My husband, Chris, and I first entertained the idea of homeschooling while I was still pregnant with my firstborn. I spent the years leading up to preschool researching about the different methods and curricula. I preschooled Liam at home as a sort of dry run; now he’s in second grade and his four-year-old brother, Ewan, will start K5 curriculum after Christmas break.
We chose to homeschool for a litany of reasons. We live in St. Louis city and our school district lost accreditation. We did not want to go into debt to pay for a pricey private school. We have been increasingly unhappy with the homogenization of some of public education. We’re unhappy with how good teachers — my husband’s family are all public schoolteachers — are being stifled by an obese government bureaucracy. We wanted more faith in our curriculum than state-run schools allow. But MOST importantly: we wanted to teach to our children’s aptitudes. If they turned out to be bright, we reasoned, we don’t want them held back by a curve; if they are struggling academically or have a learning disability, we want to give them plenty of time to correctly deduce and understand their lessons.
Even more important than that, Chris and I live our lives according to the philosophy that life is short: do what you love. We fervently believe that each person has been put on this earth with a specific gift or skill and that our job as parents is to identify, recognize, and encourage the development of those gifts. Chris works in music; I write for various outlets and work in radio. We try to contribute positively to society via these skills and want our kids to do the same.
Liam showed an aptitude in music at three-years-old when he sat at our piano and began finding the respective octave for each key. We both approach some of his more difficult lessons through music and give him time to engage in and develop his skill, something that large schools with tons of students and limited resources are unable to do.
We also want to present education as something that is a constant. I don’t want Liam or Ewan to think that they have to learn just for tests or that learning only takes place during little blocks of time through the week. Learning happens in our house from sun up to bedtime and we’ve set up a house that facilitates this with books, paper, pencils, crayons, et al., in every room.
(I’m loathe to insert this but when I don’t people go crazy: I’m not making a universal statement on all schools or all teachers. There are many good schools and teachers out there and I’m the fruit of some of them; however I’m personally unhappy with government meddling, things like No Child Left Behind, and feel that to be more effective, American education needs to be restructured. We field genuinely curious questions, both in person and online, but we also get a lot of people who aren’t asking a question because they’re motivated by curiosity; the question is a formality — they are making a statement about our educational choice. It’s taken me several years to realize that some people will take someone’s personal decision to opt out of state education as a statement.)
There are days where I do feel overwhelmed, days when the boys drive me up a wall and across the ceiling, days when I don’t get my laundry done. My house is in perpetual disarray. The days when I can actually see the light bulb flick on over Liam’s head are what’s worth it, though. I taught him how to read, how to add and subtract, how to do division, fractions; he knows history and about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because of our lessons. Every afternoon he and his brother share the armchair in our living room and Liam reads aloud a book of Ewan’s choosing.
Society wants our children to grow up so fast; homeschooling is another way for us to slam on the brakes and indulge in family time and togetherness. It sounds like a something from the cutting room floor of Little House on the Prairie, but with what Chris does for a living, what I do for a living, with our unusual schedules, we felt it was necessary.
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone and at first I even wondered how on earth I would ever get the patience for it, but I quickly learned that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. Homeschooling turned out to be just the right thing for us.
Next up: what about their socialization?