Heather’s Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Not Starting Sooner

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. 

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Now, I would be very pleased if we were all interested in homeschooling forever. That would be wonderful and just fine with me. And who knows, we may wind up doing so – but we’re not quite sure yet. Emily loves her homeschool life, she’s the first to acknowledge that.

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.)

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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?

About Heather

Heather follows the mantra “a life that is led simply and deliberately is a life fulfilled.” She is a dedicated yoga teacher, artist, holistic health coach, mother and wife. Heather’s blog Beauty That Moves is enjoyed by readers for its kind honesty, shared beauty, and simple guidance.

Comments

  1. Spalva says:

    Ahh, the doubts, the doubts! Do they ever end?

    I would have homeschooled from the start. But circumstances made it impossible. Really. Truly. Then we did it for my big girl’s fourth year (because of all the reasons homeschoolers have for homeschooling) — and it was great. Then she chose to go back to school (for all the reasons Emily loves school). Right now (sixth), she is in a pre-K thru 12 school and it is awesome because she’s not stuck with a bunch of awkward 7th and 8th graders who would be a terrible influence on her. But I still want to homeschool because I honestly think it’s the best way.
    My youngest is in school because of circumstances (same ones as above). I am not happy about it. But I do what I can on the side.
    When I think of high school, it’s a blur. I feel for you. I would want an arts high school but I probably won’t find it around here. She would have me ship her off to Japan. Hmmm.
    Good luck on your search for the most fulfilling high school experience possible!
    Spalva’s latest post: Nature Walk Two

  2. Yes, we have sat on that fence! We started homeschooling in 2nd grade, after our oldest had spent two years in an excellent (and decently affordable) school. We decided to start homeschooling when I was pregnant with baby #4, because as the kids moved up the ranks and we were looking at paying tuition for 3 (and eventually 4) instead of just 1, the cost-benefit analysis started to look quite different.

    So we’re in our 2nd year of homeschooling now and it’s going well, but I don’t know if it’s forever or not. There are quite a few good options where we live for older kids, including a college-like consortium for 7th and up where you can choose to send your child full-time for all classes, or to supplement homeschool work by chooosing to take algebra, or drama, or German.

    I’m glad we don’t have to make those decisions today, but I appreciate hearing stories like yours. They help me frame my own homeschool experience, and seeing how other families have come to their own decisions helps me see my own situation more clearly.

    Thanks, Heather!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Change Your Physical World, Change Your Life (With a $26 DIY Giant Whiteboard Tutorial)

  3. rhonda says:

    Too bad there is not a home/school hybrid like one of our local schools…

    http://www.npchristian.org/hybrid/

  4. Chris Shaw says:

    We gave our children the choice of home school or public school. The only requirement being that which ever they chose they had to stay with for the full year. When they did choose public school we spent extra time discussing the days events and they were very open about the challenges that they met. Most of the years they chose home school. When they turned 16 we allowed them to take their GED’s and go on to college. That turned out to be an awesome choice for them and they are going to be homeschooling their own children.
    Chris Shaw’s latest post: Reasoning behind Homework

  5. Fiddler says:

    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?

    I feel extremely lucky in that my eldest child (homeschooled through 7th grade) now attends a school that meets all of the criteria you listed above. It’s a charter school for grades 7-12 that is part of the Coalition of Essential Schools, and there are over a hundred of them around the country, so there might be one near you. The ideals and methods of the school my son attends are almost identical to mine as a Charlotte Mason-inspired, mostly interest-led homeschooler (of the two remaining kids at home).

    Best of luck to you as you continue your search for the best match for your daughter.
    Fiddler’s latest post: Wordless Wednesday – An Autumn Avenue

  6. LisaInCT says:

    My regret… I didn’t homeschool.

    I know this high school decision is a tough choice. But I know you WILL make the right one for Em.

  7. Renee says:

    We have a wonderful school near by…and I mean wonderful!! We still decided to home school because it was just the right thing to do. My oldest daughter is a Senior and my youngest is a freshman. I don’t really understand why people wouldn’t want to home educate… it is better for the child…it is easier on the family.

  8. Sarah says:

    Time to move to Vermont and Sharon Academy where she can attend classes in a yurt!
    Sarah’s latest post: Autumn Weekends: Handmade

  9. What a beautiful reflection. I can hear your love for your daughter in each paragraph. I just want to encourage you; where ever your daughter ends up going for highschool, she is most likely going to get a LOT out of it. Why? Because she’s 13 and she still loves to learn. The hardest work is already done. I spent all 13 years (plus 5 more college years) in public school and since I love to learn (thanks mom and dad!) I always got a lot out of each of my courses.

    Of course, there were times I knew I had a bad instructor who was drowning us in busy work, but because I love to learn, I still looked at each assignment as an opportunity to pick up a new fact or skill, I found my own resources to deepen my knowledge where my teachers failed me, and I’m still doing the same thing today. All that to say, you’ve already done the hard work of guarding and nurturing your daughter’s love of learning. I think she’s set for life : )

  10. jill says:

    I loved the article. We as a family were just talking about this. We are going to try it next year with just 1 kid first and see how it goes from there. We are lookiung at doing Heart of Dakota. He will be in 4th grade then. I have 4 kids and the only one that doesn’t want to homeschool is my daughter and she is in Kdgrt. I am praying she will have a change of heart. I will add a child each year if I feel good about it. Any tips and or advice…please send it! On another note. My daughter has picked up a lot of bad habits and a new sassy voice since she has started school. Thanks for your help!
    Jill

  11. Kika says:

    I have never been “on the fence” exactly but last year my son, husband and I decided together that our son would attend a local highschool this year. He had been homeschooled K-grade nine and did part of his grade 10 early, last year at home. So last year was a transistion year for all of us. My son took some courses online and through distance-education to get used to having a variety of teachers and to prove to himself that he really was strong academically. He got permission to try out for the school’s basketball team which opened the doors for him to get into the school building and meet some other students/teachers/coaches that he would be spending this current school year with. It was a very important year for us – the fact that we knew we were all transitioning to a new experience did not destroy the year for us at all – we all had a great year. But it was very focused and purposeful, to be sure.

    The letting go of control has been very hard for me…I actually feel sometimes like I am grieving; I can’t imagine what I will feel like when my son moves away for University! I do often wish we had some “hybrid” options available to us… but I also actually believe in my heart that my son is exactly where he should be right now. I also need to be grateful for all the years we had together at home (and the fact that he comes home each day and talks my ear off) and not lose sight of the fact that I still have two daughters to homeschool and they also deserve my focus and attention.

    I hope that your family finds a wonderful option for next year and quickly come to the place where you all feel settled/at peace with the decision.

  12. Dawn says:

    I homeschooled my daughter until she was in 5th grade- and she loved it. Then she went to public school for two years after we moved to a new town because 1. we wanted her to meet people and 2. it was a great school. But she graduated out of elementary school and the jr. high we had available to us was not so good, so we’ve gone back to homeschooling- at least for the jr. high years. Those two years in public school were good but now we’re running into some issues with homeschooling that sometimes makes me wish that I never sent her to public school in the first place. There is now a lot of comparison that happens when things get difficult, things that never came up when she didn’t know any different. Maybe it’s just part of having a tween. But I understand what you’re saying.
    Dawn’s latest post: Weekend…and the best baked beans ever

  13. patricia says:

    Oh Heather, I can sympathize!

    You already know my story, I think. After homeschooling all his life and for a year of “high school”, my oldest decided that he wanted to go to school. His decision knocked the wind out of me–I’d just assumed he’d want to homeschool all the way through. We still had that year of school visits and applications, so he homeschooled for two years, and went to high school for two.

    Two years later, my daughter decided to do the same, and entered the same high school as a freshman.

    I, too, would have loved to find a progressive school for them to attend. But alas, there isn’t one very near us–or at least not one big enough for my kids’ tastes. They wanted to go to a *big* high school, with lots of kids! They ended up at a local Catholic high school. There are things I like about the school, and things I don’t like. I like the community very much, and I know my kids have enjoyed some of their teachers. On the other hand, there are some very traditional teachers, there’s a lot of busy-work for homework (and too much of that altogether), and the formulaic approach of the English Department makes me want to cry. (That’s my biggest gripe–anyone who knows me understands why!)

    But the fact that it isn’t the education I would have chosen for them is not really important. It’s the education they chose for themselves, and that’s probably what matters more than anything in their lives as teenagers. I gave them the best education I could envision until that point, and then as teenagers gave them the freedom to choose what the next step might look like. And though that next step might not have been ideal, it was/is their step. The daily minutiae doesn’t matter so much in the long run. What matters more is that my kids understand that learning is an essential part of life, and one can choose how to go about it. And even more essential: they know that they have the power to choose their life or to change it.

    I’d love it if that life could include a writing education that goes beyond the five-paragraph essay, but I can live with things as they are! (And lo and behold, my son chose a college that aligned better with his learning style and has fantastic writing instruction…)

    Hang in there, Heather. You and Emily may not come up with a solution that seems ideal to you, but together you’ll find something that works for her. :-)
    patricia’s latest post: love reading today! love writing today!

    • Kika says:

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts. As for the five paragraph essay, at least they have that. My first year at University I was shocked how many kids couldn’t write a basic essay.

  14. Kristen says:

    Oh, I’m on the fence right now. My children currently attend a wonderful Montessori school which stops after Kindergarten. Yep, my oldest is in Kindergarten:) So what to do with her next year? There are NO good private schools in the area, none. The public schools are good, but they are overcrowded (22 kids per class) and it seems the children’s behaviors are getting worse as parents and teachers focus on meeting the standards. I’d love to homeschool her, but she loves school and she can’t understand that next year won’t be like this year. Further complicating the matter, her younger sister truly needs at least one year more of Montessori to help her development. Little sister, however, could take or leave school and always wants to do what Big Sis does. So my plan for right now is Big will attend first grade at public (wish I could say that without shuddering) and Little will have at least one more year at the amazing Montessori school. After that, I’ll probably bring them both home to homeschool second grade and Kindergarten. And I pray that they’ll forgive me as adults for the decisions I make today.

  15. Pat Steinhardt says:

    I see the photo of the Johns Hopkins CTY Talent Search materials and it brought back wonderful memories.

    No experience with home schooling but my two daughters, now almost 26 and 27 1/2, both went to the JHU CTY programs for 4-6 years each. One starting right after fifth grade and one after seventh grade. They are wonderful programs and although expensive, were amazing experiences for them. If you haven’t already, go to youtube and search for CTY. You’ll find lots of videos and they are not all what you might expect!! The kids LOVE it.

    My younger daughter who now works for NASA at Wallops Island doing research on phytoplankton, returned to two JHU CTY locations this past summer as a guest lecturer and was again swooning about her CTY years. Any questions, feel free to ask.

    Definitively alternative and not for everyone but we also sent our bored but bright daughter to an early college (age 16/17) in Great Barrington, MA.
    http://www.simons-rock.edu/

  16. Emily says:

    I hear you!! We take it year by tear.(Ha! that was a typing error- I meant year by year but maybe tear in more appropriate! ). I try not to think too much about the future- but then my kids are still a ways off from high school.

  17. Nadene says:

    Even though I’m not sitting on a fence, it is easy to say, “Homeschool your young children!” But I find that many homeschoolers have to navigate the high school years with much more checking, re-thinking, praying and deciding.
    Not only does the teenager now need the peer relationships and relevance, but subject choices, future careers and qualifying for tertiary edcucation all play important roles in these choices.
    It is as Emily so aptly expressed, “year by year” and sometimes, with tears.
    As my nearly-17-year-old makes her way, I find most parenting is done on my knees!
    Nadene’s latest post: Appreciating Vuillard’s Patterns

  18. Kara says:

    So happy to read this. This is our third year homeschooling and we are already fretting about what to do about high school. My oldest is in 6th grade this year. If we could find the school you describe that would be perfect, but chances are I won’t be able to afford it if I do. I never thought I’d homeschool through highschool, but now I’m not so sure!

  19. Candice says:

    My 13 year old has never attended school, and we’re still in a similar position. She’s quite social, and the idea of attending school with some of her friends, or attending one of the local magnet schools that cater to her interests are appealing to her. At the same time, she knows that a formal school day will give her less time to pursue her passions.

    So we’ll attend the open houses, take the school tours, and make a decision as a family. Like you, I’ll be perfectly fine with a decision to homeschool all the way through, but I don’t believe there’s only one right choice.

    Best of luck!
    Candice’s latest post: 7 Reasons You Should Quit Writing

  20. Heidi says:

    “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.” Great quote!
    Heidi’s latest post: Pocket Lapbooks Kit

  21. Sarah says:

    I was homeschooled from 7th grade until I graduated. My last year of school I begged my mom to let me go to high school, but she said no. I think going back to public school would have been a rude awakening. I loved being homeschooled as a teenager, minus the lack of socializing with kids my age. I was pretty lonely. I think high school would have been terrible for me.

    Anyway, I did take the SAT after graduating. And just to get into college I had to take a remedial math class in algebra. (My mom couldn’t get me to do anything resembling algebra due to a bad public school teacher experience.) However, I loved school and I loved being in college. I especially loved writing papers! (I chose to retake my capstone course just so I could write more papers and avoid taking tests in a different class!)

    Now we’re facing the decision of homeschooling our son. We’re trying it out for preschool to see how if it works for us and for him. But it’s a constant battle in my mind about sending him to public school or not. The tests upon tests. The lack of art and music. Standing in lines, wasting time, being surrounded by terrible food. Overall, my own public school experience wasn’t that bad. I was exposed to all of those things and now I have a BA. It’s a tough decision, but I know that it has to be made for the right reasons and what is right for our son.

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