We are officially a homeschooling family now. The decision wasn’t easy, especially since I respect the principal at my daughter’s zoned school, and I truly believe the teachers were competent and caring.
I also knew I’d have to face a lot of puzzled moms—“Oh my Gawd! What HAPPENED?!”—as well as my own feeling that I was making a radical decision for my child which might dramatically alter her “normalness.” Whatever that means.
My husband, Matthew, writes about this today at FirstThings.com:
Opting out of the public education system feels a bit like jumping off a moving train. As you tumble down the side of the embankment and struggle to gain your footing, passengers on the still-moving train crane their necks and crowd to the windows to stare at you with wide eyes and slack jaws.
They jumped? What are they, nuts? This train is so nice.
As the locomotive puffs into the distance—it must, after all, keep to its schedule—you dust yourself off and begin to plot the rest of your journey on foot. Suddenly you realize you are alone in the wilderness. “Oh boy,” you think. “Maybe we’ve made a terrible mistake.” Then it hits you: The air smells great out here. The landscape, previously just a wooshing blur in the train’s window, is suddenly alive with colors and sounds.
So far, yes, homeschooling is an unqualified success. My daughter, 7, is healthier —mentally, emotionally, and physically. She actually eats her lunch now and spends at least two hours outside each day, unless the weather is dreadful and we can only bear an hour. We check on our blue heron friend who lives in the cemetery across the way. Then, we walk over to the brook to search for the skittish muskrat. We wave to “George,” the one-winged goose. We stare into the pond until the fish, settled so still on the bottom, suddenly become clear to our adjusting eyes; for a quick glance, their camouflage is too successful. It takes patience. And time.
But we can do it. We have jumped off the train.
I always wanted to be a governess like those I read about in my 18th and 19th century British literature classes. Now, I feel like one.
My daughter’s academic skills, especially in math, have leaped forward. We do daily editing exercises, brain twisters, handwriting, traditional grammar, and yes, the drill work—spelling, vocabulary, and math problems. LOTS of math problems.
We also learn about the ancient world and look at maps of Mesopotamia and Egypt. She knows the location of all 50 states and their capitals. She knows why we have seasons and weather. We studied the parts of a cell yesterday. Best of all, my daughter can curl up in her chair by the sunny window and get buried in her latest novel series. She reads about 250 pages a day of her own choice reading, outside of her school “work.” She tries out magic tricks. She makes potholders. Or engagement rings out of Hershey’s kisses and pipe cleaners (see below).
We go ice skating on Friday mornings, and we attend a monthly homeschool meeting where my daughter says her memorized poem in front of a crowd of 50+ parents and children. Oh yeah. And we also go to the grocery store and pick up Daddy’s dry cleaning.
My daughter still has playdates. Still plays soccer. And, she’s made a bunch of new friends through two homeschool networks in our area.
Is it perfect? No. Does my daughter whine about math problems? Yes. Are there days I don’t feel like teaching a new grammar lesson and nights I don’t feel like checking workbooks and planning? Sure. But it’s better for all of us. So much better. Is it for every family? Every kid? No.
In fact, our other daughter, 5, who has Down syndrome, remains in the school system. She, in stark contrast to her sister, truly thrives in school. Her biggest leaps come after a particularly good week at school. God bless her teachers and therapists. We don’t know for sure what we’ll do with the three year old when his time comes. For the next two years, at least, he’s home with us.