This past summer, we decided to give homeschooling a shot for the upcoming 2022–2023 school year. I’ve gotten so many questions, like, “What led you to this decision?” and “What are the main reasons you chose to homeschool?” And while some life choices are personal, I wanted to share some of the reasons we felt called to homeschool in hopes that I can inspire others who have the same feelings to take the leap.
Molding Little Minds
Let me start off by saying I know that there are great teachers out there, and that was not one of our reasons for choosing to homeschool. We’ve been blessed with amazing teachers for BOTH of our sons. And no, I don’t think that I can do a better job. But class sizes are only growing, and it is difficult for teachers to give one-on-one attention where needed. So, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do so. And we plan to hire a tutor in areas we may not be able to best support our oldest.
My sons were blessed to have the same preschool teacher who, although we were not at a Montessori school, in my mind embraced that method of teaching, allowing children’s free spirits to remain in tact while still meeting learning objectives daily, weekly, and monthly. Both of our boys entered kindergarten confidently knowing letters and numbers and eager to learn to read, but also with a true love for learning and endless curiosity. She also just had such an ease about her, which unbeknownst to her, gave me the confidence that I, too, could do this. We don’t want to coddle our boys but protecting them for a bit longer from the world is one of our whys.
Our kids are only young for so long, and I think there is something to be said about maintaining their innocence as long as possible. This world is corrupt and full of horrible things, and I am perfectly fine with them not learning about such things in elementary school. We hadn’t yet experienced anything traumatizing, but everything from the types of music they play on the bus and what other kids could show them on their phones during a 45-minute bus drive crosses through your mind when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. Not to mention any bullying that may occur.
I’ve said this before, but I’ve been a working mom. I had to go back to work when my firstborn was only 9 weeks old because it was what my family needed at the time. We are still to this day so incredibly grateful for the caregivers, daycare providers, and teachers who helped shape him into the great kid he is now. But what wore me out the most was not the actual work, it was the daunting schedule and commute. Enter COVID-19 when we all became instant work-from-home employees (minus our front-line workers, shoutout to you heroes!). As much as I missed social interaction, I actually loved living in the home I actually paid for, being able to meal prep for my family while on a conference call (moms are the best multitaskers, aren’t we?) and even getting in workouts at home, making it a family affair and building great habits. We saw a glimpse of what life could be with homeschooling, and it definitely stuck with us.
All of that being said, I just could not go back to an inflexible work schedule when most of us can all accomplish what needs to be done for our jobs remotely. While this blog is truly not written by me, I do endorse its sentiments: An Open Letter to My Employer About Returning to the Office.
I am also not the most timely person. I’m usually the mom pulling into the car line at 8:27am (when last call is 8:25am), so not having to rush and scream and yell at my kids to get in the car day after day is quite freeing. We are also currently at an overflow school until they build a school in our neighborhood, so that drive to school is at least 20 minutes one way. Yes, I could plan to run errands around it and so on, but for some reason, I justified spending the gas more when it was on my commute to work. When you work from home, it’s just out of the way. Now we get to enjoy a warm breakfast together every morning without rushing or yelling.
Curriculum v. Purpose
As we’ve begun and announced our journey, I’ve had some people ask what curriculum I am using and why. Our curriculum choice, as yours would be, is a completely personal decision. One day we may even switch. What I’ve learned through my research is that the curriculum is far less important than remembering your WHY.
That being said, of course I will make sure the curriculum I choose continues to work well for my children — meaning that they can complete lessons with ease in the recommended about of time, and they’re showing growth and progress. We also chose a religious curriculum, so you can pick what works best for you. There are several different categories that most homeschoolers fall into that you may have heard of: Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Montessori, to name of few.
Let’s talk a bit about purpose. Whatever your reasons for homeschooling, all of the resources I’ve been soaking in constantly remind you to remember why you felt called to homeschool when things get hard. This is a tactic that mentally strong people have used to get through a number of difficult things — training for a marathon, dieting, intense sales goals or business deadlines… even beating cancer! I love that the homeschool mentors remind homeschooling parents of the same thing because some days are hard, and it feels like it all rests on our shoulders. And meltdowns are real. But at the end of the day, I’m so grateful for this opportunity and privilege to impact my kids throughout the whole day, become closer with them, and understand their needs and learning styles and tendencies.
There is such a heavy reliance on state testing in schools now. In our district, they recently chose to increase the number of times they test kids during the school year from one to three. I understand they may have had good intentions, thinking that the more frequent testing may get kids more used to it, become better at it, and may make it seem like less of a big deal. And don’t get me wrong, we are not against testing or quizzes. It’s just that the pressure they put on young 3rd graders, to show their progress or they pass or fail, was too much for our oldest son (even though he did end up passing). Our son would have anxiety during the testing for weeks leading up to it, during, and after — and it was something that broke our heart to witness. I myself was never a great test taker, so I fear that he got this gene from me. But I see daily now (and did during homework sessions these past several years) that he is willing to put in the work and learn, much as I did. And that is ultimately more important to us because it builds the character he will need to endure life.
Learning in Life
I am currently reading a few great books that support our new homeschooling lifestyle. The first one is by John Taylor Gatto called Dumbing Us Down which explains the history of school and why it was created. It’s actually quite scary to read because the history of it is almost militant in that they created the entire system to get citizens to conform and behave.
Our struggle with the school system is it’s just that, a system. The focus is less on individuality and more on rules and structure. When we sent our oldest to kindergarten, it was hard for him to focus for the entire school day. He got in “trouble” multiple times because he is a dreamer and a thinker, and it’s difficult for him to stay on task. But when we think about it now, he was taught to crush that spirit, and it breaks my heart. We hope to flip the script for him and our youngest and see what sort of opportunities that creates.
“The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution is psychopathic — it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive from a common ancestor.”
Before you get up in arms over this quote, the author himself qualifies it by saying “…thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” So it’s not the individuals he is attacking, but the system itself.
My hope is not to make waves, but to get you to rethink education. If we’ve learned anything during the COVID era, it’s that we don’t need to be keyboard warriors. In fact, we can respectfully disagree with one another. And I also hope and pray that if you were on the fence about homeschooling, somehow this encouraged you to take the leap. I will end with this amazing quote that embodies how we feel about rethinking education on our homeschool journey:
“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your roadmap through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” –John Taylor Gatto