Off the Beaten Path

I picked up a book on our spring vacation. I had a free afternoon to wander my new surroundings while my husband cared for the kiddos. I ventured into a chic bookstore on main street. Thumbing my way through the parenting section, I came upon a book titled The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family. Hmm, it made me think. So many acquaintances were going that direction. Well, I wasn’t looking for a mission to step outide the crowd, not be mainstream.

I didn’t have kids with behavioural troubles in school. No one was complaining of bullying. If anything, my oldest was the social butterfly with clever ideas that kept her friends engaged. I’ll just figure out why I wouldn’t homeschool…then I’ll finally be able to defend myself.

Was it the first chapter or the second where I began to identify? Does public education inspire an innate desire for learning? Do my schooled children generally spend most of their time wrestling with their identity, responding to labels and uncertain interactions with peers? Was this my experience?

Hmm, I had to admit that some of the arguments aligned with my experience. But isn’t avoiding the school social issues just a way to attempt creating an unreachable utopia? Don’t all the troubling interactions prepare children to grow up happier? And more content and more aware of themselves? Won’t it prepare them to deal more appropriately with conflict?

Wouldn’t co-existing with a parent make me feel suffocated? Wouldn’t the lack of constant compaionship with simliar aged peers make my children feel lonely? Does the lack of similar aged peers make me feel lonely now? Hmm, do I even screen my friends based on age?

Nonetheless, who am I to decide their education? Isn’t the government the most capable of deciding what my children should be taught, what they should think about? I certainly don’t know everything.

I read endlessly, have a post-secondary education, but I’m not a certified teacher. I haven’t been taught how to teach. I don’t have the full gamut of knowledge on the tip of my brain. Even though I have taught my girls how to sound letters, count numbers, explain why the sky is blue and why seeds grow into plants and what happens if colours mixed together make different colours, and why, if you drop that book and it falls on someone over the stairwell at seventeen feet high, it might kill someone.

But above all, could I really LIVE with my children ALL the time? No six hour break to clean the house, organize my world, or zip off to the gym. If I was around all the time, maybe they’d want a break from me. Maybe that would be good and our family life would have to change to accommodate my need for solitude and interests. Hmm, maybe I could actually start writing.

As I read on, what enticed me most were the repeated testimonies of increasingly healthy relationship between family members. They kind of sounded like they enjoyed being together. Even that they enjoyed learning. Like they took it for granted that they might actually enjoy spending life together. Maybe they chose a family, because they wanted to learn to live with them, and share life and learning.

Then I had a vision. Me, a white long flowing gown, with three little girls, white long flowing dresses rushing about our little home on quaint Prince Edward Island…zipping outside to enjoy the summer sunshine, weeding the garden together, reading when we felt like it, having quiet times together on our white sofa. White, the colour of all things pure and good. I wanted to enjoy them for as long as we had each other.

After one week of reading and re-reading this unexpected selection, I surprised myself. I was sold. We were going to the other side; step out of mainstream, learn to live and learn about life together.

Four years later, our three little girls own those flowing white dresses. We’ve added a spritely little boy to our family. We moved from sunny Alberta to beautiful British Columbia (PEI was an idyllic vacation though). We began home educating four years ago. Utopia it is not. But the only uncertainty I have about it all is why I bought a white sofa.