Why do we choose to educate our children at home?
Homeschooling is not a decision we took lightly. As educators, my husband and I have been a big part of the system that we are now dismissing for our own children. Some people say we lost credibility as educators when we made the decision to homeschool. Others assume that as teachers we will certainly return our children to the system eventually. In all honesty, I have to say that being educators did little to help our decision to homeschool. In all honesty, it was a hindrance! For myself, I had to relearn how to be a mother first and a teacher second, yet when to put my foot down and be a teacher. That was a tough lesson!
So, why do we do it?
The most straight forward answer is that it works for our family. The homeschooling lifestyle is a good fit for us. The reasons are a bit complex, but there are advantages for everyone. I, for one, relish being an intimate part of my children's day. I am usually the first to know if they are not feeling well or are concerned about something going on in another part of their lives. We are able to let the rhythm of our school day develop around our biological rhythms. We are able to meet special health needs as they arise and our schedule frees us to do things as a family during the school week.
If you want a simple and straightforward answer, that is all I have to give you and you can stop reading.
It is not, however, the full story.
The full story starts when Aidan was only a baby. We moved into a low income area with very poor schools. This was at the beginning of the "failing schools" movement and our local school had already been identified (for the record neither Tim or I were teaching in our local district). Homeschooling wasn't something we had ever thought about, but it was suddenly our only option unless we wanted to enroll in private schools, of which there was only one teeny tiny Catholic school with about 5 students per grade.
We started looking at information and trying to learn more. I was skeptical, but I really liked what I was reading! I started my research trying to simply become more informed on something I considered my "second choice". I was amazed! I discovered all of these benefits I had never thought about before. I remember sharing some of what I had learned with a friend when Aidan was only about two and being told the best thing to do was really just to "get involved" in the schools and create programs where they didn't exist.
This sounded great, but I also knew from a practical stand point it wasn't realistic. Short of becoming a volunteer teacher in the classroom, I felt there was nothing else to do but homeschool. We accepted that would be our choice and began making plans.
Then life happened. We moved again and Tim got a new job in a great school. Kenna died and school just seemed like less work then homeschooling (it wasn't, for the record). We made the assumption that since our original reason for homeschool had been erased that school was the natural choice. Homeschool was our second choice after all.
Except it turns out that all the research we did sunk in. As we faced the literal germs of the classroom along with the toxic germs of a bad attitude, we realized school was in fact not all we thought it would be. We expected better. As we had learned more about homeschooling, we had adopted the homeschooling ideals for our children's education and our family experience. We were overwhelmed by conflicting messages from teachers, support staff, and administration. As teachers we were sympathetic.
We understood. We've been there.
But for our child? We wanted better.
So we took Aidan out of school and brought him home. It was the best decision we have ever made as parents. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he and I would not have the relationship we do if he was in school all day. He would barely know his sister, seeing as how little time he would have spent with her! He would be so tired...he's a night owl and has a tough time with the morning transition. I am also confident that despite spending 2-3 times as many hours in ''school" each day that he would not be working at the level he works at now. But yet, he loves learning. He sees it as an integral part of our lives, not just something we have to go do until we can stop. It has been fantastic.
I can't wait to see what our home education journey continues to hold for him and for his brother and sister.
So, what about faith?
Yes, we are a Christian family. As you can see, however, faith and religion were not the deciding factor (or even a factor) in our decision to home educate. That is not to say it was not a prayerful decision. I will readily admit to being thrilled with the many advantages to having my children with me and making the decisions regarding their curriculum and exposure to certain aspects of our culture.
In all honesty, however, I am still praying about the role I want faith to play in the rhythm of our day long term. I always feel like we could be doing more or doing better, yet Tim and I both grew up with church and family on one side and school on the other. Putting it together has been an adjustment and not as seamless as I would have liked. I absolutely want faith and religion to be integrated into and evident in all we do, yet I do not want it to be the loudest or only thing we do. If that makes any sense!
So, in summary...
I am a Christian mom who homeschools her children, yet I hesitate to label myself as a Christian homeschooler. I am a professionally trained teacher, yet I homeschool my children AND continue to support the public schools by sharing my husband with them and helping my friends and family make educational decisions. I would love to do more to help other homeschooling moms, yet feel strangely under-qualified. I am a homeschooler that doesn't buy curriculum (more on that later), yet I am certainly not an unschooler.
That's ok, neither do I!