I began to consider homeschooling after reading a book. About three years ago, the library featured one about homeschooling: Real-Life Homeschooling: The Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home
Each chapter was about a different version of homeschooling-- the fundamentalist Christians, of course, but also the single parent, the unschooler (the what?), a same-sex couple, a neo-hippie vegan clan, progressive academics, the non-religious. There were tips about how to get started, and “how-to” books are appealing because they give the air of trying something without having to try it. It’s a free sample for the mind.
Homeschooling had been in my peripheral for a couple reasons. I have a cousin who homeschools a large family. I wondered why someone would volunteer to do a job for free that most consider a paid profession. It’s rather like the contractor-hobbyist who learns to do wiring and plumbing and carpentry all for the benefit of his own house rather than to earn a living. Also, I had made a friend who was homeschooled, and she was different. I mean, we are all different from each other, but she had a quality of thinking-about-far-away thoughts and a quiet self-sufficiency that set her apart; also, she was sweetly innocent of the debauchery that most high school kids (or college, for late bloomers) know too well. She had helped remodel her family home, had traveled overseas, and was helping her mom care for an autistic daughter, but she had never been more than kissed, and she was in her 20s. Why do people decide to do this, and where do they begin? I checked out the library book.
Something the book did not emphasize were the cons, detrimental aspects to teaching your own kids. Or, rather, they were covered in a backhanded way, like “We had some rough patches, but it’s been totally worthwhile” or “We started homeschooling, but then stopped a while and resumed again when x-y-z happened.” Perhaps the options of homeschooling make it too flexible to argue the cons. Whatever cons the families encountered could be changed. “My kids hated Saxon math, so we started them on Mammoth Math, and they thrived” and “We were burned out so we took a break for two weeks and started fresh.” I returned the book with the conviction that if one wanted to try this venture, the only limits were those imposed by the state. Otherwise, it could be whatever you wanted it to be.
When I began seriously considering homeschooling (see “What *Really* Started it”), I went online for the cons. If there’s a shortage of opinions on the web, I hadn’t noticed. However, I could not find an article that put homeschooling in such poor light as to change my mind. At worst, the reasons were “This is going to be hard and you can’t do whatever you want anymore.” Well, I gave up all that in the delivery room ten years ago, so try again.
There were parents who had tried it but had to stop due to financial reasons, divorce, or because of state restrictions. Most regretted having to quit. There were some parents who said, “This was a problem but it turned out to be for the best because…” and then something about a good side to what had initially seemed like trouble. No one would come out and say, “I started homeschooling and it was the stupidest thing—don’t do it ever, ever, ever.” It was more like, “We tried it but I just couldn’t make it work and we are sorry it’s not for us.”
There were articles criticizing homeschooling by professional educators. If you figure out a way to do something yourself, I expect the people who do it professionally to argue against it. However, if I'm allowed to give birth and nurture a child until five years old, what makes me suddenly inept after that age?
I also looked up adults who had been homeschooled and could not find much about how abused and neglected they felt having been educated by the family. A lot of homeschooled people wrote about how grateful and thankful they were not to be institutionalized.
Still—it’s hard and you don’t get to do whatever you want. After homeschooling for a little over half a year, here’s my own list.
They are with each other a lot, and they bicker. One is humming while the other wants absolute silence. One is playing keep-away and the other doesn’t want to. One is taunting, the other is losing a battle with patience. A part of me says, “If they were at school, you wouldn’t have to deal with this except in the afternoon/evening.”
Time to workout.
I am a recovering gym-rat. I used to workout most days, 90-120 minutes, for many years, and now my workouts are walking or running the dog and doing ballet and yoga exercises. My muscles are not as big, but they’re still there, strong enough, and more flexible. To my surprise, I have not ballooned up a size or two, but I still miss the gym. At home, I don’t get to tune out, surrounded by thumpy music and trashy magazines to distract myself from 45 minutes on an elliptical machine. Nor is there the camaraderie of the weight room, all of us circling each other for turns on equipment and listening to each others’ conversations. At home, I always feel I haven’t worked out hard enough, rather like the alcoholic who wonders if she’s really had enough to drink if there’s still liquid in the bottle.
If the kids act up, it’s solely my job to deal with it. There’s no school situation to blame: it’s not the teacher, the principal, the other kids, the class size, or how the school is run. It’s my child and it’s me. When someone gets mouthy, a part of me wishes there was a military academy in town. I’ll show you, you little…(grumble). I am also confronted by my wish for an easy life (ah, fantasy) in which I direct them once how to act and they remember forever, intuiting how to apply my lesson in all circumstances. When your kids are home with you, any gaps or flaws in your teachings will be reflected back at you, eventually. Even if I have been impeccable, the personality of that less experienced person will have to be guided. My son is moody. He has always been moody. My daughter is sloppy, trailing her wares throughout the house from the time she could grasp a toy. This is who they are and there’s no avoiding it.
I work part-time at about three different kinds of work. I have always worked part-time and have finally evolved my jobs into those situations and people I enjoy the most. I have to integrate my kids, though. They come with me, sometimes whining or sniping at each other, sometimes needing a good prodding just to get out the door. When I work at home, there are interruptions, or I have to make concessions with their presence or permit more TV just to keep them out of view for a couple hours.
So even as I write happy snippets and reference articles that purport this to be the most righteous path, I don’t always feel like doing it.