In an effort to tackle at least part of what has come up in the open thread below, I’ll address one of the most frequently brought up topics: Homeschooling. I hear from people all the time about homeschooling. They want to know: what is my homeschool philosophy, what curriculum do I use, how do I do it, why do I do it, and do I think they should do it too?
Well, geesh. I don’t often write about homeschooling because when it comes right down to it, I’m a bit of a reluctant spokesperson. But now, since it is the start of a new school year, and since I am crazy enough to say things that might alienate me from people on both sides of a hot topic, I’ll share with you the whole truth of my thoughts about homeschooling.
I love homeschooling. And I hate homeschooling.
— I love that I can give each of my children specialized, personalized education that meets them where they are and is flexible and adjustable as their needs change.
— But I hate the burden of being responsible for my children’s educations. I hate lying awake in the middle of the night sometimes quite certain that I have failed to meet an 8 year old’s needs for map skills or Latin flashcards.
— I love that I am truly connected to all of my children — even the older ones — and that their father and I are the first people they come to with questions or problems, big or small.
— But I hate that my kids aren’t answerable to any adult who is not a parent for their schoolwork — a simple fact that I know motivated me as a young student.
— I love that our daily schedule is built around our family’s needs and preferences and does not revolve around an outside institution.
— But I hate giving up the long stretches of quiet I know I could have in my days to write, to read, to scrub a toilet, to just breathe, if only I would send my kids to school.
— I love that my younger children truly know and love their older brothers and sisters and that the none of my big kids considers himself “too cool” to accommodate a 5 year old or entertain a toddler.
— But I hate that my littlest ones don’t get as many stories read aloud to them by their mother as my oldest ones did at their age.
— I love that my kids are spared the negative influences of peer pressure, materialism, and just plain cruelty that permeates so many schools’ social structures.
— But I hate the burned out, never-done feeling that threatens to overwhelm me some mornings as 8 children accost me with grammatical crises, algebraic emergencies, geographic quandaries, and a desperate need for apple juice all at the same time.
Since so many homeschoolers must continually defend and explain our decisions, it can be tempting to sugarcoat the entire experience — at least in public. We are so busy trying to sell homeschooling all the time, that we don’t dare to admit any of its shortcomings. But I don’t think we do anyone any favors by failing to admit that homeschooling is sometimes an enormous sacrifice or by pretending it’s an ideal for every family.
Homeschooling is not perfect. It is an awfully hard commitment to make and to keep on making. And yet I always find my reluctant self admitting that it is the right one for me, for now, for one more year.