I realized something the other day. Our homeschooling journey began long before what it would seem. To some, on the outside looking in, it seems random, and to others it can be rationalized with our move to Hawaii. But as we approach the end of our first year homeschooling, and we talk about what our options are for the next school year, I have had a lot to think about. We have asked many questions, and I have had so many memories flood my life. I think one of the best things we can do as parents is ask questions. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness, and to just go through the normal systems and institutions and rarely wonder why or how. I have nothing against the systems and institutions, in many ways I think they are great. I am not so ignorant to not recognize their benefits and strengths, but I do think it benefits us to sit back and understand the active role we play in our children’s lives. Whether that means reconsidering how we educate, or joining the local PTA, or even touching base one more time with a teacher.
For me, homeschooling was never off the table. My philosophy is that I want to make decisions based on each kid, each year.
One of the reasons we chose to build our house where we did in NH is because the public schools there are some of the better ones in NH statistically, and in our personal opinions. My husband graduated from the public high school in our town and has a lot of good to say about his experiences there. He was supported, and paid attention to, even when he caused some incredible trouble that you would be shocked to read about. We knew that it was the community we wanted to raise our family in.
During my daughters first few years of school she had great teachers. She struggled with letters and learning to read and write in the beginning of Kindergarten and her teacher went above and beyond in helping her get to her best potential. By the end of her first year, Natalie was several levels ahead of her classmates. Her first and second grade teachers were also the perfect fit for her. Academically, Natalie seemed to be thriving.
What did concern us were the teaching moments that we missed with her. It felt like our lives revolved around the stress of getting up early, and dumping her at school for 7 plus hours a day to picking her up and then it was homework or activities, dinner, and bedtime. We hated the stress of it all and the lack of time with her. We felt like we were failing as parents, and that we were simply schedule keepers and bus drivers, too exhausted by the weekends most of the time to make up for what we felt like we lost during the weekdays. She began to display some qualities that concerned us, because the reality is, as good as her teachers were, in a classroom of 20 plus kids it’s easy to get lost. It is difficult for the teacher to hone in on each individual student and know them and help them to the best of their ability. We would get notes about Natalie being too chatty and even blatantly ignoring her teachers reminders to be quiet and listen. At home, we noticed that she was very concerned about things like fashion, gadgets, and social stuff rather than paying attention and growing to be her best in her academics. My internal response to these notes or comments was that the teacher should deal with it! Natalie is in her care during that time, there is only so much I can do from my house during those 30 hours a week she’s in the classroom.
I began to wonder if we should consider another option. At the time, my husband wasn’t on board with the homeschooling idea. He was under the wrong, and uninformed position that homeschooling is weird, anti-social, unable to provide proper academic instruction, or wastes time that could be used for other things like work and a social life.
You see, I knew that these misconceptions weren’t true. I asked my husband if he ever had one friend growing up that was homeschooled. He said he didn’t. It was a world as foreign to him as botany or astronomy. He had no idea.
But I did. I realized that where my husband has no experience or knowledge of homeschooling and what that life looks like, I had a tremendous amount! The childhood I had lived, the friends that my mom surrounded us with from a young age, I thought all of that was “normal” but I realize now how diverse my childhood friendships really were, and how thankful I am for that.
When my brother was in second grade he had a lot of trouble with letters. By the end of his second grade year he wasn’t even close to reading. The public school that he was in didn’t use phonetic teaching at the time, and rather than him receiving effective attention and instruction, the system told my mom they were planning to keep trucking him through into third grade. Frustrated with their approach she decided to pull him out for a year, purchase her own curriculum, and get the kid reading at a level he needed to be at. For his third grade year, he was homeschooled. The local public school was happy to have him attend gym, art, and music classes if desired, and he was able to participate in the after school sports and extra-curricular activities. (Thank you New Hampshire)! During this time my mom met other local homeschool families, and made fast friends with many of them. And so, our family became intertwined in that community for many years, even though my brother was only homeschooled for one.
Some of my best childhood memories take place within the homes of my homeschooled friends. I have fond memories of sleep overs, playing dress up, spending endless outside time, holidays, and vacations with them, and their families were the ones that I remember enjoying those moments with the most in my school years. I never once thought the kids were weird, or very different than any other kids I knew, but I bonded with them on a deeper level than some of my school peers. The parents in those families, the mothers in particular, are the ones I look back on with some of the most admiration and respect. Even now, some of the women I have come to know as adults that I look at and think “Wow, I hope I have that relationship with my children” tend to be parents that homeschooled.
Reflecting back, my experiences in the homeschooler world, even though I myself wasn’t, were very positive ones. I realize now that my eyes and heart were opened to a beautiful world that most people never witness. And that is the reason why homeschooling never seemed as daunting to me, and why I was always surprised when people had such negative comments about homeschooling. Now I get it. They don’t know the goodness it can be. Yes, there are horror stories on the news sometimes, and yes there are probably parents that SHOULDN’T homeschool in my opinion, either because they can’t commit the time, or they are ultimately doing a disservice to their child. But I suppose that is all based on perspective. This is what I think, if the parents are in agreement, and the children are in agreement, and there is time and energy to be invested in the process, it can be a very beautiful thing. I witnessed dozens of families in my own life where it was.
Hear me out. I am not an advocate for homeschooling for everyone and anyone. But I am a HUGE advocate for homeschooling for the right families under the right circumstances. (And I understand that those things are subjective)!
Last summer when we found out we would be moving to Hawaii, I started to research the schools here, and unless you are in the most expensive parts of the island, the public schools aren’t that great, in fact compared to what we were used to, they were bad. I knew public wouldn’t be an option. I realized, what a great opportunity and reason to try homeschooling! Given the obvious reasons why we should try it, my husband gave me his support. It has been such a success in many ways. My husband has been amazed at the academic progress in the kids, and the maturing they have done, and has become a very active role in our schooling. He actually has come to love it! He is even advocating that we continue next year when we return to NH. It is a big decision though, so I decided to do a little more research into homeschooling in general.
At the end of the day, we want to make the decision that is best for our family. The truth is, when I think of homeschooling my children again next school year, I get very excited! But I am not going to make a decision based on emotions. One of my college professors would tell me to use the SMART acronym. (SMART GOALS). Is it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely? I believe, that in our situation, homeschooling is!
Within the next week I will write and post a brief research paper on some history and statistics of homeschooling, as well as the information and stories that I have personally gathered. If you’re interested in my paper, make sure you follow me so you don’t miss it! And as always, feel free to reach out with questions and comments.