When struggling for things to write about, there’s a topic that’s been off limits. I promised myself when the kids were younger and this site was new that I wouldn’t use their private lives as public content. Here and there I’ve shared some things, but most of the time I’ve kept the details of of their lives offline.
Even when I didn’t know what the focus of this blog would be (and clearly still don’t most of the time), I knew that I didn’t want it to be about them. This post is a little different and sets the stage for other posts that will follow. Because it’s also part of my story, I’ve decided to start writing about our new reality: home school.
The tears of a clown |
I won’t lie. It hasn’t been easy. In the beginning there were many tears (full disclosure: all mine), but now that we’ve reached the end of the year I can say that things steadily improved once we were about three months in and had our sea legs. Most importantly? Things kept getting better. This is particularly good news seeing that we’re already gearing up for next year. Education plans and progress reports have been written and submitted and I’ve started auditing teaching and education courses online to beef up my skills.
Looking back on our first year of homeschool I can see how things changed: I have a stronger grasp on what works and what doesn’t. I’m continuing to discover new ways of teaching things (and new things to teach). A picture of each kid as an individual learner has taken shape much more clearly than when they were at public school and checked their backpacks at the door.
Admittedly, our year still had stops and starts and some of our days could be a little more disorganized than others, but I see that we are now closer to the sweet spot of how I think this experience could and should work. And, on top of everything, I hardly cry about school anymore.
Why I decided to do this might be a good place to start the story. My kids are nearly 13 and 10 and have been in traditional school settings since they were four, beginning with preschool. While it was clear by second grade that one of them was not having an optimal school experience, the idea of educating them myself seemed ridiculous. I’m not a professional educator and I strongly believe that expertise is meaningful. Yet, here we are.
The decision has nothing to do with religion or politics. We aren’t anti-public education or anti-authority. We aren’t homesteaders or off the grid types. The reality is, we put every egg we had into one highly ranked and well thought of basket, only to find out that it didn’t hold some of our eggs very well. With our small district only having one school and private school now unaffordable, the only option left was… well, this.
Taking the leap
Nearly a year ago, I pulled my oldest child from our local public school. The school that we thought was going to “save” our child when we moved here in 2012. The school that we bought our house for. The school that lulled us into thinking, “If [blank] isn’t very good here, just imagine what it’s like somewhere else!” The school that consistently makes the state’s top ten. The school that helps to keep the property taxes some of the highest in the state. Instead, it became the school that made us question every major decision we’d made for the past six years in the hopes of giving our kids opportunities. We also began to question what we meant when we talked about opportunities.
What we thought was a mere stop gap measure at the time, slowly morphed into a decision over the summer. She would not go back. She would stay home and I would teach her instead. A friend helped us create an education plan to submit for approval. On her own, our younger child decided to see what this was all about and stay home too. Another education plan, another approval. It was done and I was terrified. For months.
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
And yet, despite the fear that I was making the wrong decision and would damage my children’s futures, once it was made and we’d actually done it, my only regret is not doing it sooner.
Most of the things I’m proud of in my life did not happen because I was being safe. Did not happen because I did things the “right” way. Did not happen because I tried to do what everyone else did. Most of the things I’m proud of in my life happened because I bucked convention. This decision? So far it’s paying off. My kids are happy in a way they never were in traditional school. They are more curious. They see education and life as intertwined in a way they never did before when it was compartmentalized.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s not for everyone. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a privilege to be able to have the time to do this with and for them. But this June? I’m not crying about what’s going to happen in August. I’m researching and designing curriculum and trying to figure out how to connect what they learn to what they see all around them. I’m trying to connect their learning to their world.
This is going to be one hell of a summer.