When my first born was almost 3, I contemplated homeschooling. Like many parents who consider homeschooling, I couldn’t even imagine it. How could someone who did not graduate with a teaching degree actually teach their own children? (I had graduated with a degree in International Studies.) When would I ever have “me time”? (Let’s be real here for a second. Once you have kids, you can kiss “me time” good-bye.) Will my child lack social skills? (Umm… no. More on that later.) These are the questions I asked myself, and quickly thought it was impossible. My thought was that he would need to enter preschool and be with children his own age. He would need to learn his letters, do crafts, and put on school plays we would come to. (Yea… that was my mindset.)
My first child wanted more than what I was offering him at home. He literally had a thirst for knowledge. I visited a few preschools with him before the both of us decided on the “perfect” one. He was so excited to start that he walked in, and didn’t even think to turn around & say good-bye. He enjoyed his first year of preschool. He attended two hours a day, 3 days a week. When he entered Pre-K the following year, the schedule changed from three days a week to five. During this time, his little brother was now ready for pre-school. I tried to start them at the same hour and quickly learned my second was not as willing to go. He was very attached to me and would cry most days. After a couple of weeks he just accepted the fact he was going and felt more at ease knowing his big brother would be there.
Two years of pre-school and one of pre-k done for my oldest. Now was time for him to enter Kindergarten and again we searched for the “perfect” school. We did not want to put our kids through the public school system so we decided on a parochial school. My husband had gone to public school and I completed 8 years of parochial schools and 4 years of an independent school. (Funny because I swore I would never send my children to a parochial school. I changed my mind when I realized part my “grounding” was due to my 8 years of Catholic school education. The other 4 were spent in an independent school – more on that later). This generation is different than when I was young. I’d have to say WAY different. I’m actually grateful there were no cell phones or social media when I was growing up. Times are changing and so are attitudes. This is not only true of children but of adults alike. I figured Catholic school would only help enhance what we were already doing with them at home.
Kindergarten for my oldest wasn’t as smooth sailing as preschool. He didn’t want to get up most mornings, and would ask many times why he had to leave me everyday. First grade was even tougher. Most days he was moody – maybe just overwhelmed at the LONG day he had. Kindergarten and first grade were both 6.5 hour days. There was no option to send him to half day kindergarten. I figured he would just get used to the idea of being in school during regular hours. After all, once an education is completed, we spend 8 hours or more a day working. Every weekend, Kindergarten sent a homework folder. First grade did as well except there were more subjects to be completed. It was a tough time. I was lucky if he was in a good mood once a week when I picked him up. He just wanted to “decompress”. His younger brother had started a new preschool nearby. My idea was that it would be easier for him to transition to his older brother’s school if he was going with some of the same kids living in that neighborhood. Both of them thrived in school, and were very well liked by students and faculty. My oldest was even chosen out of the 500+ students in his entire school to have breakfast with the Bishop. The assistant principal told me once that she wished there were 500 of my son attending that school. Needless to say, we thought it was a good fit.
We chose this parochial school because of the principal at the time. We also wanted to make sure it was where he would stay until 8th grade. I tried to stay involved with the school, but it was challenging. We did not live in the neighborhood, but rather 2 towns away. I didn’t know that this principal we liked was actually on his way out into retirement. During my sons’ second year at the school (first grade), they received a new principal who was very highly regarded, but came from the public school system. We were skeptical because we chose the school in hopes of not having a public school education. Turns out she started making major changes immediately. Changes that were alarming us.
After months of thought, we decided it was time to part with the school system. It was in March of 2014 that homeschooling entered my mind once again. This time I was more open to the idea and dove into researching it. How I would do it, scheduling, cirriculum, etc. I spoke to homeschooling families, joined every homeschool group on Facebook, and joined local meet up groups. We only knew one cousin who homeschooled his children who lived a few states away. Other than that, we were completely ALONE in this process. My planning took months but I was committed. We had made the decision, and to be totally honest… I was more afraid to tell my eldest son’s school than I was to actually homeschool. He was so well liked there. Funny isn’t it?! I left that phone call up to my husband and chickened out.
So here we are… just completed our first year and my boys are a year ahead of where they would be in a traditional school setting. My second child is actually 2 years ahead in math. Here’s where I will discuss my 4 years at an independent school and the value that had. My parents pulled my brother and I out of school when I was 9 to go to an independent school. It was extremely challenging for me coming in as a 4th grader. Now I would be learning 1-2 years ahead of what the kids in traditional public & parochial schools were learning. I remember reading Romeo & Juliet in 6th grade and visiting the opera in 4th and 5th grade. I didn’t realize it then, but that four years was money well spent. It is unfortunate that I did not start from he beginning and finish through high school. I did come away from the experience thinking one day I would want that type of education for my own children. When I started researching curriculum, I went with a style that would emulate the type of education I received during those 4 years at my independent school. I feel I am succeeding at that!
So What About “Me Time”?
Sure I’ve given up any chance of quiet time for myself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Honestly, I am still trying to figure out how to implement a 1-2 hour “quiet time” break during our day so we all get that luxury. I spend most of my nights awake 2-4 hours after everyone is in bed so I can have this time for myself. If I need time, I just tell my husband and he will gladly help me out so I can take a couple of hours to get my hair done, or go hang out with friends. Our family is closer than ever (and we were a co-sleeping, attachment parenting family to begin with). We turn everything into a lesson and we have fun doing it. After school sports are never a problem anymore, and my kids love the extra activities. It’s not all butterflies and daisies, we do have bad days. Sometimes they don’t want to sit down and work, but in the end it does get done. Regardless, it truly was the best decision we ever made, and I’m so happy I am able to do this.
So What About Socialization?
I can’t tell you how many people say: “Oh, I could never homeschool.” or “How are kids going to be socialized?” These two comments are usually the first thing people say when they learn of our lifestyle. We feared this as well so I don’t feel it’s ignorant to wonder. (Although now that I am in this community, I can understand why those questions or comments are bothersome to others.) Here’s my answer: Unless you live in a bubble or on a deserted island, there is no way your child will be unsocialized. Personally, I seek out other homeschool children and families. I even started my own Meetup group set up for educational outings. Your kids socialize all the time. They see other humans besides yourself right? Homeschoolers are out there, you just need to seek them out. Involving your children in local or neighborhood sports & other activiites also gives them a chance to be with other kids. Not to mention your neighborhood. We have had zero trouble in the “socializing” department.
So What Now?
I was completely alone in this. No one we know personally (friends and family) homeschooled (well, except for that one cousin). I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it’s easy because it’s not. It is a serious commitment. There are times that I doubt myself. It’s natural. But my advice is this… if you decide to do it, do it right and don’t look back. Meaning, be in it for the long haul. I plan to school them until the enter college. This is our family dynamic. It’s what works for us. This is our plan and if I’m lucky, they will get University scholarships!
If you have fears or concerns, don’t. You are your child’s first teacher and best teacher. Reach out to others with questions. Seek other homeschoolers out. At first I was scared to tell people I homeschooled. Now I want to shout it from the rooftops and I almost do. 😉 I created this blog and my Meetup to help others. Feel free to reach out to me also!
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson