Someone mentions homeschooling. Is your first response:
I know I felt all these – and more – in the years before I finally decided to homeschool my child. Curious because the great schools my son attended just didn’t seem good for him. Envious because the homeschool families seemed so relaxed and happy. Overwhelmed because I didn’t know where to start.
What really kept me from plunging into homeschooling, however, was the gigantic uncertainty of how it would affect my family’s life.
The several times I met a homeschool mom, I found myself curious and excited to think that we might be able to homeschool, too. But the more she talked about their homeschool day, the less I could see my life being like hers. Either they were too unstructured or too structured, too Silicon Valley or too faith-based, too hands-off or too all-in, too classically academic or too unschooled.
From these one-off encounters, I couldn’t see how we would make homeschooling work for us. Would we micro-school or do it all ourselves, go with a PSA or a charter, unschool or go more text-book style? I didn’t even know what half of these things entailed, much less how to evaluate the choices.
So for years we continued to pursue traditional schooling. We gave it our best. First we did three years at public school, and then we did three years at a private school.
When we switched our son from public school to private, we had to answer a lot of “Why?” questions. These questions were often loaded with assumptions, biases, and general distrust. (People always want to know why you are choosing to do something differently, especially when your choice calls into question the way they are doing that very thing).
I know I didn’t get the answer to those “why” questions right. I criticized the school, the teacher, the principal. I said the curriculum wasn’t differentiated enough. That the school was too big. That the public education system was broken. All those answers were true, but only to a degree.
The real truth was, at the time, I didn’t fully understand my own child’s needs (I still don’t completely, but I’m way further along). And if I didn’t understand what he needed, was it fair to expect that the school would? Yes, they had folks with educational specialist and therapy and psychology degrees (which I do not have), but they also had less than a handful of those folks for hundreds of children with wildly disparate needs and issues.
Also, over time, my initial answers to the “Why?” questions didn’t totally sit right with me. For one thing, that same school was doing just fine by my other child. And, of course, that very situation led to more “Why” questions about why we had our son in private school, but our daughter in public school.
The truth is that any question about how you educate your child always feels difficult.
All of these questions gave me a lot of practice in thinking about the educational choices I was making for my children. This was good experience, because soon middle school rolled around, and we again faced a decision:
- Continue paying for a private school education that wasn’t meeting our child’s needs
- Put our child back into a public system that hadn’t met his needs
The choice was pretty obvious, even to hard-headed parents like us.
So we finally started talking seriously about homeschooling. And this meant more of those pesky “Why?” questions from family, friends, teachers, and total strangers.
By this time, though, I’d come to appreciate the “Why?” questions, because they forced me to really consider our own “why.”
What I’ve come to learn is that families homeschool for as many reasons as you can imagine. Here are but a few:
- Academic needs of the child
- Athletic or artistic needs of the child
- Learning differences of the child
- Cultural choice of the family
- Religious choice of the family
- Family lifestyle – travel, for example
- Family values
- Philosophical differences with traditional schooling
- Lack of quality schools available
For our family, traditional schooling wasn’t working. Every day felt like a crisis, small or large, and we were constantly reacting. No one was happy – not the teachers, not us, and most importantly, not our child.
Now, if I’m asked why I homeschool my child, the answer is simple: it’s what he needs.
And guess what? When we understood the why of our homeschooling choice, the how of homeschooling suddenly became clear, too.
That’s the story of my why.
I’d love to hear your why for homeschooling!
If you’re interested in learning more about the “why and how” of homeschooling, join me and other curious parents at my next “Considering Homeschooling” seminar, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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