Friday, September 21, 2007

Questions I Get Asked Most Often About Homeschooling

I thought it might be fun (okay, the real term I want is “productive” or “efficient,” but that’s no way to start a juicy post!) to toss out some answers to a few of the homeschooling questions that I get asked most frequently. For those of you who “knew us when,” I know it must seem an odd choice we’ve made, like this whole homeschooling thing just sort of materialized out of nowhere. Well, it kind of did. So let me attempt to explain myself a little, if I may . . .

“What Made You Decide To Homeschool?”

Back in the day when the Things were (really) little and DH was home every night, daily life was going along swimmingly. I was looking forward to the time when the Things would head off to school and I would finally have a little more “me” time (spent at the gym? Ha! We’ll never know!); maybe I’d go back to work. DH and I never really talked about homeschooling seriously—that was something only those “odd” people did, you know? Well, DH then got his new job, we moved away from all our friends, and the Things hardly saw Daddy that summer. It was a tough time for our family.

When it came time to send Thing 1 off to kindergarten (about three months after the move to our new town), something about the large public elementary school just didn’t feel right. It’s a very nice school, filled with very nice teachers and students, but for me, the choice felt completely wrong. So, Thing 1 joined Thing 2 (who was preschool age) at a private preschool/kindergarten that year. It was lovely.

Then it came time for Thing 1 to go to first grade. We registered at the local public school, bought school supplies—I even wrote an essay for the principal explaining why I thought Thing 1 deserved a particular teacher. But then came The First Day of Real Elementary School, and I just had the same gut feeling that it wasn’t the right decision for us. God talking? Could be, not sure. Anyhoo, we withdrew that same day and, after a flurry of phone calls to my trusted friend in Florida (the only other person I knew personally who had any homeschooling experience), we started first grade at home while Thing 2 attended the private K.

When we first got started, a sweet mom in our town, who is homeschooling her teenage daughter, took me under her wing. She loaned me her copy of The Well-Trained Mind. Well, let me tell you, that book is amazing (at least to me)! Everything I thought about education was right there in that book! Of course I have my own copy now and have read the whole thing at least a couple of times, but I read and reread sections regularly—for guidance, inspiration, reassurance. It’s a very “empowering” book.

So, to sum it up, for us homeschooling still feels right. DH gets to see the kids much more often this way, and we have flexibility that we wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s a nice arrangement.

“How Long Do You Plan To Do This?”

As long as it still feels right. We’ve looked into public school (the curriculum is not what I want) and private school, even private classical schools. The private schools fare better, but I still find it difficult to trade our flexibility and freedom for high tuition costs and curriculum I can teach, at least at this level, by myself. Maybe I’ll feel different in the coming years.

“What About Socialization?”

Ugh! Every homeschooling parent hates this one. Kids need to be around other kids—playing, compromising, or just doing things that kids enjoy. No rule says this has to be done in a school building with same-age peers between the hours of 8:00 and 3:15. Believe me (even with my previous rant about scheduled playdates), we’ve got this one covered. When you realize school isn’t getting done because you’re too busy playing, then you gotta learn to rein yourself in! Would my kids love recess and school lunches and being around friends all day? Of course!! Who wouldn’t? But I’d say, for the most part, homeschoolers do a decent job of getting out and about with other kiddos, so “socialization” usually isn’t a concern.

“I Could Never Do That—We’d Kill Each Other”

***Soapbox Warning!*** This is probably the statement that I hear most often, and the one I like the least, frankly. My first response (which is perhaps a little cheeky, although I would never say it to someone this way, or say it at all for that matter) is, “What makes you think we don’t feel the same way?” Of course we have those days! Lots of them! Sometimes more than once in the same day! But just to be clear: There is nothing magical or special about my children or their behavior that makes them any more angelic or tolerable than any other person’s children. If we are able to spend our days learning together and coexisting, then it’s because DH and I have worked really, really hard to create children who are responsible, respectful, tolerant and kind. And we, ourselves, have learned to practice (an inordinate amount of) patience, to forgive, to guide and to nurture. It’s not magic—it’s work! It’s not that other parents don’t teach their kids these things, too; I know they do. But it’s that immediate assumption, after I tell them I homeschool, that they “could never do that—we’d kill each other” that somehow makes me feel like they’ve degraded or dismissed all we’ve worked so hard to create. (Hmm, I didn’t say that very well. In short, I feel dissed.)

Regardless of a family’s schooling situation, it’s a parent’s job to provide discipline, order, structure and love for their child. It’s a child’s job to test those boundaries and push for independence. Yes, you will butt heads. As a parent, you deal with this quite a bit. But as a homeschooling parent, you deal with this IN EVERYTHING! It’s not just the battle of the veggies, the clean room, the chores, the piano practice, the homework, and the soccer schedule. For a homeschooling parent, it’s all that plus the constant give and take (and yes, sometimes battle) over language lessons and math facts and reading assignments and history narrations and Latin declensions, and on and on. Many days, yes, you will want to kill each other. You will want to run down the driveway in your bathrobe, screaming at the top of your lungs, while simultaneously waving your arms like a maniac in an attempt to flag down the school bus driver. But after the school bus has rumbled away and the kids are snickering at your attire, you remember why it is you do what you do. You realize that your child is a one-and-only. And your chance to mold him is a once-in-a-lifetime. So you retrieve the coffee cup that you flung into the yard during your little fit, blot the coffee stains running down your bathrobe, take a long, slow deep breath in, and head back to the table to tackle those declensions. Some days are golden; some days are not. But every day is another opportunity for you to help your child become someone he is proud of. And that is why, “I can do this!”


Life With My 3 Boybarians said...

Nicely said! :)

Lloyds said...

Beautiful post, all of my feelings exactly! Thanks for sharing.