To homeschool, or not to homeschool?

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Well, that IS the question.

In this slightly less than comatose state that has thus far been my first trimester with my fourth child, two little leaguers, and a toddler with limited communication (oh yeah and this blog thing); I must say the idea of taking on more is akin to masochism. When I think of having a toddler and newborn at the same time (again), I want to plead to my big boys, “Don‘t leave me alone with the littles!” They are such great helpers without even trying.

Planning is not so hard. I even enjoy it. Why not go ahead and throw that on the pile, too? I can do it right after I’m done drooling on the table where I’ve passed out before my coffee finished brewing, while my toddler spreads peanut butter in my hair. Hey, that counts as his art time, right?

My husband thinks I’m crazy. But let’s face it, as a woman… I’ve always been crazy. And many great ideas seem crazy at first. The only way to find out if this is for us is to try it out. We are going to have a trial run this summer and see how it goes. In the mean time I continue to mull this over, leaning this way and that.

My kids are all ahead of the curve academically speaking. My 28 month old doesn’t talk in short sentences yet, but knows most of his letters and sounds, plus some sight words. My big kids are above reading grade level, and have a thirst for knowledge that is amazing to behold. I don’t worry that they will fall behind. In fact, I know that I will be able to better feed their specific curiosities.

I like the idea of reducing the amount of “pressure points” that our routine involves. We seem to have to hurry from one place to the next, always trying to squeeze have too’s into short fragments of time. Time with them is limited to mornings, afterschool, and after games and/or practice which leave little time for dinner, bathing and bedtime routines. These are all high stress or, pressure point, times of day for us.

My middle child, who thrives in the wilderness, practically lived outdoors as a preschooler. He has such little outdoor exploration time as he is now in full day kindergarten. My oldest, in 2nd grade, has such creative ideas, like planning and creating a light up model of the solar system for his bedroom. It was a totally original idea. We have had to squeeze these things in to our busy life. As a former teacher I know how much time is eaten up just by having a large class. I know how much time is spent simply waiting on other people. Waiting to begin class until the tardy bell, waiting for others to catch on to the lesson, waiting for the teachers help, waiting at the restroom, waiting in line everywhere. Even the most efficient of dismissal routines eats up a large chunk of time. With all the one on one and tailored just for them lessons we could knock out what takes an entire school day in a fraction of the time. Therefore, leaving more time to dig deeper into their interests. There are definite benefits to large group learning, but many of those benefits can be gained from a co-op that doesn’t eat over 40 hours of a child’s week.

However, I do not want to deprive my child of being in a classroom where they are inspired and challenged to be their best. It was my fourth grade teacher that inspired me to become a teacher myself, and taught me that I determine my own value and that my value could be priceless. She was just the first in a line of many teachers, who had a passion for teaching and/or for their subject matter. They taught me more than they could know and covering far more than what the state expected them to. They gave me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, taught me personal accountability/responsibility, and were wonderful examples of faith and forgiveness. They demonstrated patience, tolerance, love, concern, and so many virtues that I might not have seen demonstrated so perfectly elsewhere. Not to give the impression that my parents were not providing me with this same character building environment, but there were many more opportunities to learn from my peers mistakes and accomplishments.

There was, of course, the flip side of the coin: the teachers who were examples of what NOT to do. I learned quite a bit from them, too; both good and bad. I learned to be overly critical of myself while also learning to overcome personality conflicts. I learned that since they never communicated with my parents I could get away with barely giving effort to my work or behavior. There were those who could not overcome the struggles of managing a classroom to even give me a taste of the knowledge I had been thirsting for. Some had teaching styles so utterly incompatible with me, that I was left feeling stupid and incapable of learning.

While these struggles helped to build me into the person I am today, as a parent I would rather my children never feel such negative things about themselves. To leave them at the mercy of someone who decides he is not worth their time or energy, is not something I’m keen on doing. Of the homeschool children I have had the pleasure to know, they are all well-adjusted, smart, kind, friendly, compassionate people. They have no bazar social hang-ups like some would lead you to believe will incur if they are not “socialized”. If anything they seem to rank higher on the “socialization chart”, which I just made up. I rank them higher because those I know have always been respectful to one another, and adults alike. Unfortunately, there are far too many instances I have witnessed, both as a student and a teacher, of negative peer pressure, in various forms and degrees that I’m certain someone somewhere has written an entire thesis on.

Given a choice then, I would not have wanted to be homeschooled. I liked school and most of the time enjoyed being there. That is where I am always surprised to hear that my kids WANT to be homeschooled. And, it’s not as if they have some fantasy of what it will be like. We homeschool on sick days. We homeschool on holidays, and sometimes weekends. My kids jump for joy when I say the word “homeschool”. It leaves me perplexed. I mean… We are really working… It’s work. Maybe part of it is that my oldest two are best friends. How cool would it be to be in the same class, eat lunch, and play at recess ALL with your best friend every day? It does sound pretty cool, even if there is lots of work.

I’m in love with the idea of them getting to learn from and spend time with their grandparents. All of which are highly knowledgeable and very successful people who would LOVE to pass on all they can to their grandchildren, and who all have the time and ability to do so now.

And of course, there is my selfish reason. I want them. I want to be with them, to spend that time with them, to see their excitement at learning something new, to watch their face when they finally “get it” during a lesson. All of those things I treasured as a teacher, I want those moments with my own children. Those moments are a great reward. In a mind full of self-doubt, sometimes I think that “teacher” is the best part of who I am; something I KNOW I do well. It might be selfish, but I want to share that with MY kids, not just other people’s children.

This summer we are going to give it a go. I’m certain there will be much to learn about it all and I’ll be sure to share it here. Until then, here are a few clichés: Don’t knock it ‘till you try it. You won’t know unless you try. Jump in with both feet. Take the tiger by the tail. Just do it.

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