‘Oh. You homeschool?’ Used to be asked with such disdain. There was almost an air of superiority in the voice of the questioner at times, or occasionally a tone of utter disbelief. I would cringe when I heard it. I felt as if I had to defend myself and my daughter. Poor thing, she would get the same thing from adults and children. It was a very uncomfortable topic to say the least. Nowadays it isn’t such taboo. Homeschooling has become more and more popular, as technology has advanced. According to nces.ed.gov in 2011-2012 approximately 3% of school age children were homeschooled. I’m not sure what the numbers are now, but I would honestly say that at least here in Florida that I believe that they have increased, it seems more and more I run across people that have their children homeschooling. Many that are in brick and mortar schools also add virtual classes to their curriculum.
Back in 1998 – 1999 I began homeschooling my daughter. My husband supported me, but totally felt inadequate to help. He told me he didn’t think he could teach her, since he didn’t have a degree in education. Alone, adrift, I refused to back down. I knew in my heart that homeschooling was the best avenue for us.
So many people feel the same way that my husband did. Myself, even though I don’t have a college degree, I felt led to keep my children home, and educate them. The funny thing is that I have many friends that are teachers; some are public, some private and others are charter. So, it isn’t as if I avoided it completely, the main stream education, but just never felt compelled to immerse my children in it.
When I started homeschooling my daughter, she and I would just get books at the library, the local bookstore, etc. There wasn’t the ‘virtual learning’ options that we are blessed with today.
Her desire to learn was infectious! We both would get so involved and excited to dig deeper and learn more. Learning wasn’t something restricted to a classroom, or to a specific time frame.
I specifically remember one night she was totally absorbed in a study on another country – she had to have been maybe 8 or 9 years old. It was a program through Highlights I believe, where they sent us monthly magazines. We were on both subscriptions; the states one and countries of the world. Her father and I were finishing watching Star Trek (don’t judge!) and it was probably close to 11pm at night. She was curled up in a chair, continually interrupting us with interesting facts. We told her that as soon as the show was over she had to go to bed. She was not happy. We even got the ‘this is my education and it’s important for me to learn!’ speech. Which cracked me up.
I will be honest here. I am ‘that mom’ the one that often allows my children to stay up, that goes against the flow of acceptable, that tries to encourage individualism, that allows ‘real conversation’ even when it isn’t comfortable, that still has contact with her children’s friends (sometimes more than her children do!), the one that feels even as a small child that they should be involved in choices and decisions that affect them.
Homeschooling was actually a decision that was continually made. Periodically we would have some deep conversations, and discuss what we all felt was the best options. Often times we would discuss the pros and cons of staying homeschooled.
People would question me, make comments as to: ‘what about her social life?’, ‘don’t you worry she will turn out socially awkward?’, ‘I could never do that to my child.’, ‘I would worry that she will be naive and not be able to handle being an adult.’ and ‘don’t you feel she will be at a disadvantage because of her limited exposure?’
In the beginning I would question myself or sometimes feel resentment towards those with that ‘concern or advice’. Over the years, I have come to see that those remarks were not meant to condemn my choice, but mostly they were out of ignorance.
I love what Chris Brady (best selling author, entrepreneur, CEO) says,”People just don’t know what they don’t know, and some of what they do know just isn’t so.”
These days I just think of that saying and smile gently, as I go about doing what I know works for our family. This is not to say everyone should homeschool, I know that it doesn’t work for everyone.
Jorjia was involved in church, she did dance, she did art, we went to parks and made friends, she did modeling, and I babysat. She had plenty of activity outside of home. At times her social life was so active that she had to keep a calendar.
Jorjia’s exposure to others didn’t just include children of her own age, she had friendships of various ages and adults enjoyed conversation with her as well.
As for her dad not being involved in her education, that certainly didn’t last. I was able to show him that playing with Jorjia and her friends in kickball was physical education. That building a dinosaur and talking about dinosaurs was science. Over the years he relaxed and realized that being an involved dad (which he is amazing at being) was an integral part of her education and that he was certainly qualified.
Then, along came Michael. Now dad’s involvement includes baseball and so much more. His avid love for history has been a real help as well, since Michael is future focused and still is grasping how pivotal understanding the past is for our future.
Michael’s learning style is completely different from his sister’s, which has been quite a learning experience for us as well. Jorjia was coming to the end of her high school years, and we all decided for her to give brick and mortar a try. She began the year curious, but by fall had determined that was enough and so she was going for her GED as Michael was just getting started.
Michael is currently doing FLVS (Florida Virtual School) online, doing leadership education and playing for multiple baseball teams.
Today, a college coach and scout that had an opportunity to work with Michael and a group of other boys over the weekend, pulled us aside to talk to us.
He shared with Ken and I that he had already told Michael that if he ever decided to come to California that he had a spot on his team. He went on to say that we were teaching him right, that he wasn’t worried about Michael, that he showed character on and off the field. He said our involvement in Michael’s life was apparent and that he was a great kid.
As a parent, these are words you long to hear. As a homeschooling parent, these words continue to confirm that the sacrifices are paying off.
If you homeschool, or have thought of homeschooling, don’t let others negative comments derail you. If you feel that is the journey you want to take, don’t let anything stop you.
For those that choose not to homeschool, don’t discredit your ‘outside of class’ hours. It is vital that we spend time with our children. They are our responsibility to teach. The time that you are able to invest into your child outside of school, is imperative. Every moment is valuable.
When is the last time you looked into your child’s eyes and really listened when they spoke to you?
Never stop learning and enjoy the process – Amy.