them! This time has been a precious gift!

    Like

  2. Ursula
    April 27, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    One of my favorite things about being a homeschool teacher is sharing life everyday with my kids – not just sharing a house.

    Like

  3. Kathy Kramer
    April 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    Getting to spend every day with our children & seeing those “aha!” moments!

    Like

  4. Julie C.
    April 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    One thing I love about being a homeschool teacher is knowing my kids’ strengths and weaknesses, so that I can better guide their education and minimize their frustrations.

    Like

  5. Kristina Sarver-Harvey
    April 27, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    I love homeschooling my children 🙂 I feel blessed everyday to teach them and to also learn something new myself. I’ve learned many things about myself that I didn’t know before starting this journey 🙂

    Like

  6. Susan
    April 27, 2016 at 11:53 pm #

    Wow! I finally got around to reading this! What a great giveaway for all of us who are working so hard to teach our kiddos! Thanks!!

    Like

  7. Tracy
    April 28, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    I appreciate being a homeschool teacher because I get to enjoy my children. I get to see them learning and developing their gifts.

    Like

  8. Maria Gervase
    April 28, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    My favorite thing about being a homeschool mom? Wow! There are so many wonderful reasons! But what I love most of all is that Im able to pour God’s love into their hearts on a constant basis. Im proud to be raising Kingdom Men. I cherish each moment with my boys and am excited to see how God works in their lives ♡

    Like

  9. Kim
    April 28, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    I have been enjoying teaching my son for 3 years and soon my daughter will join us for kindergarten as well. I loved that I got to teach my sone to read and am looking forward to teaching my daughter to read as well.

    Like

  10. Redonna G
    April 28, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    We homeschool because it has decreased our sons anxiety and his well being has improved! Both of our sons are learning new things everyday and our family time has benefitted as well!

    Like

  11. Lynn
    April 28, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    My greatest joy as a homeschool mom is to see that my children’s love for the Lord and love for learning increase on a daily basis. My dream is for them to be well prepared for their future and to continue following the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Like

  12. Cynde Contreras
    April 28, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    I enjoy homeschooling because I love BEING with and spending quality time with my boys! I can’t think of a better way to cherish them and to maximize our precious (and short) time together.

    Like

  13. Jenn
    April 28, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    I love being a homeschooling mom because even though there are challenges and sacrifices, the rewards are more than worth it! Getting to see your children grow in God and succeed in education in a safe environment- and being lucky enough to be there for all those special learning moments!

    Like

  14. Michelle Cook
    April 28, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    We have been homeschooling for 16 years and the thing I appreciate most is the relationships that I have with all my kids. That would be missing if we would not been doing life together.

    Like

  15. S. Taylor
    April 28, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    I love the freedom to take subjects at our own pace and that learning is woven into our everyday lives.

    Like

  16. Tandy
    April 28, 2016 at 1:37 pm #

    I am so appreciative that as a homeschool teacher, I get to send my life and time with my kids. They are not away from me 8 + hours daily but we get to share life’s moments and memories. That is priceless…

    Like

  17. Elizabeth H.
    April 28, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    My boys having time to spend together instead of being apart for most of the day.

    Like

  18. Sarah Therkildsen
    April 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

    I am grateful to have so much more time with my children before they leave the nest. They are learning and I am learning right alongside them.

    Like

  19. Jenny U
    April 28, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    I love being a homeschool Mom! I have homeschooled my daughter from the beginning and she’s now finishing up 6th grade. We’ve had so many wonderful moments together that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Sure there are difficult and stressful days, but I wouldn’t trade it!

    Like

  20. Angie Dubbert
    April 28, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    I love that we are our daughter’s primary influence, that we can individualize her instruction to her needs and interests, and the flexibility it gives our family.

    Like

  21. Deborah Freeman
    April 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    I am so grateful for God’s grace and provision, that allows me to be on this homeschool journey with my amazing children.

    Like

  22. sherah crosby
    April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    So blessed that I can spend time and see the growth of my children. Some days are longer than other, but no doubt about it you can’t beat the smile on my face when something clicks and your child tells you ” I get it!”

    Like

  23. Katie
    April 28, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    I love the time I get to spend with my kids and watching them learn new things

    Like

  24. Wendy Leatherman
    April 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    I love homeschooling my twin boys. They are 13 years old now and it is so important that their father and I disciple them to be the young men God wants them to be. Exciting and terrifying at the same time!

    Like

  25. Jessica Payne
    April 28, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

    I love being able to be a part of and witness our children learning something new.

    Like

  26. Amy
    April 14, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    I have been homeschooling for over 10 years and never been appreciatied in tangible ways for being a teacher, but the best appreciation to me was when I read my children’s scholarship essays and they wrote that homeschool had made them better people. Thanks HSLDA for your support.

    Like

  27. Cara
    April 20, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

    I love having my children about me all day! I love that I know what they are learning, love cooking them wholesome meals at home, love it that I AM their “peer pressure”, love that we can start the day out with love and joy in the presence of our Saviour, and homeschooling is our lifestyle! I love all the hugs and kisses I get and knowing they are safe at home with me, and I love learning new things alongside of them. Homeschooling allows you to really see grace in action- it’s something we give and accept all day.

    Like

  28. Abigail
    April 27, 2017 at 2:36 pm #

    I have found one of the best things about homeschooling is that my kids are taking responsibility for their actions and work. They love checking off each subject as they finish it for the day. They are even beginning to understand why chores and housework are so important. Sometimes they complain but then again sometimes I do too. We are growing together and learning that work really is a gift from God, not an endless mundane movement through our days. I love having them with me at home.

    Like

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