I can’t decide if I’ve been really eager to write this post, or if I’ve been dreading it, but it certainly has been on my mind for months. I’m so unbelievably enthusiastic about this decision, so why the dread, you ask? Why do I fight a cringe when my Chatty Cathy, no doubt excited, bubbles over the news to the clerk at the store, or, heaven forbid, the school district speech therapist who works with our babbling little boys every week. Sometimes the words “we’re homeschooling” elicits bewildered looks from even the most well-meaning friends, let alone outspoken strangers, wielding their swords of online anonymity, and thinking they know what’s best for my family. Statements like “they’re ruining those children” can cut deep, and after growing up in a culture where ignorant statements like this were flung at our family by whispering onlookers all the time, I have felt the sting of those words. So yes, I’ve been hesitant to share about this. My heart was and is in a good place about our choice, but I doubted the benefits of revealing it to the world.
But the other side of me considers the mother or father, struggling to decide, overcome with fear and pressure, who might stumble upon this post and find a kindred spirit. I think of where I was just 3 months ago, nearly resolute to tuck away that lifelong whisper in my ear, in favor of what most of my SAHM friends are doing…dropping off their kids at the bus stop, with a healthy lunch and a kiss no doubt, then returning home to 7 hours of kid-free time to spend as they so choose. And I don’t blame them. I really don’t. I love these friends so dearly, and they are amazing mothers. But I was headed the wrong way when I started to compare myself to them. Did I dream of a morning stroll through IKEA, where my children weren’t wondering off and knocking over displays? You bet I was. I was so enticed by the thought of having some dedicated time to design more patterns and build my business, to get my house organized, to start tackling projects that I never seem to have time to do. It was challenging to remember that everyone is different. Everyone wants the best for their children, and does what they think is right and best for their family, and that I can’t compare my situation, or the call that God has placed in my heart for as long as I can remember, to anyone else’s. Easier said than done, so I’ll admit that I struggled with this for months, even years, and found myself hovering in a place where I was content to deny what deep down I knew I wanted to do, by tricking myself into believing that if I should just “go with the flow” and do what everyone around me was doing.
I was moving forward with that plan, until God decided to sit me next to just the right person on a 4 hour flight a couple of months ago, with just the right word for me at just the right time (I think God knows the only time He can get me to sit still long enough to listen is on a plane!). Those 4 hours lifted my spirit up to where it needed to be, for me to be able to look that voice inside, square in the eyes for the very first time. I was moved from denial to determination, from confusion to clarity, all because someone was willing to share their story and their time. If I can be that person for someone else, then that is worth enduring all the ignorant judgement that anyone could possibly heave at me.
So here I am, announcing it to the world. WE’RE HOMESCHOOLING! Yup, we are. We live walking distance from a darling little public school, in a very highly ranked school district, no doubt filled with wonderfully passionate teachers, and who are, for the most part, eager and ready to welcome our sweet kiddos into their classrooms. It’s all sunshine and daffodils, and yet, after 1 year in the charming local public school,we are now choosing to school our children at home. WHY in the world would someone do that???
Here are 5 of the 862 reasons why, in no particular order:
1) World View. For me, this is huge, and I hate it when folks brand this “religious reasons,” because I think it’s really much more of a broad concept that touches every family and every student, whether their religion is based in a church, or in professional football. No matter where a child is schooled, whether it be in a home school, a private religious or non-religious school, or a public school, they are being presented with, and for the most part, are absorbing, some type of world view. A parent may be aware of this world view, or they may not. They may agree with it, or they may not. Much of the time they might not even know it’s there, but it is, and it’s impossible to escape no matter what you believe or where your child goes to school. My children’s view of the world, their most foundational perspectives on it, how it works, and what their role is in it, will be formed in these early years, where they spend most of their time- in school. It’s just a simple fact. And I’m not just talking about what things are taught and how they are taught, but I’m also referring equally to things that are not taught. My husband and I have decided that for us, at the place where our hearts are now, we are not willing to leave those decisions up to someone else. And by someone else, I mean the government (chuckle chuckle). In all seriousness though, it’s our responsibility, my husband and I, to impart on our children the values that we hold most dear. Now, of course, can one do this while still sending their child to public school? Certainly! Of course they can. But for us, 50% or more of their day being spent in an environment that not only doesn’t necessarily teach these values and viewpoints, but often even opposes them, isn’t a ratio we’re excited about.
2) Flexibility. At some point in time, I began to realize there there was a level of flexibility to be seized that I never realized was even possible, and all it took was a shift in my perspective. All this while I had been focusing on MY flexibility, thinking that surely sending my kids away to school would give ME the most flexibility, but in actuality, WE have more flexibility when we’re together. When I say flexibility, I mean choices- there are so many of them, and my family can choose what’s right for us in every single instance. What time should we start school in the morning? Should we take a field trip? If so, to where? Who should we go with? Why not adjust our school schedule around our travel, rather than scheduling our travel around our school? What curriculum works best for us, and why not switch if it isn’t working? Must we work at a desk, or could we absorb our reading and power through our workbooks at the kitchen table? Or the couch? Why can’t we learn about French Revolution while enjoying a picnic in our treehouse? We can, and we will.
3) Socialization vs. Socializing. This is another biggie, and I think I’m particularly passionate about it because I have experienced the difference between these two realities, first hand. I was homeschooled from 1st grade through 7th grade, and it always perplexed me when people would question how I was able to socialize. What a silly question this seemed to me! I had tons of friends- many were homeschoolers but some not- and was always busy and interacting. We were active in church, we played with neighbors, we had a 4-H club, we volunteered for all sorts of organizations, we played sports and took dance lessons, we went to camps, we entered competitions that took us all over the country for things like debate, singing, or engineering. The fact of the matter is, I would argue that my siblings and I experienced more socialization than our public school counterparts. And I think that’s the difference- we experienced socialization, not socializing- we interacted not only with immediate peers, as children in most public schools do, but with children and adults of all ages. We were the furthest thing from socially awkward, and were able to be confident and comfortable in nearly any setting because our entire childhood experience didn’t just revolved around children our exact same age, day in and day out, all struggling to stand out and feel special, and at the same time to fit in and be accepted. Things like the pressure to keep up with ever changing fashion trends, or battling gossip and bullying, never had the chance to distract us from our learning and growth. On the contrary, being free from those things, in conjunction with the flexibility to be involved in so many more activities than we would have been able to otherwise, allowed us the chance to connect with, and ultimately appreciate and respect many different kinds of people, in different walks of life, and I can’t imagine a more healthy experience than that.
4) Family Bonding. This is a factor that I have taken for granted in recent years, and have just come to appreciate more now that more as my own journey toward homeschooling has kicked into high gear. Perhaps it’s because I now have children of my own, that I’m able to look back on my homeschool experience with even more endearment. The closeness that I have with my parents and my brothers and sisters, is priceless, and was directly fueled by the time we spent together in those childhood years. Reading together, helping one another, experiencing and understanding things together- it shaped our futures. Nearly all married and with children of our own, we now all live within a 30 minute drive of one another, and are involved in one another’s lives on a regular basis. This is the closeness that I want for my children, and I think to witness it forming will be one of the most unexpected joys of my life. To witness my 1st grader reading to my preschooler, her biggest fan, and to see them growing and learning together, at their own paces and in their own ways, but nonetheless together- what a priceless gift.
5) Fun. Last, but certainly not least is FUUUUN, of course! Learning is fun! I don’t want to nag my kids to fill me in on what they’ve been learning in school so that I can attempt to reinforce it (or battle it) at home, pushing to try to stay involved, all the while getting less and less “cool” by the day. Nope, not me. I want to learn with them! I want to rediscover the world in a new way than I did when I was 6. And something tells me I’m going to be discovering even more about my children, at a much deeper level, in the process. Those beautiful, sweet, squeezable little firecrackers- they have more potential than I can even fathom. From Williamsburg to the Grand Canyon, to science experiments in our backyard, we are going to have the time of our lives, and I know I’m never even going to look back.