When I mention to people that we homeschool I typically see the same reaction. I see their eyes go big before they can correct themselves, contort their face into a smile, and say, “Wow, that’s so nice!” Then I see a bit of panic as they try to figure out what to say next. Have you ever been in that situation- someone gives you an answer you’re not prepared for? That’s me when someone says they don’t want kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a totally legitimate lifestyle; I just haven’t found a good response to it because it’s not something I relate to very well.
I remember saying to one lady, “So do you travel?” Immediately: What was that? Why would I ask that? Why would I assume that because she doesn’t want kids she’d travel? Maybe because that’s what I’d be doing, right now. Man, I wonder what Italy looks like this time of year? Oh god, she’s still here. How do I moon walk myself out of this situation?
I can only imagine my face as all these thoughts raced through my head, and I can only imagine what she thought as she tried to read the meaning of the look on my face. It was awkward to say the least.
It’s ok if your immediate response is less than perfect. I know it’s a different lifestyle, and spending day in and day out with children can seem a lot like a form of torture (somedays it feels like it, not gonna lie). But as you talk with homeschoolers, you’ll realize that it’s not that weird, and we all have our unique story about how homeschool became our way of life.
When Christopher was in fourth grade we took him out of school and began our homeschooling journey, but the reasons for us homeschooling actually began the first weeks of kindergarten.
A lot was going on in our lives as the school year began. Christopher’s dad reentered his life, I had moved back in with my parents to save money with a goal of buying a home, and of course, Chris started kindergarten. So when his kindergarten teacher came to me with concerns about his behavior just days after school began, I explained we have had a lot change in a few short months and I think it’s been hard on him. She asked me if Chris had gone to pre-school because he would get very angry when he was expected to put the toys down to do schoolwork. I explained to her that as a working single mother, Chris had been in pre-school since he was a year old, but that he had never enjoyed worksheets so they allowed him to play. I reminded her that we had a lot of changes going on and that he just needed some time.
A week later my sweet 5 year old boy was suspended for yelling profanity at the teacher, running out of the classroom and locking at himself inside the bathroom. Yikes!I was reminded of the time in preschool when the teachers were trying to force Chris to complete worksheets so he organized an uprising of preschoolers and they trashed the room with paper and cars. I remember my first thought being, “Are those budding leadership skills?”- Maybe I’ve always been a homeschooler at heart.
“…my sweet 5 year old boy was suspended for yelling profanity at the teacher, running out of the classroom and locking himself inside the bathroom.”
Fast forward through the years, Chris struggled to read and write, teachers complained that he would not stay in his seat, and he had a hard time connecting with other students; all this lead us to the pediatrician and to a physiatrist who labeled Chris ADHD in third grade.
In third grade Chris had an amazing teacher who understood his tendencies and was less reactive to him and more understanding. She tried making accommodations for him and for the most part his behavior improved. But things were far from perfect and I remember using homeschool as a threat when I would get stacks of schoolwork he didn’t complete in class and I was expected to help him finish at home. But after a while I started to ask myself why not homeschool? I was married and staying home with my second child – so why not? What happens next year if Chris doesn’t get a teacher who understands him, what if he gets another disciplinarian type teacher and he spends most of the year sitting outside the classroom – again. And what is happening to my son? He has always been active but now he seems resentful and angry. He’s starting to identify as a trouble maker and he believes he’s unintelligent.
This started my research into homeschooling. And in my reading I came to understand that:
- Chris is not ADHD, he was stressed. He was not ready for kindergarten at 5 years old, and we should have waited at least a year, probably two, to start formal school.
- Learning does not have to take place at a table, and definitely not for 7 hours a day.
- Although many kids thrive in the typical “school” environment, it’s not for everyone and homeschool is an amazing option for people in my situation.
So over the summer I thought we’d go back and fill in the gaps in his reading and math, and use this as a trial for homeschool- to see if it could really work for us. And it did! We loved it, myself more than Chris to be honest. Chris missed spending 7 hours a day talking to children as they tried to do their schoolwork – poor Chris. However, he adjusted quickly and we were off, riding through the sunset toward our happily ever after.
Actually that’s not the case. As time has passed, we have changed. Chris has matured and I have had more children. There have been challenges, battles, and co-parenting disagreements. There came a time when the Why was no longer a good enough reason to keep moving forward, and it took me allowing Chris to go back to school in 6th grade (he lasted 8 days! Haha) to realize WHY we continue to homeschool, and we will most likely (stuff happens, I know that) never consider “school” again.