Homeschooling was never an option for me as a kid. In the first few years of my elementary education, I wasn’t aware that it was for secular children. My parents took me to church but I never recalled either parent being particularly devout. Religion is an entirely different post.
When my parents divorced and my mother moved my older brother and I to a small town as I was entering fifth grade, homeschool became a fantasy. The social aspect of school, the cloistering setting of a classroom became overwhelming for me. After having a sporadic attendance problem throughout elementary and junior high, I hit a wall in high school. I just couldn’t do it. There were terrible arguments with me and my mother and I couldn’t explain why it was so difficult for me to be around other students. I had entered high school the fall after Columbine, so it wasn’t a great time to tell kids that school was a safe place.
After too many lost years I was placed in Independent Study, and then to a continuation school where I flourished. I ended up going to college and earning a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a Master of Arts in English with a Rhetoric Emphasis. Why? Because I always loved to learn but the way I was being taught made me hate school. Once I reached college, I was introduced to a world where there was no one way to teach or to learn.
Now my nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter are homeschooled and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to teach them. Each child has their own strengths and weaknesses and I am able to adapt to those things. While I have been the primary teacher for them since Kindergarten, it has not always been easy.
The opinions of friends and families: Everyone in my family scoffed at my decision to homeschool. My judgemental older brother, my mostly indifferent father, and even my usual nonjudgemental mother all responded with confusion and certainty that my decision was a poor one.
Initially, I started my son in an independent program in which we met up with a teacher once a week to go over the work. The school in our zone happened to be the one I attended when my mother had moved my brother and me when I was in fifth grade. The school was terrible when I attended and from what I learned prior to enrolling my son was that it only got worse. The teachers ranged from apathetic to disdainful to the entire education system. We were only living there temporarily, but even after we moved back to Washington state after his first year I realized how homeschooling worked for us. In the end, I continued educating my son and then my daughter. Eventually, my family grew to accept it because there wasn’t any other choice for them.
Now, after using a program created by Washington State in which we receive the materials and lesson plans, my son and daughter are in their fourth and third year respectively of homeschooling. The most exciting part is that they are thriving. My daughter was supposed to begin second grade but has been advanced to third-grade materials along with her brother. My son is doing fourth-grade level geometry and I only encourage him to use those abilities. Each kid has a subject they fly through as do they have one they struggle with and that’s perfectly fine.
When my family suggested that homeschool was a bad idea their only reasoning was that it didn’t allow enough social interaction. Both kids regularly play at multiple parks and engage with kids quite well. My daughter is also part of a soccer team which she adores. They learn at home and have friends outside of the home. I recently discovered there were Meetups in my area that were designed to bring homeschooled families together. Living in a community where teaching at home is common has been awesome.
There is one tiny drawback to all of this but it usually only lasts about five minutes. There is a level of stress that needles its way into me often. So many things to teach, so little time. Sometimes other important decisions or activities get sidelined in favor of teaching and learning. There are some days where it is the school work that must be sidelined in favor of other life responsibilities. The ability to move around schedules and adapt easily has been a real lifesaver for our family.
In the end, I would never change a thing about our life. I have an advanced degree and studied pedagogy throughout college which gave me a leg-up. I have the opportunity to spend my days with my two favorite people in the world and watch them learn and grow. Homeschooling is not for everyone but it has worked for us.