How we decided to try homeschooling

I’m going to step out of the shadows now and say it right out loud: we’re planning to homeschool Lucy for kindergarten next year.

This hasn’t been an easy decision for us. We actually have a very nice “local public school”:http://marygagepeterson.net/ just a few blocks from our home, where we know many families and even a couple of the teachers. I’d always planned to send the girls there. But I’ve been reading a bit more about homeschooling over the last few years, and I’ve been lured in.

p{color:gray}. Photo: Botany, agriculture, commerce, history, home ec, geography, climatology, chemistry, creation care, generosity, knife safety, you name it — apple-picking is *so* educational!

It all began a couple of years ago, at a church moms group meeting where people were discussing schooling options. For the first time, I met a mother who worked part-time and homeschooled her daughter for grades K-2. I had always assumed that I homeschooling was out of the question for mothers who work (even part-time, as I do), but this got me thinking. I started reading “several”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738206946/octothorppres-20 “books”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0965780627/octothorppres-20 and “blogs”:http://simplehomeschool.net/, and began to get really interested in this option for our family.

The benefits to homeschooling are well-known and often discussed, once you enter the conversation: individualized instruction, less time needed to cover “school” subjects, more unstructured time, lots of opportunities for field trips, no morning rush, excuses to bake cookies while practicing math (or is it the other way around?), etc.

But the most compelling reason for me is purely spending more time with Lucy and Rosie. I’m very grateful for Jon’s excellent, nearby job, but I confess that I regret the fact that he has to be at the office during the day — and I feel even less enthusiastic about losing time with my girls. Even Lucy’s “preschool”:http://nppreschool.com/ program, for four afternoons each week, puts a cramp in our family style. Lucy and I both love her preschool, but I really miss the freedom we had in the summer to schedule our days with very few restrictions, following our curiosities wherever they took us.

Homeschooling in order to spend more time with my daughters has felt, frankly, like a poorly founded reason. In some ways, I sort of wish I had an excuse: an unsavory local school, or lots of travel in our life, etc. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’d like to homeschool mainly because it sounds like fun.

I finally felt free to admit this when I read “this interview with a homeschooling family”:http://ourhartbeat.blogspot.com/2010/08/homeschooling-interview-with-lea.html. Her response to the question “Why homeschool?” resonated with me: “Lots of reasons, but basically we just want the time with our children. They grow up so quickly.” Yes! I’m not the kind of person who wants to homeschool to protect my kids from the scary world, or to create tiny geniuses in our house, and that’s okay. I just want some extra time to nurture our curiosity together, read lots of books, and snuggle.

Still, I feel a little shy talking about homeschooling, for several reasons:

* Although the idea of homeschooling is very appealing to me, I’m a little nervous about my ability to pull it off. I really appreciate all the creative ideas I see at Lucy’s preschool. I think I could probably get to the point where I have good ideas like that, but it will take some serious time investment.
* Like many other parenting choices, homeschooling can feel like a loaded topic. I don’t in any way want to alienate parents who choose traditional schooling for their children. Most of my best friends, people whom I respect very highly, are sending their kids out to school!
* We like the idea of being part of a diverse community in public school, and homeschooling doesn’t present this kind of built-in opportunity. I am interested in seeing what kinds of homeschooling group options we might enjoy.

I feel glad that I’ve been thinking hard about homeschooling at this time of the year, as it gives me almost a full year to really get my plans in order before we begin “kindergarten.” I still have tons of questions, like these:

* Will we use a curriculum? Or will we unschool?
* Can we find a homeschooling group to suit us?
* What social opportunities will we invest in?
* What kinds of private lessons or instruction might the girls benefit from and enjoy?
* When will I find time to plan our school days?
* Will we send Rosie to preschool next year?
* Will Lucy enjoy it as much as I think she will?

I don’t have any plans about how long we’d homeschool, and I’m not really sure how it will go. But I’m pretty excited about giving it a good try!

14 Replies to “How we decided to try homeschooling”

  1. Oh Ann, your post made me nostalgic for my homeschooled childhood! I loved it. There were definitely days when we drove my poor mom insane, but I can say that a love of learning was instilled in me when I was really young and at home with my mom and siblings. I think Linda’s absolutely right. You won’t regret the time you get to spend with them.

  2. The number one reason we tell people that we homeschool is that learning with our children is way too fun to outsource to someone else.

    We met a family (in a pub) right before we moved into our house and they were wondering if our kids would be in the same school because we live within a few blocks of each other….but in the very next breath they said unless you have chosen to homeschool. I was speechless. In 8 years of homeschooling I have never met someone who considered homeschooling one of the many educational options we have as parents these days…I also did not spend the hour we chatted secretly “rolling” my eyes because of their preconceived notions of what I should be as a homeschool mom….like you must have the patience of a saint to be with your kids all day….do they get enough socialization? How do you grade them? It was refreshing. And the more I homeschool the more I realize that there is really not typical homeschool family.

    Also the internet has made the homeschool community smaller…..Andrew introduce to a online community that has a tweet chat once a month. At times that has been more engaging for me than some of the local homeschool groups that tend to be a little bit too into the blue denim jumpers (no really my first year here in Dane county I would go to meetings and be the ONLY woman in a group of 20 not wearing a denim jumper) That stereotype has thankfully been diminishing in recent years. We have found an awesome co-op that has 4 amazing choirs.

    have fun as you prepare and dream…and you know, I think you and Jon would encourage engaged learning as home educators or if you chose to send your girls to a brick and mortar school.

  3. I think that’s fabulous! I hope that you’ll have a great experience with Lucy. While we haven’t ruled it out, I don’t think it would work for me & Ben. He’s not the “compliant child” type and I’m not a great teacher, so I think it would be a bad situation for all involved (I have tried to teach him to read, which has only led to frustration for both of us). I think I could possibly homeschool Caroline, but she’s a very different personality than he is.

    Chris & I have always said that we want to be flexible as far as the education choices for our children — that even if we enroll Ben in public school this next year (he’s actually taking the selective enrollment test next Saturday) that if it’s not working for him or our family, we want to feel the freedom to put him somewhere else (another public school, private school or homeschool), so that whatever we decide doesn’t feel so final and set in stone.

    Enjoy! I think there are lots of fabulous benefits to homeschooling.

  4. I can totally appreciate the desire to spend more time with your kids! Now that Evan is in kindergarten, I miss him. He’s at school for a long time each day, and Corrie and I get kind of bummed that all the guys are off at school all day long. We enjoy our girl time, but we relish the time we all get to be together. I have never wanted to homeschool, but I can see the benefits now that we’ve started school.
    I think you and Lucy will do great. Do what’s best for your family. :)

  5. hurrah! I too felt very overwhelmed at the responsibility of homeschooling. My oldest two were in public school for three and four years while I was home with baby twins. We’re in our 3rd year homeschooling now.

    I really liked having that time to myself (or more to myself, since I still had two at home), but I felt like I was losing my eldest to the “tribe” mentality, and my daughter to insecurity and inferiority. There weren’t enough hours in the day to listen well to them, and build them back up every day after school.

    I didn’t feel (and still don’t feel) like my gifts lie in teaching. But my kids’ ability to learn has surpassed my inability to teach. And homeschooling made me a better student of my kids – to know better what they need, what their learning styles are, what their real gifts and talents are – to encourage them to be the people God wants them to be.

    And yeah, it’s just fun to be able to read stories with them! And I love it that my eldest has time to invent games (his passion) and my daughter has time to write stories (her passion) – my youngest has time to draw robots and robots and robots… and the other is rapidly learning to read and likes to do his math workbook in his free time!

    I bought Sonlight curriculum because of the great books they have and the fact that they did the weekly planning for me (and because Daniel wasn’t comfortable with ‘unschooling’!) The books are so good that sometimes I’ve read the “read-alouds” ahead on my own time even knowing I’d be reading them aloud to my kids in the next week!

    But as I’ve gotten into the swing of it, I’ve gotten dissatisfied with bits of it and had the confidence to re-shuffle things to make it work for us – e.g. doing our own devotions time instead of their Bible curriculum, change it so we read fewer books at one time but more pages in each, skipping a few books and adding a few others in.

    The cool thing about homeschooling is that you grow as your kids grow. You learn what works for each child and what doesn’t, and you can change strategies when you see things not working. Which might, someday, mean doing public school or some other alternative. But how great to be able to know and spend time with your kids and invest in their education that way.

    Enjoy your time! it does fly by too fast: did you ever stop to think that when your child is six, you’re already a third of the way through her childhood? that’s a very sobering thought to this mama of two six-year-olds, a 10-y-o and a 12-y-o!

  6. You will do great Ann. As everyone has said, it’s loaded with it’s own trappings and difficulties and yet it is incredibly rewarding. I would not have it any other way to be honest!

  7. Thanks to everyone for your friendly and encouraging comments! It is so great to be in a community with thoughtful parents. I cherish your words and wisdom!

  8. We LOVE homeschooling and wouldn’t have it any other way! Our kids love it as well. In fact, their friends are now asking their parents if they can be homeschooled!

  9. Hi Ann. I don’t normally read your blog (sorry!), but I saw your post on FB and b/c my own interest in homeschooling is always at the back of my brain, I popped over. I’m glad I did – you voiced many of the same things I have felt about the subject. I LOVE my kids and have a variety of reasons (some the same as yours, some different) why I want to keep them home as long as possible. Thanks for sharing your thought process and your resources!

  10. There is no question in my mind that you will be able to “pull it off.” You’ll do more than that! Best of luck to you in this exciting new venture — I look forward to reading more about it!

  11. Thanks for the encouraging words!

    Elizabeth (and others interested in homeschooling): one of my favorite homeschooling websites is simplehomeschool.net. They post great, informative articles, plus helpful links to other homeschooling blogs and writings. I recommend it!

  12. I was homeschooled for 6th & 7th grade. During that time, my mom worked part time as a sub at local schools. I never felt like her working got in the way of my learning. I didn’t feel neglected. In fact, I remember enjoying math and the other non traditional things she “made me” do quite a bit more than I ever did any other time in my elementary or HS years. You know what is best for your children and your family. In the process, you will determine together what will continue to be the best option. It is very freeing (although at time overwhelming) to know that there are a variety of options available. I really appreciated reading your thought process on this. With a 2 year old and an 8 month old I am already wondering what the best option will be for us as a family. So many of the questions you have resonate with me! Thank you so much for sharing.

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