Some Thoughts as a New Homeschooling Mom
I have learned that when people ask me in casual conversation, “Why did you decide to homeschool?” that I need to be very diplomatic with how I frame my answer.
Our neighborhood here in California is rather unique, even for military family communities, because it is so incredibly transient. Most — and yes, I mean most — military families are in Monterey for an 18-month assignment. The ebb and flow of families moving in and out of this (mostly) military neighborhood ties in with the schedules of the two main schools the military spouses are attending. When we moved in this summer, no fewer than two other families within spitting distance moved in at the same time, and a handful more within shouting. Moving vans are a regular sighting around here.
So. Meeting new moms and finding myself in casual conversations with people I have just met is almost a daily occurrence unless I were to lock myself in a closet and refuse to come out. (Which has been tempting on more than one occasion believe me you.)
“What made you decide to homeschool?” is such a loaded question that I’ve sometimes turned it around by replying, “Why, have you thought about doing it yourself?” Which invariably leads to the response, “Oh, I could never homeschool,” to which I reply, “I know, two years ago I said the same thing.”
And then they usually don’t know what to say so we stand there in awkward silence for a moment or two until we move on to other topics, or to other people…
But sometimes they do go on to ask, “So what made you change your mind?” And I try to gauge why they’re asking. Very often they go on to answer their own question with a laugh, “Did you find out you were moving to California and figure out how bad the schools were?” Which is, yes, a part of it. But difficult for me to say when your children are going to those same schools unless you point it out first.
If they stand there and continue to look me in the eye and wait expectantly for a thoughtful answer, I’ve taken to bringing it back to me and my family by answering, truthfully, that “The reason was actually quite different for each of my children.”
Some people might say they homeschool strictly for academic reasons. Some for spiritual. Many for a combination of the two, and I would generally fall in that camp. Although I would argue that the two, truly, cannot be separated.
Why do you want your child to receive an excellent academic education? Why do you want your child to be grounded spiritually and to ultimately know and pursue and develop their purpose?
What if you did everything you possibly could to ensure that your child had access to the best academic instruction, the most encouraging learning environment, and all the freedom you could afford for your child to explore their interests and passions… and your son went on to drop out of college and move back home while he “figured out what he wanted to do”? Or your daughter decided to get married and devote her talents to her family and raising her children despite those excellent SAT scores and that college degree that cost so much money? Would you rest assured that they were seeking God’s purpose for their lives? Or that they were frittering away their potential or taking the easy way out?
I’ve often heard the comment (as recently as yesterday, in fact), “Oh, you’re so brave for homeschooling.” But I’m not. I’m tired and I’m working hard to figure out how to do this and will never stop trying to do this as best I can so long as we’re doing it at all. How is that different from parents whose kids attend public school? None of the homeschooling parents I have met proclaim to have all the answers. Or if they do then another child of theirs comes along and changes all the questions. I would say, though, that mainly? All of us are willing to look for answers in places that can’t always be found in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.
Homeschooling doesn’t guarantee your child will have the best education no more than going to church guarantees your child will develop a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior and grow into a kind and loving adult. Public (or any other) school doesn’t grant you a waiver from working hard to ensure your child receives a good education so you can focus solely on their spiritual guidance. (Likewise, enrolling your child in a private Christian school doesn’t mean you can wash your hands of both, though sadly, I know families who seem to think so.)
My kids are 16, 8 and 6, and they all attended public school (in various states and even countries) until last year. And I can personally attest that there’s a reason that the best public schools are the ones with the most parental involvement. Sending your kids off to school is not exactly a walk in the park — unless you’re “brave” and can rest assured that the professionals have it all covered. Even then, your child will come home with homework that you may or may not understand; a thousand permission slips to sign or otherwise make decisions about; and requests from the school for your much-needed time and money and talent. And once your child reaches middle school and above you both are adjusting to working with several different teachers and teaching methods, homework guidelines, projects, and grading systems… and those are just some of the many academic considerations.
I find it very difficult to pigeon-hole an answer to why I decided to start homeschooling my three children — yes, “Even the high schooler??” But in future posts I will attempt to articulate reasons for that choice. And because I wasn’t kidding earlier that some of the exact reasons differ for each child, I’ll probably talk about one child at a time. So for those of you with the burning question, “Why did you decide to start homeschooling your high schooler??” when high school is often the time long-term homeschoolers stop homeschooling, rest assured, I’ll attempt to answer that question. It may surprise some of you.I started homeschooling my three children in the Fall of 2011 when they were entering the 10th, third, and first grades. We had just moved the summer before to northern California from Ohio, where we lived for four years and our children attended the public schools where they experienced many fine teachers and excellent professionals in the public education system. For what it’s worth, I was educated in the public school system in Kansas all through high school and received an undergraduate degree from a private four-year college in Iowa.