The following is a post by contributor Cheryl Pitt.
It’s that time of year again! It’s the time when hordes of parents ponder, pray, and agonize over whether or not to homeschool.
I can hear the collective sizzling of mental snyapses frying under the weight of the decision. I understand of course. It’s not an easy decision to make, or one to be taken lightly.
I was a teenage mom. I had my first child at 17. When we began homeschooling, I was the ripe old age of 22.
At 22 you think you know everything. Naturally, I wanted to impart all my earthly wisdom to my son. I didn’t agonize much over the decision. Homeschooling was something I felt was right, so I was going to do it! I jumped directly into the deep end of the homeschool pool without much thought.
Now, 13 years later, I’m a little older and wiser…wise enough to wonder what on earth I was thinking. The last few days I’ve been appalled at the prideful and blase way we began our homeschool journey. After all, homeschooling is a big deal. Right?
Or is it?
After a few sleepless nights, and many “thank you for getting us through this” prayers, I realized maybe it’s not such a big deal after all. Maybe my pride was not so much in deciding to homeschool.
Perhaps my true pride was in thinking the public school system had everything so right, that trying homeschool (even for a year) could be catastrophic.
G.K. Chesterton said “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and I think he was more right than he could have imagined.
Is it a big deal if we stumble? Does it really matter if we fumble a bit while finding our homeschool groove? It’s not (the perfectionist inside me is screaming YES! Yes it’s a HUGE deal!!) a big deal at all.
Public school is a great fit for some families, but even in the best of public schools there will be gaps.
There will always be another subject that could have been taught, a topic which could have been covered in greater depth, or a teacher who could have been less grumpy. The goal in education is not perfection. The goal in education is to spark a love of learning!
You aren’t filling a well, you’re lighting a fire.
Recently, I heard of a mom whose child struggled terribly in public school. She brought that child home and she thrived!
However, due to pressures from outside family members and old public school friends, the mom felt pressured to return the child to public school. Sadly she was considering it. All because of (well meaning but not at all helpful) advice she was considering returning the child to the place where she floundered.
I ask you: Please, don’t be that mom.
Be the mom who stays the course. Be the mom who acts on what she thinks is best for her child. Be the mom who tries something new even though she may fail. Try something new.
Because you know what? Failure is not the end of the world.
Failure is simply an opportunity for improvement.
In what ways is homeschooling a big deal or not such a big deal in your home?
Possibly my favorite quote about homeschool ever… “You aren’t filling a well, you’re lighting a fire.” There is so much freedom and inspiration in that simply statement. Well said and thank you so much for sharing!
After 5 years of homeschooling, I still swing back and forth. The Big Deal days come when I start listening to what others are doing and comparing my kids with theirs (Not A Good Idea). But to the mom I met yesterday who is wanting to start with her 4 year old I said, “It’s Not a Big Deal. It’s just a continuation of what you are already doing with your child: exploring and talking about the world, answering zillions of questions, and reading lots and lots of books.” I need to remind myself of my advice.
Hannah’s latest post: A Different Life
Thank you for this reassurance! I’ve recently adopted this attitude myself after realizing how much pressure I was putting on myself and my kids based on perceived outside expectations. Now that I’ve relaxed, so have my kids, and I’ve watched them begin to thrive much more in that environment than they did under our old strict schedule. I used to think I had to prove to the world that I could do this by always making us look great; now I’m focusing on what’s best for my kids. I completely agree that the love of learning is what’s most important!
All I can add is from hindsight, 1988-2004: if we hadn’t chosen what we did, I truly believe my daughters would not have become the best that they have become. Each traveled their own paths of experience and experiment (one in college at 15 and the other with Down syndrome learning to read at 7). Who would they be? For certian they would be different. Are they pleased with the choice of being at home to study what they wanted, needed, and were appsionate about? Did they learn to be learners and teachers ? (the older daughter is a professional in a Texas school district, helping teachers with technology, and she cut her computer teeth on The Orgeon Trail and Tetris in the late 80’s!). Are they well-adjusted, contributing to their family and friends, good citizens, do they vote? Did we test? Did they go places no public school could take them? YES! And yes, days of little schooling are made up by the BIG light bulbs of discovery, on their own. We had days of asking why are we doing this, but then we took a day off, went to town, had pizza and took in a dollar movie. And began again the next day. Learning to love learning is the big deal!
I love this—–> “You aren’t filling a well, you’re lighting a fire.” I’ve had a lot of doubt lately about homeschooling with a 3rd grader, a kindergartner, and a toddler. THANK YOU for this!!! It reassures me that everyone has doubts and that just maybe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
What about when your child was flourishing in public school, but you took her out because you thought you could do better and it turns out you can’t. And she can’t go back to that school because it was very difficult to get into in the first place and, after a year with you, she’s far behind all of her classmates there, so she would never get in now. And the local public school is garbage.
Breathe, you will do a good job, but what is more likely is that your daughter will do a great job. I homeschooled my daughter from the 2nd through the 12th grade. We moved from a great public school system to a lesser system. I decided to homeschool but only intended to do it for 1 year. Kids take off with homeschooling, especially if you keep the stress off and just let them be curious, creative, energetic people. (My daughter finishes law school this June and she says she did well in college and law school because of the ability to focus and “dig in” that she learned homeschooling.
I used to worry about whether or not my son was on par with his public schooled peers, but then I realized that his education is unique, and it’s not fair to compare his academic skills. There are so many good reasons to homeschool that I honestly feel those benefits outweigh anything any school, no matter how good, could offer my son. I don’t know what your first year homeschooling was like, but you can always try a new approach, a different curriculum or online program, join a homeschool group or any number of things to improve this next year. I have found that each year gets better, and my son has grown in ways he would not have in school. I hope you continue homeschooling your daughter and value this precious time with her. Best wishes.
Camie’s latest post: June 2, 2014
Like most of you, I have been struggling with these choices. I will be doing my third year this fall, now with a 5,4, and Kinder. With no good local choices, sticking with it seemed like the only option. I homeschool through a charter school’s homeschool program, which has been both helpful and frustrating. But my supervising teacher was telling me just today something so reassuring. She said that Formal schooling is a 150 year experiment. All of it is a process of trial and error, which will lead to improvement. In other words, it’s OK to not have it all figured out yet. It’s OK to try something only to scrap it a few weeks, or months later. It’s OK if you don’t build a model of the Parthenon. It’s OK to do your best, love your kids, and find the way to share a love of learn that works for your home and kids. Enjoy it.
This was an encouraging and timely post 🙂 Thanks!
For me the struggle is that I am single parent working full time. The first time I pulled my kid out to homeschool my hound was in preK 4. I did so for a year and a half and when due to a major injury I felt I had to put them back in school they were ahead of their classes. I am once again pulling them out of public scho because over the last year and a half my oldest has not increased higher in the map scores then when I first put him back in and oh my goodness so much I hear and see that he is not getting that is truely basic necessities for a good foundation. Anyway being single has my people with opposition to my decision, but what worth fight for is rarely ever easy!