Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beyond Doubts: Homeschooling After 10 Years

So, after my last philosophical post about not offering opinions or predictions about your family's homeschooling aside, there are a few things I can say about allowing children to follow their own paths learning at home. It has been over ten years since we first put a big toe into the pond of home education, jumping right out of school and into life. Was it scary? Yes! Did I make many mistakes? Probably as many as can be made, and then some. After all, I do have five kids, all those chances to goof up. 

Did my children turn out to be, as in the words of a slightly inebriated young man at a brewery the other day, "anti-social, nerdy loosers?" Ha! Not likely. Or as he also asked me a few times, "but, um, are they cool"? Yes, they are cool, and warm and lovely people. This, we owe to the community of people who have helped me raise them, from neighbors, friends and relatives (wonderful grandparents, aunties and uncles on both sides of the ocean), to the great librarians, teachers of dance, archery, art and kung-fu and our incredible church family who see and welcome them each week.

Questions like the above might have given me pause ten years ago. After all, the children were very young and I had no idea if education out of school would be the right choice for us. Would I have the patience and fortitude? Would they learn what they needed to learn? Would they be...socialized?

The fact of the matter is, the questions will continue to be asked, sometimes by professionals who may be in a position to make you feel that you are making the wrong choice concerning your child. You will ask yourself more questions than anyone else ever will as well. Most of the time now, the questions take a back seat to the doing and learning and cleaning and cooking. But the questioning is good, it keeps you on your toes and allows your mind to explore the possibility of change, of improvement. Just don't lose sight of reality for the cloud of doubt.

What is the reality? It is this; no matter where you choose to send or keep a child for schooling, there will be good points and bad. There will be conflict and harmony, moments of genius, enlightenment and creativity. For some children, school is a great place to be; they thrive on lots of activity and the interaction or the discipline of a classroom setting. For others, home is the place where they feel safe being themselves or have the time to delve into their passion for music, art, math or reading. When someone outside of the world of homeschooling assumes that your child would be better off in school, you may take their point of view into consideration, but don't forget to weigh it against the truth of all the factors. If conflict at home is cause for angst, should they not learn to deal with stress first at home, where they are loved, before heading out the door to try it out at school? If needing more space seems to be the problem, is a classroom with 30 other children in it the place to find that space? How about a child not feeling motivated to get up in the morning for homeschooling? After the initial honeymoon of school has worn off, I could tell you, from experience, that the lack of motivation will be even harder to deal with. Now, you will need either to answer to school officials for a perpetually tardy student or engage in a daily battle that starts off everyone's day in an ugly way. And the day will most likely be interrupted another time or two for a forgotten item to be brought to school or a ride home from a kido who missed the bus...again.

I am at ease today in the choice we made to homeschool all those years ago. There is nothing I would trade for this accumulation of moments spent together, neither all the free time nor all the gold in the world. I am also ready to let go and send an older one to school when the moment comes, after all, our home is based on freedom to learn as best suits each of us. Find your family's happy place and live there...until it comes time to move on. Then rearrange the furniture and settle back into harmony. Peace.

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