There are many things I do as a parent that I question.
What happens if I don’t feed my kids organic foods? How do I effectively discipline so that my kids become functioning, productive members of society? Which books should line our shelves? Should I let my child do…? Did I make the right choice when I…?
There is only one thing that doesn’t plague me. One thing that doesn’t keep me up at night wondering. That one thing I don’t question? The decision to homeschool.
Don’t misunderstand. I still question my methods. I still question our social interaction (and sometimes the lack of.) I still question my competence as a teacher. But never do I question my decision.
You see, this homeschool journey we’re on? Its seed was planted long before I ever had children of my own.
Daxson worked long hours in construction when we first got married and those hours were spent with a radio by his side, talk radio blaring in his ear. One day he arrived home excited to share with me a revolutionary thought he had heard that day. Exhausted myself from a busy day of teaching, I settled in to hear this new thought. We had already survived Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey so I figured I could handle whatever thought he threw my way. Until he said this:
We should homeschool our kids.
Whoa, whoa, buddy, wait just a minute. First of all, we don’t have any kids. Secondly, I am a teacher. I see what it takes to teach. All the resources, money, support, the responsibility of a child’s future… my goodness, I just couldn’t imagine.
Plus I had this image: me dropping the kids off at school, dashing around town to get errands run, baking homemade treats just in time for the kids to return home, volunteering in their classroom…that was the life I witnessed as a child. That’s what a mom does. A mom doesn’t keep her kids home. What about their social lives? What about the opportunities? How would I manage to provide education in addition to the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning? What about… my questions went on and on.
He interrupted me with this one thought and then dropped the conversation, leaving me to stew over this idea:
Parents are the only ones who truly have a child’s best interest at heart.
It’s true. As parents we have our children’s best interest at heart. Really and truly their best interest. We know each of them as the individual born persons they are and we see them exactly as they were intended to be seen. Public schools have funding as their bottom line. Private schools have tuition. But parents? We created these little beings and we want what is best for them. Not best for the collective interest of a group of six year olds. Not best for financial reasons. Not best for the average. The best for our little unique individuals.
Daxson let the subject drop and I tried my best to stop thinking about it. But I started viewing my classroom in a different way.
What if I could give each of my 24 students exactly what they needed rather than focusing on the average? What if I could tailor a curriculum to their needs? What if I could stop rushing the late bloomers? Or stop holding back my little geniuses? What if I could take them out to explore nature on a sunny day’s whim? What if I could introduce Shakespeare and spend hours reading to them because we fell in love with it? What if I didn’t have to stick to an inflexible plan? What if I didn’t have the weight of a state-mandated test hanging over my head? What if I could trust the idea that if I just offered my students a generous feast of beautiful ideas that they could garner all the beauty, truth and goodness of a world that surrounds them?
And then I had kids.
Suddenly I had this little tiny being who depended on me for everything. I taught him to eat with a spoon. I taught him to talk. I taught him to walk. I taught him to look both ways before crossing the street. I nurtured a love of reading deep in his soul. I fed his hunger for knowledge and satisfied his thirst for answers. He soaked up practical skills as he followed me around, helping me tend to his siblings, standing at my side while I mixed pancake batter, learning to sort socks while I folded shirts.
This thing we had going, it was quite lovely.
So as time went by, I couldn’t imagine not being there to experience his joy at delighting in the world. I couldn’t imagine handing him off to a trained professional who, while extremely capable of educating and often wonderfully talented at teaching, wouldn’t know all the idiosyncrasies of my little person. I couldn’t imagine sending my bouncy, spontaneous little child to sit in a desk for 8 hours each day, his will being bent to fit a mold. I couldn’t imagine sending him off and having him miss our nature excursions each morning or our delight at discovering the first strawberry in the spring. I couldn’t imagine him missing reading the Bible as a family over breakfast or the richness of our morning storytime. I tried to imagine him cooped up inside for so many long hours each day and I just couldn’t.
And so I opened my heart to the idea of homeschooling. I researched the idea. I talked to people that we personally knew that had successful homeschooled children. I asked lots of questions. I began to correspond with popular names in the homeschooling world as I struggled to decide if this could possibly work.
I watched my little one and wondered what was really best for him.
And then I realized. I didn’t want him to receive a job-focused, work-training public education. I didn’t want the better part of his day to be spent with people I hardly knew. I wanted him to be more than a test score; more than a tuition check. I wanted him to be treated and educated as an individual, not part of a group, where the average is catered to and there is no time for following rabbit trails. I wanted him to be able to pray, anytime, anywhere. I wanted him to get out in nature and revel in it, not sit indoors and read about it. I wanted him to read living books written by people who love their subjects.
I wanted to create a safe haven, in the midst of this fast-paced, competitive world we live in, where he could ask questions, make mistakes, and grow without the fear of bullying, peer pressure or subliminal messages from government agencies and teachers. I wanted him to be hands-on, messy, involved. I wanted moral training and character education to be ranked as important as science and history. I wanted to immerse him in a day of learning… where the lines of school and life just naturally blur and blend. I wanted him to feel that, in the words of the educator Charlotte Mason, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Above all, I wanted him to fall in love with learning.
I strive, daily, to instill a love of learning deep in each of my children’s souls and I see the fruits of my labor sprinkled generously throughout each day. I look at my kids, cuddled up on the couch, reading together, the oldest helping the youngest and my heart is glad. I watch as they make connections between history and science and faith. I listen to spontaneous prayers and I witness their growth in character. I am present to help them overcome their struggles and to celebrate their accomplishments, no matter how small. I overhear their conversation and marvel at the idea that my children, ages 9 and younger, can make connections between Shakespeare’s work and their own lives and I know that what we’re doing is good. That crazy idea my husband had years ago? It works for us.