I've been wanting to write about homeschooling, but have been holding back for some reason. After reading about the eleven year old boy who hanged himself, I decided now was the time to write.
I started homeschooling my oldest back in 1988 when it wasn't the popular thing to do. Michael had just turned five when we started Kindergarten. Although it was legal in Missouri, even back then, not everyone had heard about the concept. As a matter of fact, most people back then hadn't heard of homeschooling. Trust me, it wasn't the easiest thing to do when just about everyone else was sending their kids to school.
Why in the world did I want to undertake such a responsibility, especially when I, myself, had attended school...and even loved school? It boiled down to a handful of reasons: I absolutely adored my kids, loved being with them, and just didn't want to send them away every day, five days a week....especially at the tender age of five and six years old. They seemed too young to be separated from their family. Plus....I did it for social reasons...yes, even back then. My oldest son truly appreciated classical music more than pop or other types of music. I wanted him to be able to continue that appreciation without peer pressure to listen to what every other child was listening to. I wanted him to wear the clothes HE wanted to wear even though they weren't the "brand" name clothes. I didn't want him to have to participate in activities just because every other student was doing so. Basically, I wanted Michael, and my other five children whom I ended up homeschooling, to be free to be themselves. I didn't want them to feel they had to become exact copies of everyone else.
My original intention was to homeschool just through third grade...just enough time to make sure they got a good start in their education. I had no idea that I would end up homeschooling them until they entered high schoool. One year lead to the next and before I knew it, grade school was over. At that point, they were given the option to continue homeschooling or to attend our local Catholic high school. I warned them that if they didn't end up liking school, they would have to at least finish the ninth grade and then I would continue homeschooling them. I didn't want them to quit too easily. If they enjoyed it, like I figured they would, they would just continue until they graduated from high school. Even though they appreciated homeschooling, they were usually eager to give school a try.
The interesting question I heard throughout my homeschooling years was, "Are you concerned about socialization?" I never heard, "Are you concerned about their academic progress?" Even though I was always able to answer the question well enough to satisfy people's curiosity, inwardly, I was a little nervous. The irony was that I was NOT concerned about socialization or social skills. As a matter of fact, that was one of the big reasons I chose to homeschool....for social realsons. I was MORE concerned about the academic part of homeschooling....even though no one else seemed concerned.
In my mind, a child learns socialization by socializing with others of all ages and not just from peers his/her own age. Except in the school environment, where in the "real" world does an individual work and play all day with same aged peers? Later on I found out that homeschooled children seem more at ease with adults than children who attend typical school do. Homeschooled children also seemed more comfortable with kids of all ages compared to the kids who attend formal school.
Needless to say, I didn't keep my children confined to the home all day every day. They joined Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, swam on the neighborhood swim team, took art lessons, helped their Dad tune pipe organs, spent time with their Grandparents, attended church services, and played with neighborhood friends. One of the pleasant outcomes of homeschooling is the balance that is maintained among activities, school and family life. Parents are in control instead of the "system." If a family happens to be sports oriented, then the homeschooled children will have ample amount of opportunities to compete in soccer, swimming, tennis, baseball etc. On the other hand, if families don't want to become "soccer Mom's and Dad's," they don't have to. They are free to choose their own lifestyle and not pressured to live someone else's dream.
Do I ever question the decision I made to homeschool vs. sending our kids to school? You bet I do. Needless to say, no system is perfect and without faults. There were definite sacrefices made in order for me to homeschool...mainly financial....and of course more wear and tear on the house since you actually live in the house all day instead of just in the morning and evenings. Was it worth it? Definitely, yes. I believe our family is closer because of it. I also feel fortunate that I got to spend day to day life with my kids as they grew into young adults....not only as their Mom, but as their teacher. They learned from me and I learned from them.
Homeschooling wasn't always a picnic with a red and white checkered table cloth and a basket full of overflowing goodies. There were many plain peanutbutter and jelly days with clouds, rain and brewing storms within our home and within our hearts. But no matter how difficult homeschooling may be at times, the smiles, laughter, learning and love experienced make homeschooling an unforgettable adventure and journey!
"I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)