Monday, January 4, 2016

Should We Homeschool?

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When my daughter was in kindergarten I was so excited to be a room mother, to be a part of the PTA, to spend time helping the teacher, and to help contribute to the school community in other ways. It was a thing that I looked forward to from the very moment I became a parent, even before that. From the very start I wanted to do my part in participating in the local elementary school as a family.

I imagined myself bringing cupcakes, planning Valentine's Day parties, pouring the juice. I would have been that go-to parent whenever a teacher needed a hand during field trips or on photocopy day. I could envision my kids at their desks waving proudly as I peeked in from outside of their classroom door.

Elizabeth loved kindergarten. She loved her work, loved learning, and she truly loved her excellent kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Wilson was such a great kindie teacher. She was extra sweet, super pretty (as all kindie teachers should be), and most importantly, she excelled at her job. She had double master's degrees in education. She was brilliant and dedicated and she loved her class and I was super impressed with her.

Elizabeth was in school and I did volunteer in her classroom every week on Thursday afternoons. I loved being in the classroom and I felt like I was learning so much about schooling and learning and teaching and about what it meant to be knowledgeable. Elizabeth did wave at me proudly across the room.

At the same time, my best friend was homeschooling her children. Lara had two kids at that time who were my own kids' ages; we were one big happy group of best friends. I watched her too and learned everything I could about homeschooling. I admired how I saw her family moving through the world and I longed for the natural lifestyle that homeschooling seemed to offer.

I watched Elizabeth feeling proud of herself in the classroom, pleasing Mrs. Wilson, participating in daily routines each afternoon, and being a part of those kids and their lives each day. And still, for four months I read and researched homeschool, public school, learning styles, teaching theory...everything I could get my hands on.

One afternoon I was in the classroom with Mrs. Wilson alone while the kids were in the library. I was working on some paper sorting or packet binding or some other activity when I decided to talk to her about homeschooling. We spent about an hour talking about the homeschool vs. public school lifestyle, methods, advantages and disadvantages of each. She had so much to say about how bright and motivated Elizabeth was and how optimistic she was about the prospect of homeschool for Elizabeth. She even said that she was planning on homeschooling her own children one day.

The decision to homeschool was not an easy one to make. School was really working for Elizabeth. Making the decision to homeschool was absolutely not about rejecting school as much as it was about embracing the lifestyle of homeschool. I have had many days where I doubted the entire enterprise and many more days where I have been confident that we were doing the right thing. But I never stop thinking about it; even now I continue to revisit the decision, now for John. 

John and I recently sat down and discussed his educational goals for this year and next. At this time next year he will be starting attending the local community college as a dually-enrolled homeschooler. And he's happy.

When I think of those earliest days when my husband and I were debating and researching and struggling on how to proceed educationally for our kids, I still remember the gnawing, desperate desire to make the right decision.

I'm still convinced.

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