I was asked why I homeschool, again. Sigh. (How not to answer in essay format.)
After eleven years, I have so many reasons now. So how do I be succinct?
This is why my family homeschools. And I share the book (& the 8 reasons) that convinced me in one week.
Why my family homeschools?
Because living in this world, and discovering all that it has to offer is intriguing, interesting, and energizing; and I wouldn’t want to do it without those that have been placed in my care for an abbreviated time.
I want to learn to live and learn about life with my family for the days we are given together.
With an afternoon of quiet, a rare opportunity to leave my three little girls with my husband and go out for an afternoon, to do nothing, I picked up a book on our spring vacation to a resort mountain town over a decade ago.
No unfinished phone calls, no bookkeeping, no housekeeping, no childcare. This was a free afternoon, and there weren’t many of them as I had three kids under six.
I’d finished my most recently borrowed library books. No extra books sitting on my nightstand.
An exciting crossroads—carefree and bookless.
I ventured to the chic bookstore on the main street, and perused bookshelves–if reading was something I was born to do, I was in the right place.
Thumbing my way through the parenting section, I came upon a book entitled: The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family.
(No, it is not! I thought.)
So many acquaintances were going in the homeschool direction.
- I’m not looking for a mission to step outside the crowd and be different. A mainstream kinda gal, that’s what I am.
- We don’t have kids with behavioural troubles in school–just a little sassiness and arguing at home.
- No one is complaining of bullying. (If anything, my oldest is a social butterfly with clever ideas to keep her friends engaged.)
I decided I would read the book to determine why I wouldn’t homeschool, then I would have my reasoned arguments and get on with the busyness of family life.
Was it the first chapter or the second where I began to identify?
1. Did public education inspire a desire for learning for me?
To me, it felt like a holding station, keeping me back from living the rest of my life.
For me, it was a place I wrestled with my identity, responded to social labels, and uneasily engaged in uncertain peer interactions.
Did I learn?
Well, I suppose there were things I learned. I remember a keen grade 7 math teacher who seemed fun and as relevant as Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society.
A grade 12 teacher, though she was far from fun, made her quick judgment on me correctly as she stopped me in a hallway one day and said, “I see some kids that read and I see some kids that watch television, you need to pick up a book.”
And though her judgment didn’t serve me or propel me toward reading or writing or anything academic, rather it highlighted my sense of inadequacy, she saw me and she was right.
My tv-watching coping mechanism helped me survive my childhood, but it didn’t help me explore anything academic, except some French phrases.
Was this my experience? Me: distracted from learning with all that noise and energy around me? Yes!
2. Am I learning what I need to learn to become the unique person that I was born into the world to be by attending school?
Hmm, I had to admit that some of the arguments seemed to align with my own educational experience.
A school institution shouldn’t be the only place a child should be genuinely seen and heard, but it should at least be one of the places.
If I were my own parent or teacher, I would have said, “Hey, bring fictional stories to school to show your friends. They pass those stories around the social studies classroom. And though they’re rather seedy for a kid your age, you clearly have a passion for creating and writing. Let’s harness that interest.”
Perhaps my interest would have turned into a part-time hobby, perhaps I would have begun my post-secondary years working towards an MFA.
Maybe it would have been a passing interest and my writing would be a natural extension of me, but not a near full-time occupation as it is now in my life.
But if I could have parented or taught myself, I would have noticed, seen heard, and allowed for the development of me to become more me.
And that is what I’ve been able to do for my kids.
3. Isn’t avoiding the school social issues just a way of attempting to create an unreachable utopia?
Don’t all the troubling peer interactions at school prepare children to grow up happier, more content with themselves, more aware of who they are, and able to deal with conflict?
(Hmm, does that even make sense?)
Something I don’t hear often enough is that when you have a couple kids or more, they can mistreat each other. So don’t worry about it. You’ll have the opportunity for social issues within the confines of your home!
(ps This is one of the least enjoyable elements of a homeschool family IMO, but guaranteed you will experience some element of this challenge, so come up with a plan. I offer a post discussing just this in Counseling 101: a Guide for Every Homeschool Mom and might I recommend the Non-Violent Communication book by Marshall Rosenberg (which we’ll be discussing in next month’s homeschool mama book club).
4. Wouldn’t the lack of constant companionship with similar-aged peers make my children lonely?
Does it make me feel lonely? Hmmm, do I even choose my friends based on whether they’re 48 and 2/3s?
No. Not at all.
At no point in my adulthood did it dawn on me that I can’t be friends with someone who was a mom with four kids or a single woman without any kids.
I just connected with who I connected with. But I never wanted 25 people to hang out with throughout my day.
Truth? Though I’m a semi-ambivert (just barely extrovert), I find hanging out with my entire family all the time a lot. Of course, I love them. But it saps me. I need quiet. (Said almost every mother).
But throw in a random, not-chosen 24 other people into my daily activities where I’m supposed to be harnessing my memory, creativity, and academic strengths so I can create an education, um no, I’m not able to learn or be creative in that environment.
So are my kids lonely because they don’t have a constant similar-aged peer to hang out with? NOPE.
5. Who am I to decide my children’s education?
Isn’t the government the most capable to determine what my children should be taught?
Won’t the school system make sure that no knowledge bits will be missed in my child’s education? (However, I went to school, and do I know everything?)
Haven’t they decided what is the most important things to value?
Um, do I value everything the government wants me to value?
Do I value everything the neighbours value?
Who is raising my child anyway? ME.
6. I’m not a teacher, so I can’t homeschool.
Though I am a strong and regular reader and I have a post-secondary education, I’m not a trained teacher.
I haven’t been taught how to teach a classroom.
Even though I have taught my girls how to sound out letters, count numbers, explain why the sky is blue and why seeds grow into plants and why, if they drop that book and it falls on someone over the stairwell at seventeen feet high, it might kill them.
I don’t need to be a teacher to homeschool.
7. Could I really live with my children all the time?
No five-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! (Turns out, I was right here).
Maybe the way we did family life would have to change to accommodate solitude and my interests too. Hmm, maybe I could actually start writing.
Who woulda thunk it?
Me homeschooling my kids helped me to revise my life intentions: to live my life on purpose.
Not to mention, I’d have a full reordering of my relationships and my goals and harness my creativity.
I’d travel the world, design and build a house and homestead with 20 chickens, a great pyr, and three goats. I’d start a podcast, write 600 blog posts, write a book, beginning formally life coaching parents across every walk of life and all corners of the world.
No, homeschooling didn’t do this per se.
But it gave me a whole lotta time to process who I was in this world, what I valued.
It strengthened my independent bone enough that I wasn’t asking the neighbours what they thought of my child’s home education, whether I should be traveling with my kids in rural Africa, or whether I should unschool, homeschool, private school, or anything else I determined.
8. They chose to learn to live with their family and share life and learning.
One week after reading this book, I had a new vision for my family life.
Me, a white long flowing sundress, with three little girls, white flowing dresses rushing about our quaint homestead on Prince Edward Island…zipping outside to enjoy the summer sunshine, weeding the garden together, and afternoon quiet times reading together on our white sofa.
White, the colour of purity. I wanted to enjoy my children for as long as we had each other.
We’re going to the other side, step out of the mainstream, and learn to live and learn about life and the world together.
Four years later, the three little girls had those flowing white dresses in their closets. We added a spritely little boy to our family. We moved to beautiful British Columbia, instead of PEI.
Our choice to home educate, now eleven years later, has definitely been the right choice.
The only uncertainty I had about homeschooling was why I bought a white sofa.
Utopia it is not.
The girls have outgrown their penchant for white frilly dresses. I fit in writing, added a house build and homestead, and started a bed and breakfast last summer.
One child graduated, is now in post-secondary school, two are in high school and our youngest nearly finished elementary school.