Why We Homeschool

It’s Back-To-School time which, for homeschoolers, often means reevaluating curriculum, grade placement and organizing materials in a born-anew desire to be all on top of things. For me, it is often a time of reflection on the past year, as well.

Second only to vegetarianism, homeschooling is the thing my family does that gets the most negative attention. I suspect there are other aspects of my parenting that would be even more controversial but they don’t often come up in conversation and they aren’t transparent parts of our lives. What I’m saying is people don’t judge what they don’t know about you :-)

So why do we homeschool?

When Dalton was just a toddler, full of love of learning, I spent my days doing nothing much else besides watching him explore the world and devour it. It filled me up, to discover the world through his eyes. I knew that I wanted that to last his entire childhood and at some point, homeschooling was the obvious choice. It would enable him to continue his love of learning and it would enable me to continue to be a part of it. School was, honestly, never part of the plan.

Then when he was 4, my boys’ father and I split up and I became Single Working Mom. Daycare and school became parts of our lives. I forgot about my homeschool plans and enrolled Dalton into first grade when he was 5. This, alone, turned out to be a big controversy. Because Dalton didn’t go to Kindergarten and because he was so young (born 30 days later, he would have been placed in Kindergarten instead of First grade), we were pressured to keep him back. However, socially, he was ready for first grade and I really did not want him held back. So I pushed for what would later become an on-going problematic situation. His age became the on-going excuse for every tiny issue that would come up: Dalton’s tired today? He probably still needs naps due to his age. Dalton’s having trouble spelling? It is his age. His writing isn’t on par? It’s his age. As his Mom, I knew this was totally off base. I got my first dose of the public school’s disinterest in trusting my own parental instincts and the need to advocate for my kid. And I resented the hell out of it.

Meanwhile Dalton was really enjoying school. He liked learning, he had tons of friends and loved recess most of all. Typical. What he didn’t love was standing in front of the class and being made to “perform”. It didn’t get easier. He became more and more anxious about it. He got more and more withdrawn and reserved.

And then the bullying started. It was never bad but bad enough to make my sensitive boy pretty upset on a few occasions.

Meanwhile, all year, I had to force Dalton to wake up way earlier than he would have otherwise. I had to wake up toddler Teegan, dragged us all out of bed and down the street to school. Then every day, right in the middle of his nap, I had to wake up Teegan again to drag him all the way down to the school to pick up Dalton. Dalton came home and spent all his free playtime doing homework. Busywork. And we were expected to do these projects and activities on no notice with supplies we rarely had around the house. School was taking over our lives. My baby couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t just go to the park or play after school. We couldn’t go out of town. I felt trapped, I felt like *I* was in school. And really, Dalton wasn’t learning a whole lot and because of his age, he was also not being accelerated at the rate that he was capable. Nor was he getting any help for his spelling and writing challenges which, as it turned out, will be a life-long challenge for him.

By the next summer I was living with Tony and just a few weeks before the start of second grade, I lost my job. We took that as a sign, I decided to stay home and homeschool.

Dalton was actually really upset. He didn’t want to homeschool, he wanted his friends – bullying and all. But it was one of the few times in my kids’ lives that I’ve just put my foot down and forced a major life change that I knew they were not on board with. We agreed to try it for a year and reevaluate.

That first year was rough. Dalton continued to miss his friends, we didn’t really find our ebb and flow and ended up taking most of the year off to ‘deschool’. Some kids can deschool in just a few weeks, my boy needed a full year. By the time it he was ready to start third grade, he had no lasting desire to go to public school and his zest for homeschooling has only grown over the last 5 years. Now he can’t imagine ever choosing the confines of public school. He loves the freedom and endless possibility that homeschooling offers.

It made sense to me to continue homeschooling the rest of the kids although I still do take it on a year by year basis. If a child of mine ever requested to go to school, I would support that. There was a period of time just last month that Noah seriously considered enrolling in Kindergarten this year and we talked about it with him. When he realized he’d not just get to show off his radical “skipping” skills all day, he quickly lost interest. Instead he’s taking gymnastics. :-)

I’m not completely opposed to public school but I think it is a failed system that needs revitalization, at very least. I think in some cases, school is not good for families. I think in many cases, school is not good for children. I think teachers are overworked and underpaid in most areas. I think group learning isn’t usually ideal and structured learning is not always conducive to a true love of learning, particularly when the child is not opting into the group or structured learning. I think teachers feel a great deal of unnatural pressure to teach to the test in most states and this naturally interferes with actual productive teaching.

I love that homeschooling gives my kids the freedom to do nothing but study rocks and minerals for 8 hours straight if they want, without having to stop and switch subjects. I love that we can get up and go tour the world if we are inclined. I love that my kids learning things because they learn them, not becuase they have to pass a test or get a good grade. I love that we can spend the afternoon in the swimming pool and not even touch books until 8pm if we want. I love that we can learn in 2 hours a day what the public schools are teaching in 8 hours. I love that each child’s learning style can be met and fulfilled individually so they can learn in the most logical, natural and efficient way possible. I love that we can learn in 2 days a week or 7 days a week. I love that we don’t have to take summers off and, if we want, we can take winters off instead.

As my kids get older, there are all sorts of other hidden benefits. I love that my 12 year old loves to hang out with his 9 year old brother and dotes on his sister without worrying about “looking cool” to his friends. In fact I love even more that he thinks kids who worry about “looking cool” or the uncoolest of all :) . I love that my kids see friendships as unconstrained by classroom, age or peer group limits. I love that the negative influences, while they still exist, aren’t what they are exposed to day in and day out. This makes them much less likely to cave to peer pressure. I love that my kids are all individuals who don’t seem to give much thought to “fitting in” and can put their energy into other things that are more useful to them.

And they love it just as much as I do!

We have a fun year planned. In our new neighborhood, there is an amazing homeschool co-op that I’m actively involved in and all three of my boys are enrolling to take classes of their choice. Plus there is soccer, gymnastics and Kindermusik. Plus playgroups, park days, homeschool field trips and more. And then we’ll throw in some trips here and there, because we are on this crazy Learning Through Living kick and try to fit in those 2 hours of traditional “learning” each day along the way. Sounds pretty fun to me!