I never, ever, ever wanted to homeschool.
I thought all homeschoolers were weird, or at least pretty socially impaired. The nice, clever, well-adjusted homeschoolers that I knew were clearly the exceptions to that rule. I had had a decent education from both public and private schools, my husband had had a great private school education, and we both anticipated our children would follow along similar foot steps.
We were so wrong.
Our first child was nothing like what we expected. She was fast-moving, smart as a whip, and never, ever slowed down. She wanted to explore and to learn and to see and to touch and take apart everything. After we had our second child shortly thereafter, I was exhausted. Our son didn’t sleep well and didn’t ever want to be away from me. We decided to put our daughter into a preschool program a couple days a week to give me a bit of a break and to get her ready for Kindergarten in a couple of years. It didn’t go very well. Our daughter didn’t want to sit when it was time to sit. She didn’t want to walk in a line, and she certainly didn’t want to take a nap when all her friends were so close! Usually a very happy child, she left each day frustrated and I left each day beat down from hearing all the things she had done that day that had exhausted her teachers and that weren’t in line with their expectations. The final straw came the following semester after she had been placed in a room with new teachers. She had once again refused to nap and to sit silently on her mat, and she was brought to the director’s office. Yes, our barely three-year-old had been taken to the director’s office because she wouldn’t lay still for 45 minutes. The day I talked to the Director was it for my husband and me. There is a place for rule following and for doing things you don’t want to do, and every child needs to learn to obey. However, there is also a place for appropriate expectations and this wasn’t appropriate for my kid. So we pulled her out the following day and I started to Google “How Do I Homeschool?”
As this all was happening, I had slowly begun to meet more and more homeschool families that had happy and well-adjusted kids. I started to think that maybe these kids were the rule, and maybe the weird ones were just like the weird kids in public schools. I began to be aware that not all homeschool families were the same and that they all had their own reasons for homeschooling and none of those reasons were as abnormal as I had thought. Maybe homeschooling wasn’t as fringe as I thought it was? Then my husband started to notice, too. He whispered to me at church one morning, “See those kids? They are homeschooled and they aren’t weird at all, huh? I think that family over there homeschools, and they aren’t weird, either.” So when we pulled our daughter out of preschool it was my husband who suggested that we try homeschooling to see if that was an option. After all, we could still put her in Kindergarten if it was an epic fail.
After we made the decision to give it a go, I went into full research mode. I checked out every book on homeschooling the library had. I asked every homeschooling person I knew what they liked and what they hated. I looked at the internet for hours upon hours upon hours. And at some point in that rabbit hole, I came across The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, and my life completely changed. Here was what I had been looking for, here was my blue print, here was the proof that I could actually do this and do it well. The idea of a Classical Education appealed to the History major in me, and to the disciplined nature of my husband. We knew that if we kept this structure around our school, we could let our kids march down the lines of it at their own speed. The best of both worlds.
So we trucked on, following our Classical Education ideals, for a few more years and a few more babies, loving every minute of homeschooling. I loved being able to pick my battles and let my daughter grow at her own pace. I loved our slow days and our time together, and our kids were learning awesome things. I did NOT envy my friends with their early morning drop offs. At least, not until a few months after our fourth baby was born. Our fourth baby was an easygoing baby but still a baby. He needed to be nursed and held and cuddled. At the same time, I found that our third child was in dire need of attention, and I wasn’t giving it to her. I was trying to teach the big kids and mother a newborn, our house was a wreck, and our little toddler girl was getting lost in the shuffle. At my wit’s end, I decided to put our older two into public school right away. I didn’t know if it was for good or if it was for a break, but I knew I wasn’t giving anyone what they needed.
For a few months, everything went okay. Our little kids got the attention they needed, our big kids received consistent schooling, and our laundry was always done. Our school was lovely, our teachers were nothing short of God-given, and our kids were making friends. What they weren’t doing, though, was learning much. Both kids were marking time academically, and forgetting a lot of those wonderful Classical Education foundations we had worked on while they were at home. They were getting embroiled in a lot of school-kid drama and bringing home awful attitudes towards each other, and worse, towards schoolwork. Their teachers worked with us, but as I came out of my exhaustion I knew that this wasn’t working. One evening after the kids had gone to bed, as my husband and I went over the newest thing our daughters teacher had called us about, I mentioned that she had somehow forgotten how to carry while subtracting, something that she knew cold while homeschooling. My husband lost it. “You mean they are acting like little jerks AND getting dumber?? That is IT. They are COMING HOME.” And that was that.
Since then, I’ve adjusted the expectations I have for myself and my home. I’ve worked on making time for the little kids a priority and we’ve dug back into our Classical Education plans, and things have been moving along quite well. Our days aren’t perfect. We’ve had a diagnosis of ADHD for my oldest son, a looming one of ADD for my daughter, some food allergy issues, and all of the regular teaching issues that pop up. Our days aren’t perfect at all, but they are Good Days. I can do attitude adjustments as the need arises and I am able to take the time to explain why we have to do things — why it’s important that we follow most rules and why some rules need to be broken. I can walk my son through his math as slow as a snail, knowing that he is actually learning the material and not being pushed further than his ability. I have taught three kids to read and have another one hot on their heels. Homeschooling has allowed my children to play to their strengths and to work on their weaknesses off-stage. There is no one staring them down as they struggle. Choosing to homeschool has been one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made, and from here on out, we plan to stick with it for the long haul.
Kristen C. is a homeschooling mom of four, living deep in the heart of Texas. She loves history, running, and camping, and drinks more coffee than is prudent. Kristen blogs about her daily adventures trying to classically homeschool kids who would always rather be up a tree than writing anything, ever, at www.unsinkablekristen.blogspot.com