I homeschool my kids. I still cringe to say it, still word it as “teaching them myself” or grimace apologetically when people ask where my kids go to school. The area in which I grew up–where we lived until recently–was NOT a homeschool-friendly community. Despite having been homeschooled myself in third and eighth grade (and loving it–though my mom didn’t dare do it long-term), I still shared that negative view of “weird homeschoolers.” And then I became one.
How, you may wonder, does one unsuspectingly turn into a homeschooler? Well, here’s our story, for what it’s worth.
The agony began early, when Peatie was three and folks started questioning why he wasn’t in preschool. (He has a fall birthday and he’s tall, so people thought he should have been in school before he actually could have been.) At that point, we took the time to peruse preschool options, ultimately deciding to invest no more than a year in preschool. You can read about that agony in this post from 2012.
Just after his fourth birthday, Peatie was standing in the laundry room while I loaded the washer. “Mommy, what’s wol?” he asked, pointing to the word “low” on the dryer–which he had just sounded out, backwards, but completely unprompted. In addition, Peatie was very curious about numbers, and he had begun making up his own simple story problems in play. At that point, a new conversation arrived in our household: what do we do with a child who’s developing basic reading and number skills all on his own a year-and-a-half before kindergarten?
At the same time, I began hearing stories from parents of the first wave of full-day kindergarteners. Their kids were coming home tired and cranky. They needed alone time and play time, but they were given an hour of homework each night. Teachers informed the parents, “Your child WILL read by Thanksgiving!” without regard for individual readiness. Children who had begun reading and loving it were quickly burnt out by the boring required reading they were assigned. Classrooms had no toys, and children spent most of the day doing seatwork; the only recess was combined with lunchtime.
Still, the parents encouraged me to put my kids in preschool. “If your child doesn’t know how to sit quietly and work on worksheets, he’s not going to do well. They’ll make him sit out of the special classes like gym and art.”
I began to have misgivings. Peatie showed every indication of sharing his father’s inattentive-type ADHD; potential academic boredom mixed with a full day of seatwork surrounded by over-stimulating decorations and two dozen wiggling peers would probably not produce a positive experience for him.
In the midst of this mental agony, I had a couple moms approach me and say, “So, I hear you’re homeschooling.” They took me completely by surprise, and I denied the accusation. I was in no way homeschooling; I was merely not sending my kids to preschool. We did nothing remotely resembling schooling at our home.
But the seed was planted. As ‘Love and I continued to agonize, the idea of homeschooling kept coming up. I checked out several homeschooling books from the library and began looking for information online. After a lot of reading and researching and pondering, I was sold on the idea–at least for the younger years. ‘Love was still unconvinced. Having never experienced homeschooling himself, he had no positive associations to combat the negative ones. He did agree, however, that we could see how the kids progressed during Peatie’s final “preschool” year and even do a trial year of homeschool in kindergarten.
That was two years ago. At this point, Peatie would be finishing public kindergarten and Goobie would be ending her preschool career. In the past two years, ‘Love has become wholeheartedly enthusiastic about homeschooling. That’s not to say we will never consider sending our kids to school, but for our family at this time, homeschooling is definitely proving to be the best option.
In the past two years, I’ve added dozens of other reasons for loving homeschooling to my once-short list. Those, however, I’ll save for another day.