Saturday, September 22, 2012

How we wound up a homeschooling family

After having a few conversations recently about our choice to homeschool, I have been thinking about the road that led to our decision. I've posted bits and pieces of our homeschooling journey here, and although I didn't start this blog with the intent of focusing on homeschooling (I wasn't doing it at the time), I decided to go ahead and write "that post" - the one that explains why on earth we're doing this and how we got here.

I never thought I'd be a homeschooler. I have said it before and I will probably still be saying it years from now. When my oldest son, David was little, I found him a sweet little preschool and he started there when he was 3. He went there for two years, and we signed up our next son to attend and registered David for kindergarten at our local public school. I definitely had reservations back then, but no serious inkling that homeschooling was an option.

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat: I am not anti-school. I am not anti-teacher. I have great respect for what they do and I know there are lots of great teachers out there. We need schools, public and private and we need good teachers.

But I did have doubts. Although kindergarten was fine for my son, and he had what I would consider a very good teacher, there was something nagging at me. He was such a curious, question-asking, passionate-about-learning kid. He loved school, except he kept asking why he had to spend all this time on things he already knew. He knew how to read fairly well, but he was still stuck reciting "A says a, ant on an apple, a, a, a," every day. He wanted to learn about science and animals, but the closest they got was a "sink and float" unit. Math was making patterns and sorting and bending wikki stix into number shapes. He liked being around other kids (he's the definition of an extrovert - if he is never alone again in his life, he'll be thrilled), his teacher adored him, he rarely got in trouble and he excelled at everything. Sounds great, right? But that spark, that excitement, that passion he had - I could see it starting to fade. He was losing his sense that school meant the joy of learning; it was beginning to mean "doing a bunch of stuff until I get to go home."

As the school year turned into summer, I pondered and worried. I wondered if private school would be better. They're supposed to be better, right? I thought maybe we could find a way to send him to Catholic school, although I knew we couldn't afford it and the location is anything but convenient. These swirls of doubt stirred in my mind and wouldn't go away. I tried to banish these thoughts, tell myself it was "good enough." I was involved in his education, after all. I was in his classroom regularly and we'd read books at home and do all the right things.

I did manage to do one thing right in the midst of my concern. Around the middle of his kindergarten year, I started to pray about it. I prayed that God would guide me to the right decision. At the time, I was certainly not thinking homeschool. But I prayed that God would help us understand the best course for our family with regards to our kids' education. I just wasn't expecting the answer.

It started with a blog post. I was poking around House Unseen, Life Unscripted, and I came across her post about secretly (or maybe it was not-so-secretly) wishing she could homeschool (she does now, by the way, and if I had more time and/or energy, I'd be super sweet and find that post, but I'm not, so oh well). I read her reasons for thinking about homeschooling, and I thought.. yeah. I get that. I feel it too.

Then homeschooling seemed to be everywhere around me. I have a close friend who homeschools and I poked around her blog. Someone posted a random article that linked to something else, that led me to read about homeschooling. I kept seeing things about homeschooling popping up here and there and it seemed like the idea just wouldn't leave me alone. At the time, I was firmly in the "I think homeschooling is great for other people, but certainly not for me," camp. I didn't think it was bad (although I did have some common misconceptions about the whole "socialization" thing), but I was quite sure I could never manage to do it.

Then it happened. I read another post by Dwija of House Unseen, and it was all about their final decision to homeschool (again, I'd link the post, but I am too lazy to find it right now). What I remember about it is the whole family went around and sort of voted, or chimed in - and they were all in favor. Then I seem to recall her describing a lot of hugging and excitement at the new direction their family was choosing.

And you know what? I was jealous.

I realized I was totally envious of this family that had decided to keep their kids home. Why on earth should I be envious? I had already told myself, and in a round about way told God, that homeschooling was not an option. I mean, it's nice and all, but there's no way. It would be so much work! I have three whole kids! How would I ever figure out what, or how, to teach them? When would I do it? When would I get other things done? How? Why? Wait! Nooooooooooooooo!

Then I got my head out of my, well, you know, and I started thinking straight. I did what I do best, and I researched the heck out of it. I bookmarked. I took notes. I made spreadsheets. I made lists. And a strange thing happened. The more I read, the more I researched, the more I looked - the more excited I got. It was like opening an plain, old, worn looking book; something I was almost too skeptical to give a chance. But as the book opened and the pages turned, I had to blink in surprise because the pages glowed with light. This whole new world was illuminated before me and the more I read, the more I loved what I was learning.

I did all this without a word to anyone, and only the tiniest whisper to God. If I said it aloud, I might actually, you know, do it. And that was way too scary. But first grade was rapidly approaching and I knew I had to figure out what I was going to do, and soon. I spent some time making yet another list - this one a simple list of pros and cons. When I finished, my list of pros was pretty long, and my list of cons was pretty short - and many of those had little question marks next to them. I wasn't too sure they would be cons at all.

At this point, I came clean to my husband. He was understandably surprised, but mostly wanted to know my reasoning. I told him all about what I'd learned, what my reasons were, and showed him my list. He was open to the idea, but a little leery of jumping in right away. School was just a couple of weeks away. He was worried I was getting ahead of myself and didn't want to make a big decision too quickly (which is funny, now that I think back on it because he is the spontaneous one and I'm always the one urging caution and taking my time.)

We went on a family vacation and although we certainly didn't spend the entire week mulling over the idea, it did give us some good opportunities for both reflection and conversation. I'd prayed about it intensely since I had broached the idea with my husband and felt more strongly about it with each passing day. Finally, after letting it sit for a couple of days, I told my husband I wanted to homeschool and I wanted to start that year. Like, immediately.

This is where his unshakable faith in me is so humbling. He agreed. He was still a little unsure, mostly because the decision felt rushed. He hadn't had the benefit of my previous months of research and pondering. But he agreed. He felt like I had a lot of good reasons, he saw the benefits and decided that if I felt it was the right thing and the right time, then he'd support me.

The final piece of the puzzle was our son. We had brought up the idea to him while on vacation. I asked him if he knew what homeschooling was. He said sure, he knew and mentioned our good friends who homeschool their daughter. Then I told him that we were thinking about whether that might be a good idea for us and asked him if he thought the idea might be ok. He said yes, he liked the idea a lot. At that point, we assured him we were still considering it and not to worry about it.

When we told him we had decided to homeschool, his reaction was priceless. He said, "Yesssss! I was hoping you'd choose homeschool."

Can't get much better than that. We started our homeschool adventure in September of 2011.

Here we are, a little over a year later, and none of us would change our decision. It hasn't always been easy, but I have always moved forward with the clear feeling that the Holy Spirit led us here. I sometimes wonder why, and sometimes wonder how I wound up one of, you know, "those" people. But this lifestyle works so well for our family, I am so grateful I listened to God's call, even when I wasn't sure. My children are thriving, learning, loving and we are enjoying this road God has set us on very much.

No comments: