Written by contributor Jena Borah of Yarns of the Heart
Traditional schooling revs up next month and it’s tempting to jump on board, send your kids off to school and give up on this homeschooling idea. Maybe last year wasn’t as great as you had hoped, or maybe you are considering homeschooling for the first time and are starting to get cold feet.
Take a deep breath and let me tell you my story…why I am glad we stuck with homeschooling even through those days of doubt.
My first child missed the first day of kindergarten in 1994. I felt ecstatically rebellious and thankful…rebellious because I wasn’t doing what everyone else was doing, but following what I knew was right. Thankful because he wasn’t jumping on the treadmill that would consume his life for the next 12 years. Instead, we happily continued our life of endless summer.
But that first little guy, Peter, was extremely hungry for knowledge and exceptionally smart (at least his mom thought so!) and I often doubted myself.
I wondered if I was giving him enough, if he would reach his potential or be held back because of homeschooling. This doubt hit its peak just before 8th grade. High school was right around the corner and then the ACT and SAT, and what college would take a homeschooler? I felt the weight of his future on my shoulders.
Even though we’d spent all of elementary school in a free-form way, letting him follow his interests and become an expert at everything, I began to panic.
I found a private high school that looked like a good fit and started him on a traditional 8th grade curriculum. He took the entrance exam, got in, and spent his freshman year wearing a uniform to school and getting straight A’s.
But it didn’t last long. My husband’s job changed and we had to move to a small town with very little choice of schools, so we decided to go back to homeschooling. He was allowed to join the choir at the local high school, participated in community theater, took a couple classes at the community college, and read a lot.
The ACT and SAT were easy for him because he was used to reading difficult passages and figuring things out on his own. He became a National Merit Scholar and got a full ride scholarship to the University of Chicago, all with a homeschool diploma.
Fast forward to graduating from UChicago (with honors, I might add). He was happy to get back to studying what interested him, free from being told what to read and what to write. School just cramped his style. He took a job to pay for his apartment in Chicago, but on the side, he started teaching himself software development.
He has told me several times that homeschooling gives him the edge because he knows how to learn. He didn’t spend his life being taught, passively taking it all in, memorizing it, then forgetting it. He actually learned how to learn, how to start with a question and find answers on his own.
After a year of learning on his own and volunteering at a start-up company for experience, he just accepted a software development job in downtown Chicago with a great salary. He is thrilled and can’t wait to start.
His two younger sisters have equally encouraging stories. Meg struggled with reading until 5th grade, which means public school would have labeled her from the beginning. But today she is a confident, successful college student. She even braved living in India on her own for nine months, teaching English to children from the slums.
My youngest, Melissa, homeschooled up to 8th grade and went to public high school for the sports, but plans to homeschool her own kids. I have several “homeschool meets public school” stories about her on my blog.
So hang in there! Everyone doubts the wisdom of homeschooling. That’s a good thing. It means you care, that you want the very best for your child.
Remember to keep the big picture in mind. When a day or a month or a year doesn’t go the way you think it should, remind yourself of the goal–to raise emotionally healthy, naturally curious human beings who love to learn.
And they just don’t teach that in the public schools.
What gets you through the days of doubt?