I like rules, really, I do.
Last year this time there were boxes of books arriving at my door. Not just any books, but curriculum. Books a person would only order if they were planning to hijack their children’s education and take it into their own hands. Research had been done, questions had been asked, books had been read, reread, dutifully highlighted and flagged. Only those closest to my family knew we were even considering withdrawing our four kids from school and homeschooling. Even though hundreds of dollars of books were being dropped at my door it was hard to make the commitment out loud. I talked around it, mumbled, and acted like it was just this weird thing we thought about for five minutes. Nope, we were doing it. For real.
My daughter, going into first grade at the time, proudly announced to anyone and everyone “I’m going to be homeschooled. My mom is my teacher!” Her enthusiasm was almost embarrassing to me. I guess because it opened our decision up to conversation/judgment with random people. I have a history of awkward conversation with random people, especially those sharing opinions about how I may or may not be failing my children. Expectations of disapproval and worry over my children’s lack of social experiences colored my excitement over our decision. My rule following nature was being challenged by this call to teach my kids at home.
We finally began saying it out loud. “Our kids won’t be going back to school. We are going to try a year of homeschool; a family adventure.” Excitement about stepping off the back to school treadmill began to set in and took over the weird sense of embarrassment. The school supply section at Target no longer instilled a sense of dread but of excitement. The “first day of school” circled on our calendar didn’t mean the beginning of hurrying , worrying, and trying to catch up on the weekend. That circle on the calendar now meant a pool party with some fellow crazies that fell of the back to school treadmill at the same time we did. That circle meant the beginning of a whole new way of learning.
That year had many, many victories. My kids learned a lot and we spent much wonderful time together. Without the drama and competition of school they became more mellow, more content, and more considerate people. I learned things about them and about the way they learn and process information that I would have never guessed had I not become their teacher. They learned, or at least started to learn, how to be independent learners. It’s a process. Doing better than the rest of the class was no longer the goal. The new goal was to learn, at their own pace & in a way that worked the best for them Revolutionary. Simple.
These victories didn’t come without their fair share of neuroses and worry on my part Taking responbility for the education of four entire human beings is a huge amount of pressure. There is no way to describe it until you are doing it. You can’t really prepare for it until you are in the middle of it. Read, research, go to strangers homes and ask how they do it. It can be done. Lots of us are doing it and it is amazing and ridiculous, but mostly amazing.
We are getting ready to begin our second year of homeschool. Victory. This year is not filled with anxiety over admitting our choice. We are waving our weird homeschoolers flag proudly. Notification has been turned in and curriculum has been ordered without feeling a lick of concern about what others think. And that, I think , is one of the greatest gifts homeschooling can give our family and our children. The gift of being ourselves, of not worrying what anyone else is doing, and following our hearts. What a gift.