Written by contributor Heather Bruggeman of Beauty That Moves
This was a challenging topic upon first glance, as Renee already mentioned. So many thoughts came up for me – “I don’t like to focus on the mistakes… every bump in the road is an opportunity to grow… I like to stay focused on the present moment… blah, blah, blah.”
Well, let me just tell you that not only did I eventually come up with one topic for Jamie, I came up with a second topic a few days later and emailed her requesting to switch. And then? I thought of yet a third topic a few days after that! (But figured I should leave Jamie alone to unpack her final boxes.)
It turns out I had no trouble at all coming up with a mistake! Or a few for that matter. I’ll just focus on one today…
Not homeschooling sooner, that would have to be it. Maybe it wouldn’t classify as a mistake exactly, but it is a place of doubt and second-guessing that I’ve been living in lately.
Our family is committed to homeschooling through the middle school years, that means 7th and 8th grade for us. That isn’t much time to really sink into the experience, is it?
But we’ve never said it would be forever. We aren’t homeschooling because of a bad school experience. We are homeschooling because the school that we loved - a progressive Montessori school - came to an end, and there is no affordable school offering quite like it around us.
We took it upon ourselves to create what the system and our tax dollars could not provide, and have not regretted that decision once.
The problem is, she also loves regular school. She loves six hours a day of interest led and mentor inspired learning, and plenty of time outdoors. She loves family and social time after 3pm and does not know what it’s like to sit down to three hours of (potentially meaningless) homework. She has never been “taught to the test,” her natural love of learning runs deep and school has never been a place of stress, boredom, drudgery, or social status.
She loves the idea of school as she knows it. And that school doesn’t exist for us anymore. It’s like we lived inside a Utopian schoolhouse bubble for eight years, and then the bubble burst. Now what? Our family is comfortably in agreement that homeschooling for middle school was the best idea. We were (and are) excited about it!
When we talk about the high school years however, my daughter wants to “check a few options out.” I know this is a place that many long-time homeschool families find themselves; teens naturally find their independence and sometimes seek the school experience. Maybe we’d be here regardless of homeschooling from the beginning or not.
NOTE: I should point out that our long term plans (way back when Emily was little and we first mapped out our educational goals and philosophy) included sending her to a well chosen private school post Montessori. Then the economy collapsed and salaries froze or decreased while cost of living rose… well, you all know that story. Plans change.
With the possibility of finding a high school looming on the horizon, this mama’s having a hard time staying present with the day to day. These days, I often find myself thinking, “was it a mistake not homeschooling sooner?”
You might wonder why I’m fretting about this in October. It turns out, the Open Houses for prospective high schools begin in two weeks!
It’s all happening too soon! (The battle cry of motherhood.)
During our seventh grade year we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Now in our eighth grade year, I often find myself distracted by thoughts of Open Houses, entrance exams and essays, interviews, visits, “readiness” in areas that have little to do with true intellect or passion for learning, and tossing around notions of an unhealthy schedule, pressures, and a lifestyle that movies are made about. All for what? College? Colleges love homeschoolers!
I may have at one time envisioned my daughter’s secondary education to take place in some cozy, liberal, change-the-world sort of school community, but I have since fallen hard for the power and possibility of homeschooling.
Here’s the thing though. As a parent that happily sent her child to school for eight years, I am not opposed to the idea of school. What I am opposed to is the type of school that institutionalizes our children, minimizes their natural gifts, wastes their precious time and dulls their inquisitive minds.
I love the ideal of a bigger community – an extension of family, a place where kids explore interests, are inspired by others, learn from teachers, peers, and through personal exploration. I’d love for my child to experience the rich resources that a larger facility can offer.
I’d love a place where test after test after test does not exist, where social pressures are minimal and words like “No Child Left Behind” or “Race to the Top” or “funding” are not part of daily conversation.
Do you see the dilemma? Does such a place exist that is affordable?
And the search is on…
Will I be happy if we find the perfect fit for my daughter’s high school years, and it happens to be outside the home? Of course. Like any parent, I only want what is best for her. Will I be over the moon if she finds the grass is not so green over there and we nestle in back here at home? You bet.
I don’t spend too much time looking back or thinking about the what ifs, but this month’s topic actually turned out to be an important place of reflection for me, which I am very grateful for.
Have you ever been on this school/homeschool fence before? How did you navigate the fullness of it all and stay present to your current homeschool life?