Becoming an Expert in Chaos

“Hmm, I was just listening to a podcast about something that may fit.”

This statement could have come from a wide variety of sources: parents, an educator, scientist on the brink of discovery, a child learning about a new species.

You may be surprised to hear it was an exact quote from my husband’s physician. His trusted doctor, someone who has overseen his care for years, and he continues to go back to time and again when things seem out of whack (which seems to be a lot recently; I also blame this on Covid stress).

The thing is, this woman is trusted and known far and wide. She has a wait list for new clients. I see her as well and have never questioned anything she has told me. I take it for truth with her knowledge and experience to back it. Yet here she was, creating a new theory about a chaotic group of symptoms based on a podcast she heard in her car.

If this educated, knowledgeable, and intelligent person can still learn new concepts and change her behavior, why can’t I? And furthermore, if she can do it with such ease and acceptance as to tell a patient she initially heard this information on a podcast, why can’t we?

How does this pertain to home education?

How does it not?!

The truth is, I have been at this gig for 5+ years now. We started small, Kindergarten, easy enough. I now have a rising 5th grader and I still feel like I have no idea what I am doing! I do, however, feel I have become competent in the process of change, in the management of chaos, and in noticing when things are not going as planned.

When we started this journey, I was under the impression that to be a successful homeschooler, we needed a schedule, a curriculum, and a room that resembled a small schoolhouse. Complete with the one-piece wooden desk–you know the kind. I gathered the materials, read all the blogs, researched and asked questions. We started that fall.

A day of child-led learning at the local river front with our co-op. Photo by Jess Koller

First day of (not) school!

It was fun, and relaxed … and I quickly realized planners and structure are not for me. I forwent the plan laid out in exchange for play dates and exploration. Much of it was spent at the library, playing and reading among the shelves.

I went back to my research. Curriculum cannot be the only way. That’s when I found ‘Relaxed Homeschooling.’ Yes! This was more my speed. We bought more generalized, flexible curriculum, we embraced the play and exploration. This was working … until I realized I had completely forgotten to open the flexible curriculum.

Back to the research.

The thing is, the more I looked, the more I found a million ways to do this thing we collectively call “homeschooling.” Then my second child was born, and he tossed all my expectations and learned experience out of the window.

We landed on unschooling … until we needed a bit more when we discovered our middle child is dyslexic.

That is when I realized all I was really mastering was the art of managing chaos.

In the words of Julie Bogart, “Homeschooling is messy.”

I recently listened to a podcast on change and dissent. It encouraged listeners to embrace the questions your children ask, stew them around, and question your own biases.

Why does it bother you so that your children fight your lessons on grammar? Is it because you found the concepts difficult as a child and do not want the same path for your children? Is it because the neighbor’s child is advanced in this area, and you feel the need to keep up? Or is it that you do not want to put the effort into finding a new program because you spent $100 on this one?

Understanding why we have resistance to change helps make the change easier. Embrace the chaos, make the changes, find your family’s joy.

If this journey of home education has taught me anything, it’s that change, though difficult, often rewards us in unexpected ways.


Jess Koller has been home educating her three children since Kindergarten and is now entering her 5th year.  She also works part-time as an oncology nurse. She has two bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing. She and her family enjoy being outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing, and kayaking. She enjoys crafting and reading in her spare time and has recently found a love for woodwork and furniture building.

Opinions expressed by individual writers in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers.  Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.

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