“This is the friend I told you about, the one who is doing that crazy thing.”
These days, I would have to ponder which “crazy thing” she meant, but 6 years ago at my friend’s product party, I was pretty mainstream. I knew exactly what “crazy thing” she was talking about. That summer, while she was enrolling her son in Kindergarten at the local public school, I was scouring the internet for a good homeschool kindergarten curriculum for my eldest son. Once she defined crazy to her friends, the questions began. I still hear many of the same questions today when people discover we are one of those wacky homeschool families.
The question I find most interesting is, “Why?” Many people assume that all homeschoolers are religious, but that is not true. Each family comes to homeschooling on a different path. A few years ago, I asked every homeschooling mom I know, “Why did you start homeschooling?” Each family had a different story and reason for homeschooling. What they all had in common was a dedication to the education of their children.
Some families do homeschool because of religious conviction. They feel called to educate their children. They wish their children to be allowed to fully integrate their beliefs into their days.They may also want to protect their children from what they feel are negative influences or teachings against their faith. Even families who profess no particular religious beliefs may feel the government should not be allowed control over their child’s education. Others may object to specific things the schools are teaching. Many homeschoolers point out that we live in a multi-generational world and age segregated schooling does not equip the child to function in that world.
A common answer points to the schools themselves. In some cases, parents feel the local public school is somehow not good enough. That might be because the test scores are always low, the building is rundown, or there are gangs and drugs present. Parents of children with special needs may feel that, while the school is acceptable for other children, it does not meet the needs of their particular child. Military parents may desire to homeschool in order to protect their children from the gaps that open up when a child changes school districts multiple times throughout their school career.
I think it is important to share that the decision to homeschool is very rarely about school teachers. Most homeschool moms realize that most teachers truly desire to provide a quality education to the children in their care. They are hampered by large class sizes, poor funding, excessive bureaucratic regulation, and having to meet too large a variety of needs. The fact that there are excellent teachers in public schools is a credit to the dedication of those teachers.
Why does my family homeschool? Honestly, we started because my son missed the kindergarten cut-off date by 2 weeks. I was certain that my darling son was advanced. We would do kindergarten at home and then we would have him tested into first grade. I spent many mornings over the next few months crying at the kitchen table with my son. As it turns out, learning to read is tough. The b’s and d’s get switched around and those squirrely vowels are hard to keep straight even before they start teaming up against you and making new sounds. It’s just hard!
6 years later, I homeschool because I do feel called, by God, to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and I do not feel I can adequately do that if I see them for just a few hours a day. Being a mom is the most important job I will ever have. I have 6 small souls entrusted to my care. At the same time, I know my weaknesses and faults. I know for me to do a good job of raising them, I need as much time as I can get with them. I don't know how moms of public and private schooled kids do it. They have just a few hours in the morning and a few hours at night to get in all the character and life training for each of their children and they have to spend the evening hours doing homework! Losing 8 hours a day would really leave me scrambling. Also, I discovered something along the way. Hearing your child read well for the first time is just as precious as the first time he says "ma ma." Knowing exactly how hard he worked, sitting with him for every minute of the blood, sweat and tears of learning to read, makes that moment even more precious.
It’s true, there are days that my children misbehave and days that it seems like nobody remembers anything I taught them last week. There are also days my children spend playing together all day long, pretending to be zookeepers or Roman soldiers during the rule of Caesar Augustus. There are days when a little person drags 20 books to the couch and wants me to read every book, twice. There are science field trips where we get all the attention of a park ranger who is thrilled to have a handful of kids hanging on her every word. I may have moments when that big yellow bus represents a huge temptation to me (Just how long would it take the people at the school to figure out my kids don’t belong there?) but, overall, I would rather plug through the hard days in order to enjoy the good days. Besides, as a night owl, I know I would get tired of dragging people to the morning bus pretty fast. Homeschoolers get to do school in their jammies!